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JavaScript By The Ton

Web Browser Grand Prix: The Top Five, Tested And Ranked
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There are almost as many JavaScript benchmarks as there are browsers to benchmark, and we decided to run all of them. Why? Because each browser points to a different benchmark in their marketing efforts. In several cases, the maker of the browser also makes the benchmark. We also like the idea of running all of the benchmarks to... benchmark them. They should all more or less reflect the same results, right?

Google V8

The Google V8 Benchmark Suite is made up of seven individual JavaScript tests, the geometric mean of these tests becomes the V8 Benchmark score. We'd expect this benchmark to favor Chrome, since they are both Google projects. In fact, the reason this benchmark exists is to test Google's JavaScript engine of the same name. We ran the suite five times and averaged the scores. Version 5 of the Google V8 Benchmark Suite was used.

As you can see, the outcome of this test is as expected: Chrome is the winner, with Opera putting forth a good effort in second, Chrome's WebKit cousin Safari came in a distant third, but still far ahead of the other two contenders.

JSBenchmark (CelticKane)

JSBenchmark isn't new; actually it has been around for some time now under it's former name: Celtic Kane. This benchmark takes only seconds to run, and even provides the average of all iterations automatically. We ran JSBenchmark five times.

JSBenchmark delivers nearly the same results as Google's V8 Benchmark, except Safari places higher than Opera to come in second place this time. Chrome still wins by a solid margin and Internet Explorer again takes dead last.

Mozilla Dromaeo Javascript Test

Obviously this is the JavaScript benchmark from Mozilla, the makers of Firefox. Because the Dromaeo JavaScript test returns remarkably close scores, we only needed to do three runs per browser. The average of those three runs becomes the final score. Internet Explorer experienced a lockup during the base 64 encoding and decoding portion of the test. Pausing and immediately re-running the test got it going again. Opera locked up on Regular Expressions in Dromaeo JavaScript, like with IE, a pause and re-run got it going again. Though the test was eventually skipped at about 98% - this occured on all three iterations.

In the Mozilla test we see Opera way out in front. So far, in fact, that I find the result highly dubious, especially considering the errors it experiences. Chrome comes in a distant second with Safari trailing behind in third (but still way ahead of Firefox and Internet Explorer).

SunSpider

SunSpider is the JavaScript test that Apple references for much of its Safari marketing effort. The SunSpider project was originally started by the Apple WebKit team. The results of this benchmark are pretty stable, so we only needed to run this test in three iterations. As usual, the average of the three scores became our final result.

Here, we see Chrome take the win with Opera very close on Google's heels. Safari loses much of its ground to Firefox in this test. IE does what we've come to expect by now, placing a distant fifth.

After reviewing the JavaScript benchmarks, we've decided that Tom's has no choice but to run all of them in the future. While I personally lean toward JSBenchmark, since it isn't affiliated with any browser, its results don't reflect the outcome in Dromaeo. Until the reason for Opera's devastating Mozilla score can be explained, I believe we'll have to run all of them to get the clearest picture. If you disagree, or have an opinion on a better way to benchmark JavaScript, sound off in the comments section below.

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  • 88 Hide
    mitch074 , March 4, 2010 7:19 AM
    The benches are nothing new, however the runs are complete and the picture they draw is accurate. I myself would probably switch to Chrome too... if performance was the only consideration.

    Let's get things straight: although Firefox put the hurt on IE for performance reasons when it came out, Gecko is *by design* not made for speed - but versatility.

    Firefox uses Gecko for everything: the UI, page rendering, running add-ons, etc. It is actually a complete, highly versatile, and highly complex piece of software, indeed a programming environment that can run on pretty much anything (Firefox 3.6 can still run comfortably on a computer with 128 Mb of RAM, due to its memory manager) - and it shows: everything you see is actually interpreted code. If there's RAM to spare, Firefox will cache precompiled elements for fast reuse later on. If not, it'll recompute at need - including the UI. And since it's not exactly slow either, performance on memory-limited scenarii is best in Firefox than in many other browsers. It's also rather small to download (8 Mb for the 32-bit Windows version). Mozilla knows very well what's wrong with Firefox: Gecko, as it currently stands, is more than 10 years old (and actually predates most of the Web Standards) - and some design decisions no longer make any sense. Gecko 2 (which is in the planning stage) should solve most of these problems, but it's not there yet. So, for now, we get a patched and streamlined Gecko 1.9.x.

    What about the competition?

