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Browser Speed Tests: Firefox 7, Chrome 14, Internet Explorer 9 And More

Firefox 7 is set to be released today, and with a big focus on performance, we thought it time for another round of browser speed testing. We pitted the four most popular Windows browsers against each other in a battle of startup times, tab-loading times, JavaScript powers and memory usage, with some surprising results.

We’ve been performing browser speed tests every so often for awhile, and we’ve cultivated a pretty good method. It’s got a good mix of both manually-timed user experience measures and hardcore JavaScript and CSS benchmarks. Today’s tests are inspired by the release of Firefox 7, which aims to increase performance, often cited biggest flaw, and we’ll be testing it against the latest iterations of Chrome, Internet Explorer and Opera. Note that we’re no longer trying multiple versions of each browser in these tests — if the dev version of a browser comes with a rather large change, we’ll include it in the future, but with both Firefox and Chrome going for rapid-release cycles, it just seemed to clutter everything up.

Click on any of the images below for a larger view.

Cold Boot-Up — Winner: Opera!

This round of speed tests showed a bigger range of cold boot times, with Opera booting up super fast and Firefox and Chrome adding a few seconds to your wait. Internet Explorer, as usual, got left in the dust, taking almost 11 seconds to start up. However, warm starts were pretty close all-around — enough that we no longer need to give them their own graph.

Tab Loading — Winner: Opera!

Given nine tabs to load — ranging from Google.com to Hulu to Microsoft.com and each of the browser’s home pages — Opera smoked the competition with a mere three-second load time. Internet Explorer took second place, while Firefox and Chrome lagged behind.

JavaScript — Winner: Chrome!

Once again, Chrome seems to blow away the other browsers in JavaScript performance. Firefox takes a distant second place in our tests with the Dromaeo suite, with IE and Opera close behind.

DOM/CSS — Winner: Opera!

Opera pulled ahead with the CSS tests, with Firefox not too far behind and Internet Explorer at the tail end of the group. Chrome, unfortunately, crashed partway through our CSS testing, even in the beta and dev channels — forcing us to disqualify it from the tests.

Memory Use (No Extensions) — Winners: Opera and Firefox!

Opera’s always aimed to be a low-memory browser, and it still grabs first in our startup tests, but once you add nine tabs to the mix, Firefox surprisingly uses its memory more efficiently than other browsers. Note that these memory tests were a bit interesting — while IE, Chrome and Opera all held fast to their memory values, Firefox fluctuated a bit more. It started up higher with Chrome and IE, but then backed off after a few seconds for much lower memory usage. So, you might notice a slight lag for a minute or two, but it’s clear that Firefox 7 really is keeping the memory hogging at bay.

Memory Use (Five Extensions) — Winners: Opera and Firefox!

Adding a few extensions the browsers made little difference in the competition for RAM. While each browser used up a good deal more memory with five extensions attached, Opera still used the least when started up and Firefox used the least once we loaded nine tabs. Again, it fluctuated for a few seconds before it got into first place, but it got there nonetheless.

Overall Scores

Obviously, there’s a lot more to browser choice than speed — variety of extensions, customisability and so on — but when it comes to performance, here’s how our favourite browsers. We gave each contender a point value for its placing in each of the above tests, then tallied up the totals and divided them by the total number of points each could have received.

  1. Opera 11.51: 82%
  2. Firefox 7: 73%
  3. Internet Explorer 9: 47.5%
  4. Chrome 14: 43%

Opera’s still the speed champion, as usual. The other browsers have surprisingly switched places, though: Firefox, so often looked down upon for its sluggish speeds, has jumped up to #2 with version 7, and Chrome has slowly worked its way down to last place. Granted, Chrome’s inability to complete the CSS test probably pushed it over the edge from 3rd place into 4th. Still, we have seen Chrome slowly gain bloat with each new version, and boy did it feel slow when we ran these tests. Hopefully Google can take a hint from Firefox and make a comeback soon.

Our tests aren’t the most scientific on the planet, but we tried to get readings as accurate as possible to display the kind of experience you’d get from each browser, speed-wise. Let us know if your experience differs — or if the speed losses are worth the browser’s other features — in the comments.