Firefox 3.6 is out, Chrome's stable version got a big upgrade, and Opera 10.5 is inching toward release. It's a great time for us to break out the timer, process manager and code tracker for some up-to-date browser speed tests.
This go-round, we did things just slightly different from our last batch of browser tests.
- Xmarks bookmark sync
- AdBlock (known as AdBlock Plus on Firefox)
- CoolIris photo viewer
- Gmail-based mail checkers: Gmail checker for Firefox, Google Mail Checker for Chrome
- LastPass password manager
Are these extensions exactly the same between Firefox and Chrome? Not really. Are they generally providing the same functionality? We hope so. Either way, we wanted to see what a fan of these five fairly popular extensions would experience, in terms of memory use, across all three browsers (for Windows) that have a robust extension platform.
Onto the tests!
Click any of the images below for a clearer and wider look at the results.
Boot-up and warm loading; Winner: Opera!
Opera 10.01 and 10.5 Beta are so close together in cold and warm starts, you could write off the difference to the speed of your testing editor's finger on the timer button. Close behind is Chrome's stable and development versions, similarly close in standing. Firefox 3.6 was surprisingly just a tad slower than 3.5 in starting up, at least from first boot-up, and Safari remains a fairly slow starter.
Tab Loading; Winner: Chrome (Stable)!
We were more than a little surprised at this result, so we triple-checked that we'd cleaned out Chrome's cache, cookies, and browsing data to ensure it wasn't getting a head start on loading each browser's home page, plus Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Hulu and the Google home page. But the numbers bore out the new Chrome release's prowess on the "Open all in bookmarks" function, which bodes well for its individual tab loading:
Still, to look at Opera 10.5 in the Dromaeo aggregate results, you'd think that either Opera has developers who have learned not to sleep, or that something funny is going on. Still, we have to call them the winner, with Chrome's development channel, stable release and Safari 4 picking up the remaining winner's circle slots.
DOM/CSS; Winner: Chrome (Dev)!
Google's browser mostly walks away with this one. Safari puts in a strong showing, and Firefox pushes past Opera.
Memory use, no extensions; Winner: Firefox 3.6!
For all the emphasis Firefox put on its themes, security and plugin management for the 3.6 release, they could have mentioned that it's even more efficient with memory, at least soon after start-up, than the already impressive 3.5 releases. Opera 10.01 and Safari 4 aren't far behind, Opera 10.5 shows a pretty hefty jump in tab holding, and if you're using Chrome with multiple tabs, you'd better have a pretty modern system.
Memory use with extensions; Winner: Firefox 3.6!
You know what we learned about Chrome in these tests? That there's a price to pay for its walled garden model of security. It seems like each extension is individually contained in a tab-like shell, meaning that if your extension crashes, it won't bring down your whole browser. Even if it does, your tab contents and writing are preserved. That said, to have those extensions loaded, with or without tabs open, makes a pretty big difference in memory use. Extensions make a different in Firefox, too, but much more incrementally:
As we first implemented in our last tests, we took the numeric score placement of each browser in each category and ranked them from 7, as best in category, to 1, as worst. We totalled those numbers up, and present them here as a total out of 35. If a browser had a 35, it would be best in every category: startup, page loading, code handling and memory use. We didn't include the extension memory test, because it's not a fair fight between all the browsers.
Scores (out of 35 possible)
- Google Chrome 4.0.302.3 (dev): 25
- Google Chrome 18.104.22.168 (stable): 24
- Firefox 3.6: 20
- Firefox 3.5.4: 21
- Opera 10.5 Beta: 25
- Opera 10.01: 15
- Safari 4.0.4: 19
What did we learn? If you're using Opera 10.01, you have almost no reason not to upgrade. If you're using Chrome, the Stable channel is pretty much a wash with the development version, barring any new features that make their way first to the dev channel (which, granted, some certainly will). Firefox 3.6 seems more of an upgrade in features than core components, and Safari, well, doesn't it have a really neat launch page? Like our results? Totally disagree? We want to hear about it in the comments.