    Safari (based on Webkit) has a plain C++ interface, and is a 45 Mb download. What they put in this, I have no idea: not developer tools, that's for sure. I don't know how it can be that fast in your benches, but I know one thing for sure: on my XP box, it's slow - even slower than IE. And it's for Mac and Windows (XP and up, not 2k) only. Moreover, its interface is frozen: no way to customize your experience, not even skins. You get Safari, you get Apple's way. Some enjoy that, I sure don't.

    Chrome is FAST. No question about that. Also built upon Webkit (which is no slouch at HTML and CSS rendering), its V8 engine is just damn fast. While it uses process separation and sandboxing, it is also very light (no bigger than Firefox to download). The Chromium project (the open source version, that retains most of Chrome's advantages apart from phoning Google home and h.264 decoding) also makes it free software. While Google didn't go as far as Apple to freeze the interface (on the Linux build of Chromium, for example, you may have the browser using the system's theme and window decorations), it is also quite frozen in its design. For no-nonsense browsing, I recommend it. But it doesn't sit well with me: too frozen for my tastes (but I don't mind using it, contrary to Safari).

    Opera is a case appart: it's the only completely closed browser that is also found on any platform you may want. Mobile builds, 32- and 64-bit builds, Mac, Windows, Linux, BSD, Solaris ports... The only browser with more versions is Firefox, and even then, that's debatable. It also packs many features, is very light (the Windows version is smaller than Firefox's) and rather quick. It is also the only browser apart from Firefox that will do 'proper' XML parsing. It is, however, so unlike the competition that using it is an acquired taste: you either can't stand it for long, or you swear by it. I fall in the former, but I perfectly understand those in the latter category.

    Internet Explorer. Why is it still used by 60% of the net denizens? Performance ain't the reason. The interface? Let's not go there. Packed features? A joke. Security? Chrome has it for lunch. Extensions? Firefox is so far above IE can't see it any more with a telescope. Interface? Yeah, right. Portability? It's Windows only. Developer tools? They are basically a rewrite of an older version of Firebug.
    Could it be "bundling"? As in, forced installs? Maybe the EC has something here.

    So, why do I remain in Firefox? Extensions first. I use a few, that don't all have equivalent tools in other browsers, but that's not exactly the reason. Portability? Not that either, as Chrome(ium) and Opera run on the same OSes I use. Speed? Obviously not (I find it rather slow sometimes myself). Habit? There's definitely some of that, but if that were the case, I'd merely try to break a 'bad' habit. Compatible? Actually no, since it probably boasts the least compatible support for Web technologies apart from IE: Mozilla implemented standards with very few proprietary extensions, whether their own or their competitors', and they are late in implementing modifications in said standards (thus the 'low' Acid3 score).

    No, what I enjoy most about Firefox is that I can truly make it my own. It is the most versatile browser out there, bar none. I can make websites with it, I can make it 'pretty', I can load extensions for meaningful features (NoScript and Adblock are GREAT), I can run it on any system I have (even the 10 year old box I keep in my kitchen), I can take it with me (mobile versions), it works on any website I use it on... Something no other browser can do yet.

    And I like robots.
  • 14 Hide
    welshmousepk , March 4, 2010 6:49 AM
    well this makes me feel better. ive asserted that opera is the best web browser for a whil now.
    and give the inherent spyware nature of anything google, i think this justifies that.

    sure google chrome may have some nifty features, but have you READ the T&Cs?...
  • 12 Hide
    shubham1401 , March 4, 2010 7:02 AM
    Was using Chrome and Firefox for quite a while...
    I will try OPERA now!!
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    Emperus , March 4, 2010 6:34 AM
    Well i was beginning to feel the lack of many tests such as security and UI customizations but the last para covered it well.. I too felt that chrome has got the speed advantage over the competition.. Not only for a single tab but also with multiple tabs.. The slowest i feel is firefox (with multiple tabs).. So, may be a bit incomplete but nice article..
  • 0 Hide
    rbarone69 , March 4, 2010 6:40 AM
    Great article guys! Good to show the fanboys the real numbers behind the browsers...

    Although I bet the replies will soon be streaming in with posts saying how the tests aren't correct etc...

