Heavy Firefox use, surprisingly good performance

Get FirefoxOne of the questions that was submitted earlier was:

“I want to know how many firefox tabs you can have open before you notice some sluggishness. Sometimes I find myself with over 10 tabs open and am wondering if I’m going to have to change my surfing behavior with the Zonbu. Also to make things tougher have some streaming radio playing while you have all those tabs open.”

Now that I have my desktop (sort of) back to normal I set out to answer this question…

Power Browser

This was an easy one for me to test.

I do a significant amount of my daily work in Firefox, as two of our principal systems at work are web based. I typically have 7-10 windows open.

My tabs usually consist of:

-The stock tracker at NASDAQ.com, auto-updating Java app

-Router monitoring statistics & graphs, auto-updating

-Our internal customer management and monitoring system (multiple)

-The admin tools for this website

-A few industry and general news sites

-A few blogs I read

So that gives a nice mix of straight HTML, dyanamic/AJAX-y pages and some Java.

How does the Zonbu hold up?

I’ve opened a similar cross section of tabs on my Zonbu and I am also playing the Rhapsody.com audio stream, which takes up two additional windows (the main one for content management/searching and the player window which provides my track controls). The IM client is also running.

According to my monitors in the panel, my CPU load is oscillating between about 25% and 50% (due to primarily to the audio decoding). Memory usage is at 283MB out of 439MB, so I’ve got lots of overhead there. Swap usage is 0MB.

A quick note: Firefox is a memory hog. If you leave it open for days on end, opening lots of sites, it will eventually consume almost all your resources. This is not a Zonbu or even a Linux issue, it is equally as overbearing on Windows.

(By the time I was done writing this, after opening and closing a few things, memory usage was up to almost 300MB.)

Audio interruptions

With all those tabs open, as well as an IM session, the audio feed from Rhapsody occasionally blips for a moment, usually under load – for example when the java stock tracker was loading.

I can’t even pin that on the Zonbu as I don’t like the fact that the Rhapsody control is taking exclusive use of the audio driver, although apparently a permissions change to a file may resolve that.

I can’t make that change, due to the Zonbu being locked down, so I’m optimistic they’ll investigate that and provide a little tool to make that adjustment.

Browser Performance

Flipping between tabs is instantaneous.

In fact, one of my most pleasant surprises has been that when I really put my head down and start working, I often forget I’m using the Zonbu at all. It just kind of disappears and I get my work done.

One strange performance problem I have, and this may be the site or the editor or something, is when I do a lot of deleting of text (say a few long words in a row) in the text editor here on wordpress.com, there can be a bit of a delay and then I end up over-running my intended target and erasing extra words.

The answer, clearly, is to not use so many big words.

Again, I’m not ready to blame that on the Zonbu entirely until I check it again in windows.


To continue my testing, I minimized Firefox(without closing any windows or stopping rhapsody) and fired up the image browser to flip through the default photos that are included. It was a little bit slower than normal but otherwise worked fine and Rhapsody didn’t skip a beat.

I opened a terminal window and ran a few commands, it all worked fine too.

Which reminds me, let me go open a PDF. Acrobat can be a real hog sometimes.That will have to wait for another post as my Acrobat launcher is complaining of a path problem, likely a left-over from my earlier desktop issues.


I’d say the browser performance is excellent overall, and especially good considering the modest CPU and power consumption. I don’t think you will have too many problems doing normal day-to-day stuff.

I’ll update this post with more information on PDF use while Firefox is heavily loaded, when my machine is totally back to normal.

I intend to try and use it extensively at work over the coming weeks and will report my findings.

-Mr. Zonbu

3 Responses to Heavy Firefox use, surprisingly good performance

  1. Gregg says:

    Hey, thanks for testing that out. Overall, I would say your results are very encouraging. Am I wrong in thinking that for most people, not including gamers, a computer has really just become primarily a web surfing device acounting for 90% of the activity it’s used for for. These big boxed dual core Pentium Duos with 2 GB Ram with a powerful video card needed to run Windows Vista and it’s fancy shmancy aero glass desktop effects are a giant waste of computing power and money? It’s time the industry fessed up to what ordinary people really use their PC for, and sell them the right tool for the right job. And if it turns out to be a little sexy device the size of a paperback book that sips electricity, so much the better.

  2. mrzonbu says:

    I think the bigger machines have their uses, but I do agree that for the bulk of my day-to-date, despite being an IT/IP professional and being in the business, my regular needs should be able to be met by the Zonbu.

    We’ll see, I haven’t really started the 30 day clock yet due to these initial problems.

    It will be interesting to see how the month unfolds.

    -Mr. Z

  3. Mark W says:

    I’ve always found that Google Maps was a real resource hog – especially when surfing for locations & adding them to “My Maps” often spiking FireFox up to 400+mb of RAM – how does the Zonbu work with Google Maps?

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