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.


Comments

    Firefox is still my goto for general browsing, I use Chrome for secondary logins. I know FF, and I can add all my bookmarks and extensions quickly and easily! #]

      Great story bro.

        Yeah, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, bro!

          might be the lowest form of wit but Ben H's wit was still amusing bro

            Sup dog-bro - I heard you like bros so I put a bro in your bro....so.....Hmmmmm.....That mayneed a rethink.

            PS whats with all the hatin'

    Gen 2 i7 + 16GB RAM = I find no discernible difference in loading or performance of any of my browsers.

    Firefox is my preferred browser but it loads only slightly slower than IE, Opera and Chrome (yes, I need them all for webdev) but that's only because of the add-ons and scripts it loads.

    The first three graphs are quite misleading, as the horizontal axis doesn't start at zero. Very easy to interpret the tab-loading graph as saying that Firefox takes 10-20 times longer than Opera to load, when in fact it's just over twice as long.
    Please consider using best practices when creating these graphs in future. If you're worried that by starting the axis at zero the difference won't be as noticeable... well, isn't that the point?

      Seconded. I was wondering why there was such dramatic disparity between the browsers before I realises.

      Exactly right. This sort of thing has become standard LH fare in recent times, unfortunately.

        Apologies, I should have said standard "US LH" fare. AU content generally remains good.

    Wow, very deceptive plots there. Start your horizontal axes at zero!

      Agree 100%. Plot your graphs from 0! We want the information - not deceptive marketing tricks.

      +1

      Society has enough problems with understanding numbers and stats without things being made misleading.

    Seconding the call for axes starting at zero!

    I've always used Firefox as first choice, Chrome second. But on a recent PC build with an SSD, Firefox freezes periodically. Apparently this is a somewhat known issue? I can't figure out how to fix it so have gone with Chrome as #1... bad timing it seems.

    Pretty sure your quality control between the Cold Start and Tab Loading is a little wrong.
    IE starts in half the time when loading 9 tabs than it does when loading one.
    And my Chrome starts 9 tabs almost as quickly as it starts 1 - and i'm only running a Core2Duo 3Ghz, which ain't all that.

    IE9 - won't load house hunting images from realestate.com.au - don't know why.

    I use Opera for most day-to-day use, but its main failing is part of its strength; it's not as popular as the others, so it's not always supported by feature-heavy sites.

    If it's a major hassle (some Google sites failed on a previous version), it gets fixed quickly.

    Sometimes a simple "pretend to be IE" works, since the problem is simply the site being too clever about detecting the client!

    Who cares that loading 9 tabs takes between 3 and 8 seconds in length...if you needed to save time, open less tabs.

    I was a long time FireFox user until a few months ago when it started freezing and crashing randomly with only 5 - 7 tabs open at a time. This was happening on 3 different PC's with only 3 or so extensions loaded.

    Moved to Chrome and it works so much better. 2 months later and still zero complaints.

    Opera's getting that high? Haha. I stopped using Chrome about 2-3 months ago because of some lame Google Sign-in bug that kept crashing. Seems like FF7 since then has been flying faster than Chrome, even after a recent comparison.

    Opera always seemed fast for me in the past as well, but some sites would display so weirdly because of compatibility issues it seemed.

    Using Explorer 9 freezes and crashes - before I finished this it had crashed and reopened need to change home user what do I change to.

    In terms of performance, Firefox 7 comes out slower on some of the chromeexperiments than Opera 11.5.1. There is one called Wormz which is grindingly slow on Firefox 7.

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