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Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Battle of the Browsers

The Contestants
There are many options to go for when choosing a browser but which one is the best? Sure, some browsers have more features than others or may be more preferable to certain individuals. However in this article I will be looking at performance alone.

The major browsers today are Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari. I will be analysing the performance of the most recent releases as of this date. The versions used are shown below:

Internet Explorer 9.0 64-bit
Firefox 4.0
Chrome 10.0.648.204
Opera 11.01
Safari 5.0.4

Each browser will be benchmarked on the same computer running Windows 7 64-bit using V8, Sunspider and Peacekeeper. The browsers will be tested in the default set up from installation without any extensions.

V8 is a suite of pure JavaScript benchmarks and the score is a geometric mean of individual results. The suite benchmarks kernel simulation, one-way constraints, encryption and decryption, data manipulation, regular expressions and other functions of JavaScript on the web. Higher scores indicate better performance.

Chrome makes a comfortable win here, more than doubling any of the competition. This is followed by Firefox, Opera, Safari and Internet Explorer which has an extremely low score.

Sunspider is another JavaScript benchmarking tool. The developers place emphasis on real world performance by avoiding microbenchmarks. The results are given in milliseconds so less is more.

Firefox is the winner this time, closely followed by Chrome. Another poor performance from Internet Explorer which pretty much triples every other score.

This is Futuremark's browser benchmarking tool. Futuremark are reputable developers of the benchmark suites PCMark and 3DMark. Peacekeeper is split into six tests, all of which provide valuable information. For this reason all six tests will be shown as well as an overall score.

This test measures the browser's ability to render and modify specific HTML elements used in web pages. Higher scores indicate better performance.

Opera takes the lead in this test. Internet Explorer actually excels here taking second place and Safari comes in last.

Social Networking
This test measures typical webpage functions such as loading, sorting and searching for data. Higher scores indicate better performance.

Another win for Opera here, followed by Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer.

Complex Graphics
This test measures the performance of Canvas, a fairly new technology for drawing and manipulating graphics without external plug-ins. As Canvas is not yet supported by all major browsers this score will not be taken into account for the Peacekeeper overall score.

Chrome wins this time round, closely followed by Opera. Least effective here is Safari which takes the bottom place.

This test measures the browser's ability to add, remove and modify data stored in an array.

Chrome takes an astounding lead here with all other browsers around the same mark.

DOM Operations
This test measures the performance of DOM (Document Object Model). DOM is the standard API JavaScript uses to create dynamic webpages.

Another win for Chrome with Opera very close behind. Internet Explorer comes in last.

Text Parsing
This test measures the browser's performance in typical text manipulations such as using profanity filters for chats, browser detection and form validation.

Yet another lead by Chrome. Internet Explorer actually comes in second this time and Safari takes the last place.

Peacekeeper Overall
This is the overall Peacekeeper score comprised of all other Peacekeeper tests except the complex graphics test as previously mentioned.

Unsurprisingly, Chrome leads overall followed by Opera, Internet Explorer, Firefox and then Safari.

Final Thoughts
Out of the benchmarks used in this article, Chrome won two and Firefox won one. Chrome ranks highly in all of the tests and appears to have the greatest performance of the browsers tested. Firefox performs well in the V8 and Sunspider benchmarks but is let down in the Peacekeeper tests. This could be due to Futuremark's particular methodology so i'm going to rank Firefox number two. Opera comes in closely behind as it performed well in the Peacekeeper benchmarks and even took the top spot in some of the tests. Safari may have come in last for the Peacekeeper benchmark but as Internet Explorer came last for both Sunspider and V8 I'm going to rank Safari fourth and give last place to Microsoft's own, Internet Explorer.

This article has only looked at performance. There are many reasons why you might choose a certain browser over another. For example, Firefox has a great number of add ons and extensions which other browser struggle to compete with. Which browser do you use and why? Comment in the box below.


  1. I am just curious if you will test newer browsers, such as Firefox 5.0, or the Beta.. Firefox Minefield (aka Firefox Nightly, or "Firefox 7.0a1")

  2. I probably will when all the major browsers have advanced much further. As only a small amount of time has passed since this test was done, the results are likely to be similar.

  3. Nice review.
    It would also be nice if you could find a good flash performance benchmark as 50 million+ users on facebook are playing flash based games which are a fairly heavy burden on even the most current of machines. Especially farmville, farmtown, frontierville type games with thousands of animated objects on the screen at all times. Internet Explorer 8 would slow to a crawl in 30 minutes or less and have to be restarted to get normal performance back.
    You might want to include Internet Explorer 8 in your tests if possible since it has been around a long time and is the newest version you can load on Windows XP (which, sadly, the majority of users probably still use). It will also let people see on your charts how much faster ALL of these browsers are than the old IE8.
    It will provide a nice reference point to judge speeds since most people are aware of how fast/slow IE8 feels to them on their respective PC (IE9 is new or unknown to most non-techies).