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Startup Time

Web Browser Grand Prix: Chrome 25, Firefox 19, And IE10

As we explained, these startup times have changed from a composite page load timer to a simple stopwatch. As a result, they'll be higher than any previous article's because we are timing from the point the application is launched to the point that all tabs report fully-loaded content. Before, we timed from the point the application window appeared to the time that all tabs finished loading. While a stopwatch isn't as precise as timer script output, it's nonetheless more reflective of real-world wait times.

As usual, we are timing startups both cold (first opened upon boot) and hot (reopened), in both single- and eight-tab variations. Let's begin with the single-tab cold start.

Single Tab, Cold

This measure is reflective of the time it takes to open a browser and load a single page immediately after turning on your computer.

Ironically, it's IE9 that demonstrates the fastest single-tab cold start, possibly the most common startup scenario, at just under three and a half seconds. Firefox places a close second, followed by Chrome at nearly double IE9's time. Oddly enough, IE10 for Windows 7 places fourth.

Under Windows 8, however, it's another story, with IE10 beating the rest at just 3.7 seconds. Opera places dead last on both versions of Windows, though it seems to do substantially better under Windows 8. 

Single Tab, Hot

Whenever you re-open a previously-closed browser in the same session, you're looking at hot startup time. This result pertains to users who prefer a single homepage.

IE9 and 10 basically tie for first place in single-tab hot starts. In Windows 7, Chrome shares the spotlight with Microsoft's browser, though it takes last place in Windows 8. Firefox and Opera essentially achieve the same times on either OS.

OK, single-tab times are great for Mom and Dad, but what about us power users who have our browsers set to open multiple pages, or to open tabs from the last session, or simply always have several pinned tabs at any given time? That's where the eight-tab tests come in. Why eight tabs? Simple, Internet Explorer only allows for up to eight tabs in a home tab group.

Eight Tabs, Cold

Again, the cold start times are indicative of when you first open your browser upon booting your PC.

Here, IE9 and Firefox share the top spot in Windows 7 at around 11.5 seconds. The eternal rivals are followed by Opera and Chrome, both at around 12.6 seconds, with IE10 bringing up the rear at over 14 seconds. Windows 8 is a completely different story, with Opera taking first place at less than nine seconds, followed by Firefox and Chrome. IE10 takes nearly 20 seconds!

Eight Tabs, Hot

When the browser is simply being re-opened, Internet Explorer once again assumes the lead, with IE10 outperforming IE9 by a full second on Windows 7. Chrome matches IE9 for second place on Windows 7, but falls to third on Windows 8. Opera and Firefox round out the placing on either OS in the 4-5 second range.

Average Wait Time

This figure is the average of all four startup scenarios, and it should give a general sense of how long each browser makes you wait in relation to the others.

Chrome should provide the lowest wait times (up to eight tabs) on Windows 7 with an average of just 4.5 seconds. Meanwhile, Firefox is the victor on Windows 8 and the second-place finisher on Windows 7. IE9 places a close third on Windows 7, followed by IE10. Opera places last on Windows 7, but earns second place on Windows 8. Chrome falls to a distant third place in Windows 8, while the platform's native IE10 takes the last place position.

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