Over the last couple of weeks, Mozilla has finally stepped up its 64-bit testing process. There are now five slaves dedicated to building Firefox for Windows x64, which means that from Firefox 8 and onwards, youll be able to pick up 64-bit builds that are functionally identical to its 32-bit cousins but operating in native 64-bit CPU and memory space.
Just how fast is the 64-bit version of Firefox 8? About 10% faster than the 32-bit version but instead of taking our word for it, take a look at the comparative results from the Peacekeeper suite, the most comprehensive browser benchmark. The following results are from the ExtremeTech test rig which houses an Intel i7 930 with 6GB of RAM and an Nvidia GTX 460.
Firefox 8 32-bit (left) vs. Firefox 8 64-bit (right) Click either image to zoom in slightly
Firefox 8 32-bit (left) vs. Firefox 8 64-bit (right) Click the image to zoom in slightly
Memory-wise, the story isnt quite so happy: the 64-bit build of Firefox definitely uses more memory. With the same set of tabs, Firefox 64-bit had a memory footprint of 320MB, compared to just 230MB for Firefox 32-bit. The plugin-container was also twice the size under Firefox x64: 100MB when playing a YouTube video compared to 50MB for Firefox 32-bit. This could be due to the 64-bit build of Flash Player, however or it could be that the new memory management features in Firefox 8 have not yet been turned on in the 64-bit build.
Its important to note that Mozilla doesnt yet support 64-bit Firefox, but with an army of Windows 64-bit build bots now churning out test and Nightly builds, the wheels have certainly been set in motion. The earliest well see an official 64-bit build of Firefox for Windows is with Firefox 8, which is due in November. Still, if youre not using your computer for mission-critical work, download a 64-bit Nightly build of Firefox for Windows and give it a spin. You will be pleasantly surprised.