RPI4 - Surfing the internet

Raspberry Pi 4: Chronicling the Desktop Experience – Firefox Upgrade – Week 18

Last Updated on August 20, 2020

This is a weekly blog about the Raspberry Pi 4 (“RPI4”), the latest product in the popular Raspberry Pi range of computers.

UPDATE: In Week 26, I revisit Firefox again, as the Raspbian repositories offer a current version of this web browser.

I’ve previously looked at web browsing on the RPI4 in Week 4 of my blog, recommending Chromium and Vivaldi on this tiny machine. Chromium offers the virtue of official Raspbian support on the RPI4 and it’s published under an open source license. On the other hand, Vivaldi is no-charge proprietary software. Both web browsers earned my recommendation. At the time, I was unable to recommend Firefox because the Raspbian repositories hosted a prehistoric version; version 60.9.0 ESR to be specific. Running a version of a web browser that’s 2 years behind the latest version is totally unacceptable, even from a security standpoint alone.

I’m pleased to report that Raspbian’s repositories now ship version 68.5.0 ESR of Firefox. This version was released in February 2020. As it’s the latest Extended Support Release, I’ve revisited Firefox to see if it’s a viable alternative to Chromium or Vivaldi on the RPI4.

Raspberry Pi 4 - Mozilla Firefox
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So what are my impressions? Overall, I’m reasonable satisfied with the speed at which web pages are rendered with Firefox. No real complaints in that department. Scrolling up/down pages is perfectly acceptable. But it’s slower at rendering web pages than Chromium, particularly complicated pages laden with JavaScript and other frippery. Firefox on the RPI4 still renders some pages with its mobile version including popular sites like google and Amazon.

Over the past few months, I’ve been using Chromium as my default web browser. For video streaming, Chromium is far from perfect. I’ve watched a myriad of streaming services including BBC iPlayer, Twitch, and YouTube. Frankly, watching these services in Chromium doesn’t come remotely close to replicating the experience of my main desktop. In fact, video streaming with Chromium is barely enjoyable. While it’s a big improvement over earlier models of the RPI, there is some tearing on videos, and panning is not smooth enough for my liking. It’s more noticeable when the video is played full screen.

So how does Firefox fare from a video streaming perspective? Overall, it’s slightly worse than Chromium. There’s noticeable tearing and other visual glitches when playing video, even when watching them in windowed mode. With Chromium I can watch videos using omxplayerGUI with silky smooth hardware acceleration. I’ll have to explore if that’s a viability with Firefox.

Firefox still interferes with other applications. For example, if I’m watching a video in VLC, and I scroll up and down web pages in Firefox, there’s a nasty bug. Even the simplest web page causes the video to momentarily pause. It’s not the CPU being maxed out. This behaviour doesn’t happen with Chromium or Vivaldi.

Raspberry Pi 4 - Mozilla - Stability
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There’s more bad news. I don’t normally experience many stability issues with the RPI4. In fact, it’s rock solid. This includes surfing the net with Chromium and Vivaldi. But sadly that isn’t the position with Firefox. I experienced too many crashes when using Firefox in the past few days. Certainly too many crashes to contemplate writing this week’s blog with Firefox.

I don’t know what’s causing the stability problems. Maybe it’s my system. I’ll investigate this issue further.

I examine memory usage of Firefox, Chromium, and Vivaldi on the next page.

Next page: Page 2 – Memory

Pages in this article:
Page 1 – In Operation
Page 2 – Memory
Page 3 – Summary

Read all my blog posts about the RPI4.

Raspberry Pi 4 Blog
Week 36Manage your personal collections on the RPI4
Week 35Survey of terminal emulators
Week 34Search the desktop with the latest version of Recoll
Week 33Personal Information Managers on the RPI4
Week 32Keep a diary with the RPI4
Week 31Process complex mathematical functions, plot 2D and 3D graphs with calculators
Week 30Internet radio on this tiny computer. A detailed survey of open source software
Week 29Professionally manage your photo collection with digiKam
Week 28Typeset beautifully with LyX
Week 27Software that teaches young people how to learn basic computing skills and beyond
Week 26Firefox revisited - Raspbian now offers a real alternative to Chromium
Week 25Turn the Raspberry Pi 4 into a low power writing machine
Week 24Keep the kids learning and having fun
Week 23Lots of choices to view images
Week 22Listening to podcasts on the RPI4
Week 21File management on the RPI4
Week 20Open Broadcaster Software (OBS Studio) on the RPI4
Week 19Keep up-to-date with these news aggregators
Week 18Web Browsers Again: Firefox
Week 17Retro gaming on the RPI4
Week 16Screen capturing with the RPI4
Week 15Emulate the Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and the Atari ST on the RPI4
Week 14Choose the right model of the RPI4 for your desktop needs
Week 13Using the RPI4 as a screencaster
Week 12Have fun reading comics on the RPI4 with YACReader, MComix, and more
Week 11Turn the RPI4 into a complete home theater
Week 10Watching locally stored video with VLC, OMXPlayer, and others
Week 9PDF viewing on the RPI4
Week 8Access the RPI4 remotely running GUI apps
Week 7e-book tools are put under the microscope
Week 6The office suite is the archetypal business software. LibreOffice is tested
Week 5Managing your email box with the RPI4
Week 4Web surfing on the RPI4 looking at Chromium, Vivaldi, Firefox, and Midori
Week 3Video streaming with Chromium & omxplayerGUI as well as streamlink
Week 2A survey of open source music players on the RPI4 including Tauon Music Box
Week 1An introduction to the world of the RPI4 looking at musikcube and PiPackages

This blog is written on the RPI4.

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4 years ago

Thanks for your last blog post, I’m finding the series to be really interesting.

It’s a shame Firefox seems to be a non-starter on the Raspberry Pi 4. It’s still my favorite desktop web browser. I wonder if Raspbian are aware of the issues you experienced. Maybe they could post and let us all know. Any plans on covering other distros that run on the Pi?