DRM Playback Performance – Chrome vs. Firefox

A couple of day ago, I read that Netflix now also supports video streaming in Firefox on Linux via Google’s DRM Plugin. I was delighted because I’ve been using Chrome so far which is by far not my first choice. But how good is it in practice, especially on older hardware?

On my 8 year old media notebook sporting an equally old Intel Core 2 Duo processor, both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video playback works just fine in Chrome. In Firefox, both have started to work as well but during fast video sequences, playback is not quite smooth. It’s not totally unusable it’s just not as smooth as in Chrome. The embedded screenshot shows the problem. The first half shows CPU utilization while watching a Netflix HD stream in Firefox. Both cores are over 80% utilization. Watching the same stream in Chrome just utilizes both CPU cores around 35% as shown on the right side of the graph and fast video sequences are smooth. So for whatever reason, Google’s DRM plug-in for Firefox is by far less efficient decoding DRM protected content than whatever they’ve built into Chrome.

Agreed, who still uses a Core 2 Duo CPU, probably playback is smooth on more up to date processors!? Well perhaps, but I still do so I have to stick with Chrome for DRM video playback, at least on my 8 year old media PC.