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Browser Speed Tests: IE9, Firefox 4 Beta, Chrome's Crankshaft, Opera 11 Beta

Google’s got a new “Crankshaft” in its bleeding-edge Chrome, Internet Explorer 9 is out to prove its modern mettle, Firefox 4 is nearly complete, and Opera’s adding extensions. It’s a good time to put these browsers head to head.

We’ve done a few of these tests before, and we’ve got our testing method well in hand. Two variations this go-round, though. One is that Opera 11 beta, too, has extensions. We tried to install roughly equal extensions, in function, on each browser, but Opera’s market is just a bit too young to included everything we needed. We’ll note what was missing within the results. We also installed Chrome’s “Canary” build, the test build with the most up-to-date features and fixes, even newer than in the risky Dev channel, to check out the Crankshaft JavaScript engine we’d heard so much about.

Now — on with the tests. Click on any of the images below for a larger view.

Boot-Up and Warm Loading — Winner: Tie — Chrome 10 (Canary) and Opera 10!

When it comes to cold boot-ups (a.k.a. just after booting up), Opera has the ever-so-slight edge. When booting up again, or bringing up after a little inactivity, Opera and Chrome 10, in its “Canary” form, are nearly instant in raising up — so close that human-measured timers might be too close to call. Firefox 4 beta 7 had some seriously long start-up delays, such that we were throwing out 20-second results more than once to try and reach equilibrium.

Tab Loading — Winner: Chrome 8 (Stable)!

How is the stable, consumer-facing version of Chrome slightly better at handling the quick loading of nine tabs — including YouTube, Lifehacker and Gizmodo, and each browsers’ own home page, plus Google? We have no idea, but keep in mind that Chrome Canary is a rougher build of both engine and interface than what’s normally put out by the Chrome team, so optimisations may happen down the line.

JavaScript — Winner: Chrome 10 (Canary)!

Google’s polite boasts about their JavaScript engine improvements aren’t just corporate boilerplate. It looks like Crankshaft puts Chrome just past its previous mark, helping it to load script-heavy sites like Gmail. Notable in this round, too, is Internet Explorer finishing its JavaScript test without crashing or failing out — a first!

DOM/CSS — Winner: Opera 11!

Odd to see Chrome 10 work a bit slower at processing page layout elements and other aspects of design, while Opera’s latest beta release does some serious leapfrogging. IE9 was, alas, unable to complete the test.

Memory Use (No Extensions) — Winner: Firefox 3.6!

In its naked form, we’ve learned over these tests, Firefox can actually be pretty light on memory. It was a close call with Opera, but the current Mozilla browser wins out. IE9 turns in a fairly decent performance, too.

Memory Use (With Extensions) — Winner: Firefox 3.6!

It’s a tough call, because one extension, Cooliris, wasn’t available for both the beta-level Firefox 4, or in much any form for Opera 11′s nascent extension market. But we went and tested what we could get anyways, and it appeared as though Firefox 3.6 was still pretty good with memory, even with five extensions installed and nine tabs loaded.

That’s our latest batch of timing and testing of the latest browsers. We’ll try to test out these browsers on a Mac soon, too.

Which results jibe with what you’ve seen in your own desktop? What results don’t make much sense to you? Speak your piece in the comments.