Thursday, June 24, 2010

Comparing the latest browsers (2010)

So, I was looking around online for comparison data on the latest mainstream browsers. I found very few places. The latest one I was able to find still had older versions of the web browsers. So I thought I'll do a big, detailed comparison myself and put it online. I spent an entire evening comparing the big browsers.

For this experiment, I used Internet Explorer 8, Mozilla Firefox 3.6, Apple Safari 5, Google Chrome 5 and Opera 10.56. The computer I used for this has the following specs:

CPU - AMD Turion TL-58 (1.98 GHz); RAM - 2 GB; OS - Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit).

The detailed browser versions according to themselves are (click to enlarge photos):

[caption id="attachment_146" align="aligncenter" width="455" caption="Google Chrome"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_147" align="aligncenter" width="455" caption="Apple Safari"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_148" align="aligncenter" width="455" caption="MS Internet Explorer"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_149" align="aligncenter" width="455" caption="Opera"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_150" align="aligncenter" width="455" caption="Mozilla Firefox"][/caption]

So, I ran a number of tests in this massive showdown. First up is the time required to start it in cold state, with no add-ons, except those included out-of-the-box. I had no settings tweaked, and the apps were running as they did by default.

The results for this test are shown in the graph below:

So, it looks like Chrome is the fastest one to open up, with an amazing time of 1.1 seconds. Second one was Opera and without much difference, came in Firefox.

Next up, is the time required to load a page. I tested this on just the Yahoo! India, CNET and home pages. As I mentioned earlier, the browsers are not modified at all. The results are as follows. I chose these pages because they are all very heavy and content rich in some or the other way. They all take very  long to load generally.

I used the web page load timer from here. It is quite accurate, according to them.

Looks like Opera is the fastest for this one.

What!? Chrome was the slowest to load this one. I was surprised, and I reset the browser completely and retried timing it. Got the same result. Safari was the fastest browser for Wired.

For this one, Chrome was the fastest, while Opera slid in second, with Firefox in pursuit.

I also tested the cache performance of the browser. Just after loading the Yahoo! page, I reloaded it. The results are shown below.

The fastest one to reload the page, with a copy stored in the cache was Chrome, with Firefox just behind it. IE8 was the third.

Now, I tested the CSS and JavaScript performance of the browsers.

The following are the results of the JavaScript rendering benchmark, SunSpider. The test is automatically carried out thrice and then the final score was calculated from the three.

This one was very, very close. Internet Explorer was nowhere near the competition. Overall, Chrome was the best in this one, with Opera right behind and Safari not much behind it.

The CSS rendering test was done here. Here is the comparison.

Opera was the quickest in CSS rendering, with Chrome second and Internet Explorer the third. The score assigned to each was an average of three tests.

So, this ended my tests. It is hard to summarize this showdown to a single winner. Nowadays, the browsers have grown to become really powerful. They all excel in various fields and go very much neck-to-neck. If you are trying to choose a single browser, consider the things I tested and choose one. Firefox is my personal favorite, with all its customizations and other things, while Chrome turns out to be the fastest in loading pages and other content. But sure, it isn't as 'tweakable' as Firefox (which allows you to easily modify deep settings and make it way faster than Chrome). Opera's new versions seem to have changed a lot since months back and it has become really awesome. Safari 5 is awesome, with its looks and speed, but doesn't stand up to Apple's claims about being the fastest. By the way, even Opera says the same about its browser. Internet Explorer is the same in performance as it always was, but it is really secure and the others don't stand up to it in that case.

Anyway, this is the latest browser comparison yet (when this article was written) and one things sure, these new versions of these browsers are much better, with them going up and down in each test. This test simply isn't the same as the others on the web right now. I was very much surprised by the results.