Browser Speed Tests: Chrome 24, Firefox 18, Internet Explorer 10, Opera 12.12

Windows 8 is out with a new version of Internet Explorer, Firefox has boosted its JavaScript power and memory usage, and Chrome has been slowly improving its speed. How do the new versions stack up against each other? We found out in our latest round of browser speed tests.

We've been testing browsers for a while, and we've refined our method fairly well by now. It's a mix of manually timed user experience measures and hardcore JavaScript benchmarks, plus some new tests to assess how well features such as Chrome's prerendering and Firefox's on demand tab loading acgtually work. All tests take place on Windows (which is why we didn't test Safari — it isn't very popular on Windows, and testing the Mac version wouldn't give us a reasonable basis for comparison).

As always, remember that speed is not the only thing your browser has to offer. Each browser has a number of unique features and characteristics, all of which you should factor into making your choice of which to use. However, while you can easily peruse a list of features for any browser, you can't easily compare their speed, and that's why we've put this together. It's just one more way to compare browsers as you make your decision. Also keep in mind that everyone's computer is different; your numbers may differ from ours, but the differences between the numbers should be the same.

Cold Boot-Up Winner: Chrome!

Chrome had a shockingly fast boot-up time this time around, popping up just over two seconds after we clicked its icon, ready to go. Explorer was pretty fast as well, with Firefox close behind and Opera slowing down quite a bit to take last place.

Tab Loading Winner: TIE Between Chrome and Internet Explorer!

Our test of loading nine tabs, from Lifehacker to Facebook to Hulu and Amazon, showed some interesting results. Chrome and Internet Explorer both dropped some time in this area, tying each other for first place, while Firefox absolutely crumbled under the weight of the tabs. Firefox's UI had so much trouble loading all nine tabs at once that its UI animations would completely stop while it caught up, finally loading them all after nearly 20 seconds. Whatever the Mozilla team has done, it makes the browser feel like its old, slow self again.

URL Loading Winner: Chrome!

As usual, Chrome took home the prize for visiting sites from the address bar, thanks to its awesome prerendering feature. However, Firefox and IE have definitely sped up as well, meaning most browsers should give you a quick page load as long as you've been to that page during this session. The exception is Opera, which still took over a second to load the page.

Cold Restore Winner: Chrome!

Even though this test was originally designed to test Firefox's new on demand tab loading, it seems this feature no longer works during a cold boot — only during a warm boot. However, whether we tested cold or warm starts, Firefox still didn't seem to benefit from this feature at all. The Chrome team has really upped its game, making Chrome boot up super-fast whether it has nine tabs in tow or not. While Chrome still had to load those tabs, it became usable nearly immediately after the window showed up, while Firefox took a little longer to boot and Opera kept us waiting quite a while.

JavaScript Winner: Chrome!

We've gone back and forth about whether to include JavaScript benchmarks in this test, because they're quite artificial, despite many tests claiming to measure "real world performance". In the interest of completeness, we've included it here, with the usual results (Chrome smoking the competition), but don't put too much stock in this over our other tests. Due to issues with Mozilla's Dromaeo test suite, we used the popular Peacekeeper test from Futuremark this time around.

Memory Usage (With Nine Tabs Open) Winner: Firefox!

Firefox's memory management has improved greatly in the recent past, while Chrome's performance continues to shoot up to astronomical levels.

Memory Usage (With Nine Tabs and Five Extensions) Winner: Firefox!

Everyone's memory usage went up when we added five extensions, though Firefox's increased significantly less than Chrome and Opera's. As usual, Firefox took first place.

The Winner?

This time around, there was actually a very clear winner, but we've decided to stop tallying up the results and raking browsers in these tests. Why? Because we think you should decide for yourself. Everyone has different priorities, so we've decided to stop including a "winner". If you don't ever shut down your computer, for example, you can simply ignore the cold boot scores. Don't like benchmarks? Throw out the JavaScript test. Have 12GB of RAM? Then memory management isn't really an issue. Check out the above results and see how the browsers stack up when it comes to your most important tests — and of course, weigh each browser's features — before you determine your own winner.


    Could you please include the Maxthon browser in your next tests please

      Maxthon is an Internet Explored-based browser. The IE results will be pretty close. Same as PaleMoon to Firefox.

    I like the not picking a winner move - I agree that there are too many scenarios for usage and users to say that one browser is "best". For example, for me, the memory management is the only test I pay much attention to, because I use a lot of low power systems. It was I switched from Firefox to Chrome, then back to Firefox.

      Looks like if you have sufficient RAM (lets be honest 4GB is heaps for most people), Chrome is the fastest overall

    Huh? FF 18 takes nearly 20 seconds to load a tab? That doesn't sound right at all.

      Gotta agree there... something screwy about those tests.
      FF has the ability to be modified to whatever your needs, and does it easily.
      I find Chrome is Okay but I always go back to FF.

      It's saying it took 20 seconds to completely load nine tabs simultaneously. That's what Firefox's On Demand tab loading (as does Chrome?), compensates for, by only loading the most recently focused tab on a restart.

      In terms of a single tab, that's what the next test (URL Loading) is for - FF is about 0.6 seconds.

      Speaking of on demand, though, I don't know where you get it only working on a warm restart from, LH. FF18 runs it on a cold restart, for me every time (it did this morning, otherwise I'd still be waiting for the 49 tabs from yesterday to load).

      Last edited 16/01/13 10:15 am

      If you read it, it's 9 tabs visiting various sites and it's counted when all the sites load. Not 9 empty tabs. The pictures only tell half the story.

    Why is IE10 missing from two tests?

      Missing the capability of the tests I assume.

      I assume it doesn't perform those two tasks? I've never been aware of IE restoring tabs if it crashes (though I haven't used it at all since version 7 or 8) and i've never heard of extensions for it.

        There are "add-ons" for IE10 but I don't know about crash recovery - I've been using it for nearly a year now, after 15 years on Netscape/Firefox, and I can't recall a crash so I don't know what happens after one.

        It has crash recovery. Try opening a bunch of tabs then close it via Task Manager. When you next open it, it asks if you want to restore your tabs.
        It's also had extensions for a while, apparently since IE 6. :P

          Spam toolbars don't count as extensions. ;p

    Oh, dear. Pressure is on me to decide which is best? Geez, here we go... eeny, meey miny, Opera!


    Ahhh the poor old Opera fans come out and try desperately to defend what is proven time and time again to be an unpopular, sub-par browser.

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