A Cloud-Based Google Chrome Sounds Neat, but Consider Upgrading Your Hardware Instead

Illustration for article titled A Cloud-Based Google Chrome Sounds Neat, but Consider Upgrading Your Hardware Instead
Screenshot: Mighty (Other)

As I sit at my desk typing this blog, I have 15 Chrome tabs eating up 790MB of memory. I also have 17 Microsoft Edge tabs open, which take up 535MB of memory. Aside from those two extra tabs on Edge, I have the same webpages open, yet Chrome is hogging more memory. Complaints about the resource-hogging Google Chrome browser is nothing new, especially for those using it on a Mac. Now one company has a novel approach toward getting Chrome to run faster: Putting it in the cloud.

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Mighty is a new Chromium-based browser for macOS that lives in the cloud instead of on your computer. Backed by a server with dual Intel Xeon processors and Nvidia GPUs—plus a dedicated 16GB of memory for the cloud browser itself—Mighty says it uses 10 times less memory than Google Chrome on the Mac thanks to its tech specs.

Sounds great if you’re stuck with an older Mac with only 8GB of memory to share across the entire operating system, plus any other apps you need to run at the same time. Mighty even looks like Chrome, right down to the extensions and profile icon in the top right corner.

Like any other cloud-based application, how well it runs will depend on your internet connection. Mighty claims your internet speed is “over 1 Gbps” while using the cloud-based browser, but that claim is misleading. Your internet speed is tied to the plan through your ISP, and whether you’re connecting via a wired or wireless connection. Mighty may load faster than Chrome itself, but if you don’t already have fast internet, we’re skeptical that you’ll see gigabit speeds.

To be clear, any cloud application can’t magically increase your internet speed. But if you’re used to a slow browser on a slow computer, using a browser in the cloud over a good internet connection will probably feel like you’re getting 1Gbps.

Mighty doesn’t outright say what minimum download speed users will need, but in a recent blog it mentions someone with 100 Mbps of bandwidth will “rarely notice lag while using Mighty.” That tracks. If cloud gaming can work seamlessly at that speed, then browsing the internet will be a cake walk. But unlike the free browsers we are used to, Mighty costs money—$30 a month has been floated, though no pricing has been announced yet.

Getting more than 8GB of RAM in a new MacBook generally adds $200 to the base price. Of course that doesn’t help anyone who already has an aging computer, but you can DIY your own memory upgrade without a visit to the Apple Store—if you have an Intel-based MacBook. Any way you slice it, for $30 a month you’ll have that extra RAM paid off in about seven months. After that, you’re paying for a service to use on your computer when you would have saved money in the long run just by upgrading in the first place.

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Then there’s the issue of security—the information you enter in Chrome via Mighty is then routed to Mighty’s servers before being relayed to Chrome, which could be a privacy nightmare.

All that aside, the idea of running a browser in the cloud when you can use one for free on your operating system is a little bananas. There are plenty of other options besides Chrome that use fewer resources, like Safari, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Opera, and Vivaldi. Mac and Windows users can both benefit from switching to a different browser if immediately upgrading is not an option.

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If you’re still unsure about how switching to Edge would be beneficial to you (aside from it not being a resource hog), we have a lovely guide on all the things Edge can do better than Chrome. There’s also a few simple tricks for getting Chrome to run faster on your computer, too, like cutting down on the number of open tabs. Some people might not want to deal with Edge, which is fine. I’d pick Edge or Vivaldi over Chrome these days, personally, but there are definitely better options than paying $30 a month to use a browser.

Staff Reporter, Reviews at Gizmodo. Formerly PC Gamer, Maximum PC.

DISCUSSION

sergioar
Unspiek Baron Bodissey

Chrome with 12 open tabs in Linux: 1 GB

Firefox with a zillion tabs open, same OS: barely 400 MB.

Save your 30 bucks and tell Google to FO.