    In any case, great read.
  • 14 Hide
    welshmousepk , March 4, 2010 6:49 AM
    well this makes me feel better. ive asserted that opera is the best web browser for a whil now.
    and give the inherent spyware nature of anything google, i think this justifies that.

    sure google chrome may have some nifty features, but have you READ the T&Cs?...
  • 12 Hide
    shubham1401 , March 4, 2010 7:02 AM
    Was using Chrome and Firefox for quite a while...
    I will try OPERA now!!
  • 8 Hide
    manwell999 , March 4, 2010 7:07 AM
    Chrome has a clumsy system to open bookmarks. Instead of a pull down menu you have to click a spanner then select bookmark manager which opens up a bookmark browser so you can then click the frequently used site.
  • 88 Hide
    mitch074 , March 4, 2010 7:19 AM
    The benches are nothing new, however the runs are complete and the picture they draw is accurate. I myself would probably switch to Chrome too... if performance was the only consideration.

    Let's get things straight: although Firefox put the hurt on IE for performance reasons when it came out, Gecko is *by design* not made for speed - but versatility.

    Firefox uses Gecko for everything: the UI, page rendering, running add-ons, etc. It is actually a complete, highly versatile, and highly complex piece of software, indeed a programming environment that can run on pretty much anything (Firefox 3.6 can still run comfortably on a computer with 128 Mb of RAM, due to its memory manager) - and it shows: everything you see is actually interpreted code. If there's RAM to spare, Firefox will cache precompiled elements for fast reuse later on. If not, it'll recompute at need - including the UI. And since it's not exactly slow either, performance on memory-limited scenarii is best in Firefox than in many other browsers. It's also rather small to download (8 Mb for the 32-bit Windows version). Mozilla knows very well what's wrong with Firefox: Gecko, as it currently stands, is more than 10 years old (and actually predates most of the Web Standards) - and some design decisions no longer make any sense. Gecko 2 (which is in the planning stage) should solve most of these problems, but it's not there yet. So, for now, we get a patched and streamlined Gecko 1.9.x.

    What about the competition?

    Safari (based on Webkit) has a plain C++ interface, and is a 45 Mb download. What they put in this, I have no idea: not developer tools, that's for sure. I don't know how it can be that fast in your benches, but I know one thing for sure: on my XP box, it's slow - even slower than IE. And it's for Mac and Windows (XP and up, not 2k) only. Moreover, its interface is frozen: no way to customize your experience, not even skins. You get Safari, you get Apple's way. Some enjoy that, I sure don't.

    Chrome is FAST. No question about that. Also built upon Webkit (which is no slouch at HTML and CSS rendering), its V8 engine is just damn fast. While it uses process separation and sandboxing, it is also very light (no bigger than Firefox to download). The Chromium project (the open source version, that retains most of Chrome's advantages apart from phoning Google home and h.264 decoding) also makes it free software. While Google didn't go as far as Apple to freeze the interface (on the Linux build of Chromium, for example, you may have the browser using the system's theme and window decorations), it is also quite frozen in its design. For no-nonsense browsing, I recommend it. But it doesn't sit well with me: too frozen for my tastes (but I don't mind using it, contrary to Safari).

    Opera is a case appart: it's the only completely closed browser that is also found on any platform you may want. Mobile builds, 32- and 64-bit builds, Mac, Windows, Linux, BSD, Solaris ports... The only browser with more versions is Firefox, and even then, that's debatable. It also packs many features, is very light (the Windows version is smaller than Firefox's) and rather quick. It is also the only browser apart from Firefox that will do 'proper' XML parsing. It is, however, so unlike the competition that using it is an acquired taste: you either can't stand it for long, or you swear by it. I fall in the former, but I perfectly understand those in the latter category.

    Internet Explorer. Why is it still used by 60% of the net denizens? Performance ain't the reason. The interface? Let's not go there. Packed features? A joke. Security? Chrome has it for lunch. Extensions? Firefox is so far above IE can't see it any more with a telescope. Interface? Yeah, right. Portability? It's Windows only. Developer tools? They are basically a rewrite of an older version of Firebug.
    Could it be "bundling"? As in, forced installs? Maybe the EC has something here.

    So, why do I remain in Firefox? Extensions first. I use a few, that don't all have equivalent tools in other browsers, but that's not exactly the reason. Portability? Not that either, as Chrome(ium) and Opera run on the same OSes I use. Speed? Obviously not (I find it rather slow sometimes myself). Habit? There's definitely some of that, but if that were the case, I'd merely try to break a 'bad' habit. Compatible? Actually no, since it probably boasts the least compatible support for Web technologies apart from IE: Mozilla implemented standards with very few proprietary extensions, whether their own or their competitors', and they are late in implementing modifications in said standards (thus the 'low' Acid3 score).

