Big Chrome update: You get faster page loads plus expandable tab groups, says Google

Chrome 85 is an important update with faster tab loading and better control over tab groups.

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Google has released Chrome 85 and is promising this version of the browser will deliver page loads that are as much as 10% faster due to Profile Guided Optimization (PGO) and Tab Throttling. 

Google has been working on Profile Guided Optimization (PGO) to make the browser more productive for users by cutting out delays when switching between tabs and waiting for new pages to load. 

Tab Throttling, meanwhile, is coming to Chrome 86, which is moving to the Beta channel after today's release of Chrome 85 to the Stable channel. 

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Google last month explained how it was throttling JavaScript timers to cut battery use in background tabs. Depending on how Chrome is being used, it could extend a laptop's battery life by up to two hours.    

Meanwhile, PGO "is a compiler optimization technique where the most performance-critical parts of the code can run faster", explained Chrome engineering director Max Christoff

"Because PGO uses real usage scenarios that match the workflows of Chrome users around the world, the most common tasks get prioritized and made faster."

Google is rolling out PGO to Mac and Windows using the Clang compiler. Previously, in Chrome 53, it used Microsoft Visual C++ to roll out PGO to Windows.

"Our testing consistently shows pages loading up to 10% faster at the median, and even greater speed improvements when your CPU is tasked with running many tabs or programs," said Christoff. 

Platform

Browser responsiveness* 

First Contentful Paint**

Speedometer 2.0

Mac

3.9% faster

2.3% faster

7.7% faster

Windows

7.3% faster

3.5% faster

11.4% faster

As for Tab Throttling, Christoff explains that Chrome is giving more resources to tabs in use by taking away resources from tabs that have been backgrounded for lengthy periods. 

"We see improvements not only in loading speed but also battery and memory savings," he notes. 

Google has also highlighted its new tab groups feature, which it rolled out to the Chrome Beta channel in May. 

It allows users to group tabs by topic or task, such as shopping, news and work, to help visually declutter the tab space of the browser. Now Chrome users can collapse and expand tab groups to provide easier access to priority tabs.

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Also coming to Chrome 86 is a new tab preview feature, which offers a thumbnail preview when users mouse over the tab.  

And over the next few weeks in Chrome 85, users should start being able to fill out PDF forms and save the inputs from Chrome.  

Finally, as reported last month, Chrome 85 gained native support for the AVIF or the AV1 Image File Format. AVIF is based on the AV1 video codec that was developed in 2015 via a collaboration between Google, Cisco, Xiph.org, and Mozilla. 

Netflix has supported AVIF images since late 2018 and Microsoft added support for them on Windows 10 in the May 2019 Update.