Let's get into it. Click any of the images below for a larger view (which you'll likely need).
Cold Boot-Up — Winner: Opera 11!
Internet Explorer remains surprisingly not that fast out of the gate, despite having some elements of itself baked into Windows. You might note that we're not including "warm start" results this time around; when looking at our preliminary results, we realised that all the browsers start up fast enough, after having already started once, that to rate a winner would require a near-certain faith in timer-finger speed. But that's a good thing.
Tab Loading — Winner: Chrome 10 (Stable)!
Given nine tabs to load up — Google.com, YouTube, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and each of the browsers' home pages — the wide-release version of Chrome won out. It's a pretty tight competition, though, with just over two seconds separating the majority of the pack.
In its 32-bit flavour, Internet Explorer 9 is competitive with Firefox 4, and actually bests Opera 11 - at least in this run through the multi-test Dromaeo suite. Chrome still handily picks up this category, in any case.
DOM/CSS — Winner: Opera 11!
Memory Use (No Extensions) — Winner: Chrome Dev and Opera 11!
Chrome's bleeding-edge version obviously doesn't take its memory use for granted, and neither does Opera. Those browsers use the least memory upon just starting, and after having loaded the same nine-tab load tested above.
Memory Use (with Five Extensions) — Winner: Opera 11 & Firefox 4!
Let it be said that the LastPass, Gmail-checking and Cooliris image display extensions available for Chrome and Opera are certainly lighter than the full-fledged extensions available for Firefox — but they are what's available. With that stated, Firefox actually did the best out of all the browsers with five extensions and nine tabs, which is certainly brag-worthy. Opera 11 remains a tightwad with memory in all cases, and wins when its (lighter) extensions are installed on startup.
Every browser has a unique value proposition for each user, and maybe you need certain features more than others... blah, blah, blah. What if you ranked each browser in a few major categories, first place through fifth, then divided their sum showings by the total possible?
- Opera: 76%
- Chrome 10 (Stable): 76%
- Chrome 11 (Dev): 68%
- Firefox 4: 60%
- Internet Explorer 9 (64-bit): 24%
- Internet Explorer 9 (32-bit): 28%
A few caveats, then: Internet Explorer 9 is actually a pretty nice browser to use, once it's loaded, and with memory as an out-of-mind concern. And Firefox 4 definitely feels faster, snappier and less prone to drifting into lagginess. And as for why Chrome's Dev version seemed to fall behind the Stable version in certain tests, well, we don't quite grasp all the vagaries of development, and it is, after all, a "no promises" download.
Want to see how Internet Explorer improved from version 8 to 9? Get a sense of where the (long) road from Firefox 3.6 to 4 ended up? Here's a few charts combining results from our previous tests with today's release.
Memory Use with Extensions Installed
Those are our findings from a lot of timer-clicking, patient test-loading and memory measuring. Each browser has its own use case beyond pure speed or efficiency, of course, and all hardware is different. But tell us how our tests match up with your own experiments in the comments.