    No, what I enjoy most about Firefox is that I can truly make it my own. It is the most versatile browser out there, bar none. I can make websites with it, I can make it 'pretty', I can load extensions for meaningful features (NoScript and Adblock are GREAT), I can run it on any system I have (even the 10 year old box I keep in my kitchen), I can take it with me (mobile versions), it works on any website I use it on... Something no other browser can do yet.

    And I like robots.
  • 11 Hide
    Tomtompiper , March 4, 2010 7:21 AM
    What about the "Privacy" test? Chrome records everything you type in the search bar and sends it back to Google. If you want big brother get Chrome. If you want control and customization FF or Opera. FF wins for me the addons alone make up for the relative lack of speed. Adblock and Cooliris are invaluable, can you imagine Google ever allowing an Adblock addon for Chrome?
  • 9 Hide
    manwell999 , March 4, 2010 7:34 AM
    Google "Adblock for chrome" the first result is a link to the Adblock for Chrome extension download. Which is hosted at chrome.google.com. So I can imagine an Adblock addon for Chrome.
  • 4 Hide
    ephemeraldeception , March 4, 2010 7:38 AM
    A good set of tests that has generated some intriguing results. Especially this comparison:
    Chrome and Safari really do well on the raw javascript/html/css etc execution tests. Yet Firefox manages to take top on overall page load times.

    Overall page load times is a big part of the user experience. What I cannot understand is WHY Firefox wins the page load times, so there must be other factors involved. One aspect is maybe the efficient memory usage. Another aspect may be in parallel processing and for online usage perhaps Firefox has better pipelining, sockets usage etc.
  • 10 Hide
    jsowoc , March 4, 2010 7:44 AM
    manwell999Google "Adblock for chrome" the first result is a link to the Adblock for Chrome extension download. Which is hosted at chrome.google.com. So I can imagine an Adblock addon for Chrome.

    I found that extension not to block most of the ads. Google makes a lot of money off ads, so I can't see their adblock being functional anytime soon.
  • 0 Hide
    Sihastru , March 4, 2010 7:45 AM
    When it comes to actual page rendering and actual browsing, Opera is the worst piece of s...browser I've had the "pleasure" of using. A lot of pages look different, a lot of scripts will not run correctly, many XHTML/CSS/JS "designer" sites (many portfolios) will just not work like they were intended to. They have made some improvements lately, but they still have a long way to go.

    I will use FF for web development and Chrome for "just browsing". Speed is a relative thing. As you can see from the benchmarks above, it depends on the website how fast it loads. There is no clear winner when you consider page loading times, even IE will come on top many times.

    Sometimes I think they made Opera just to win benchmarks...
  • 3 Hide
    ecka84 , March 4, 2010 7:58 AM
    I am with Opera for a long time and I don't need a benchmark to see that it is the best (for me ;) )
  • 7 Hide
    linaaslt , March 4, 2010 8:04 AM
    I love Chrome, it the best browser for me, simple browser, works quick, had no problems with it for ages :) 
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , March 4, 2010 8:39 AM
    "If you want a Linux-based browser battle, or a comparison of browser performance across operating systems, speak up in the comments below."

    Linux (Ubuntu) please ;)  Comparing the speed of (the same) web browser(s) between different OS'es (Windows Vista, 7, Linux -KDE & Gnome, if this could lead to a difference of speed) would be awesome BTW!
  • 0 Hide
    randomizer , March 4, 2010 8:48 AM
    Speaking of cross-platform testing, Firefox in Ubuntu does seem to render this site substantially faster than in Win 7. Other sites not so much, but they aren't taking 2.5-5 seconds already, so the difference would be less noticeable anyway.
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , March 4, 2010 9:02 AM
    IE and Chrome don't even support color management. More and more displays come with wide-gamut panel and reading Tom's hardware without CM hurts!
  • 4 Hide
    mitch074 , March 4, 2010 9:14 AM
    @randomizer: Firefox may work better on some platforms than on others. It also heavily depends on what optimizations were used to compile it: For example, my Firefox 3.5 64-bit Mandriva build is slow as heck - but the 64-bit Mozilla build for Linux is very, VERY fast.
  • -2 Hide
    helms , March 4, 2010 9:15 AM
    Please add a 20 tab startup so we can see what happens in kinda worse case scenario
  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , March 4, 2010 9:19 AM
    so no one cares about antialiasing? the one that safari does? because for me... reading with it is precious. other way in any other brouser my eyes would hurt....
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