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Google Chrome getting huge performance boost — and a killer new feature

The Chrome browser icon on a Mac's dock.
(Image credit: PixieMe/Shutterstock)

Chrome is nothing if not a hindrance on your PC’s performance. Google’s browser is infamous for demanding large amounts of memory and CPU usage to run, and despite years of promises to sort it out, little has changed.

Things might be changing soon, however, with Google promising a new update that will “represent the largest gain in Chrome performance in years.”

The main change coming has to do with how Chrome treats your tabs. The browser has treated each tab like its own individual process, and while that can stop a single crashed tab ruining your entire browsing session, it does require a lot from your PC. 

After this month’s update that’ll be different, and Chrome will prioritize your active tab and keep the rest running in the background. Google says that most of the work done in background tabs (over 40 percent) is the result of JavaScript Timers, and by throttling them to once per minute great leaps have been made to improve resource management. 

According to Google’s own internal benchmarks  the changes will end up “reducing CPU usage by up to 5x and extending battery life by up to 1.25 hours”. Crucially, that doesn’t affect background features you need, so things like music playback and notifications should still come through as normal.

What’s more, Google is promising that Chrome will generally be faster than before. The browser itself will launch 25 percent faster, while pages will also load up 7 percent faster. All while using less power and RAM than the current version. Android users, on the other hand, will enjoy pages loading “near instantaneously”.

Chrome getting tab search and more

Chrome is also set to get a bunch of new features that will make it much easier to navigate, especially if you tend to have lots of tabs open at the same time. The first is a dedicated tab search that will let you see a dedicated list of open tabs; you'll have  the option to type and find the one you need. That’s rolling out to Chromebooks first, but will make its way to other versions of Chrome in the near future.

The Address Bar is also getting something called “Chrome Actions”, which will let you perform key actions without having to search through the settings menus. The first set of actions are all privacy and security focussed, letting you type in commands like “edit passwords,” or “launch incognito,” or “delete history” and perform those actions right away.

Google will also be adding cards “for some users” in the new tab page which will “take you to recently-visited and related content on the web, and save you time in the process.” The point here is to help you find things you previously viewed but forgot to bookmark, and pick up where you left off. That’ll start off with cooking and shopping, though Google promises entertainment cards are planned for early next year.

The new version, Chrome 87.0.4280.66, also fixes 33 security flaws. The most noteworthy is the "Slipstream" bug discovered last month by renowned hacker Samy Kamkar, which is also present in Mozilla Firefox. 

Unlike with three recent emergency Chrome updates, there don't appear to be any urgent "zero-day" vulnerabilities patched with this released. But details of most of these flaws are currently locked down in the Chromium bug-reporting forum, so we may still be in for some surprises.