Most of the measuring methods from our original speed test were used on the latest batch of browsers claiming big improvements and a competitive edge: Firefox 3.0, Firefox 3.1 beta 2 (which remains just-about-to-be-finished-we-promise), the Windows-standard Internet Explorer 7 and the second beta of IE 8, the latest consumer versions of fringe favourites Google Chrome and Opera, and, of course, the boastful Safari 4.
Here’s what did change from all of our previous tests (which we compiled for your convenience:
- Different OS (Windows XP): Kind of by accident, really, but your editors felt it was the most common (and stable) operating system that all the browsers could be tested on. The computer remains the same: 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2.0GB of RAM.
Onto the results!
Test 1: Page Loading—Winner: Google Chrome!
No big surprises here, because both Chrome and Opera have been the trophy-getters when it comes to 0-to-60 hard drive times. Safari 4 seems a bit slower to launch than its previous version, but, then again, it’s pulling in a lot of eye candy (even if these tests were performed with a locally-saved Google page).
Interesting to see the differences in boot times in switching from Vista to XP, though—Chrome was faster, IE 8b2 was much snappier, and everything else seemed to take a small hit.
Opera is the clear winner in start-up times, but in a “warm” test of loading nine tabs at once—almost every browser’s download page, plus Google, YouTube (with Flash installed), Lifehacker, and Gizmodo—Chrome maintains a generally speedy lead. The one variable I can’t account for is that the IE 8 beta download page was seriously slow for every browser to load—except, of course, IE 8, time and again. Removing that big home-field advantage, Chrome pulls into the lead, but Safari does stack up pretty nicely.
When Chrome starts supporting extensions and add-ons, it might really start to make some waves. As shown in the Dromaeo chart below (which measures code runs per second, so bigger/longer is actually better), it really hauls when it comes to web code. Safari does seem to stand nearly as tall as its “3x faster” claims with Firefox, and the IE 8 b2 is notable for nearly tying with Firefox 3. The upcoming Firefox 3.1 shows an decent speed boost, and Opera is surprisingly behind.
Using the same downloadable CSS test as in previous bouts, I found that Safari 4 was king. Safari’s always done well in CSS, but it’s not enough of a game-changing technology to really put it ahead of Chrome—we’re talking milliseconds here, and compatibility is often more important than style scripting speed.
Test 3: Memory Use-Winner: Firefox! (Kinda)
We’re not Supreme Court Justices ’round here—we can’t help but admit a little smile seeing Firefox 3 lead the pack in sensitivity to your memory. I bumped this round’s tab count from eight to nine, and the results round out roughly the same.
Any veteran Firefox user knows, though, that loading the first nine tabs isn’t where you see true memory efficiency. Over time, Firefox always seems to eat up more and more RAM, leaving you few options but to close down all your tabs and restart (trust us: “brb, Firefox restart” is like a semi-hourly chime in our Lifehacker chat room). Failing a fair way to measure it against its peers, though, we’ll just say that if you don’t mind the occasional enforced browsing break, Firefox does win at memory use.