Web Browser Grand Prix: Chrome 18, Firefox 11, Windows XP

Over the past two years, we've tested the top five Web browsers using modern PC hardware. But today, going against all that is sacred to the enthusiast crowd, we're breaking out an old beige box to bring you Web Browser Grand Prix: Windows XP Edition!

This is the tenth installment of the Web Browser Grand Prix series. To commemorate that number, our test system is going back ten years in time.

That's right, back to the days of IDE hard drives, AGP graphics, CRT monitors, and Windows XP.

Bet you thought it was going to be OS X again, huh?Bet you thought it was going to be OS X again, huh?

Granted, this type of test rig doesn't exactly fit with the regular Tom's Hardware crowd, which no doubt leaves a lot of enthusiasts asking one question: "Why?"

Though most of you probably haven't used a system like this since the early 2000s, I'm willing to bet you're stuck supporting at least one person still plugging along on a similarly spec'ed machine as their daily driver. Whether it's Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Dad, Aunt Harriet and Uncle Al, or that neighbor who received your hand-me-down machine back in 2003, we all get dragged into it. It's inevitable. The calls for help will come.

Since browsing the Web is one of the only modern tasks such a system is capable of, more often than not the issue usually has something to do with "the Internet being slow." So, can the Web browser you leave on that dilapidated machine play any part in making the pre-Vista experience better? If so, by how much?

Before we can get to the embarrassingly-low benchmark scores and the answers to these questions, let's get caught up on what has happened in the world of Web browsers since Web Browser Grand Prix 9:

Recent News & Events

02/15/12: Mozilla spells out its Firefox roadmap for 2012. The browser is to receive a new JavaScript engine and user interface in Q2.
02/21/12: Microsoft accuses Google of bypassing IE privacy settings. Google contends that IE's cookie technology is "widely non-operational".
02/28/12: Google offers up a million dollars in prizes for hacking Chrome.
03/13/12: Mozilla releases Firefox 11.
03/19/12: Google Chrome surpasses Microsoft Internet Explorer in browser market share for a single day.
03/23/12:  Even at three years old, Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 is still the number-two browser, holding an estimated 17% market share, second only to Chrome 17 at 27%.
03/25/12: Microsoft claims Chrome market share statistics are misleading due to Chrome's pre-rendering and the lack of geoweighting by the major stat trackers.
03/27/12: Opera updates to version 11.62 on the desktop.
03/28/12: Mozilla launches BrowserQuest, an HTML5 game that looks suspiciously like The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past.
03/28/12: Google releases Chrome 18 to the stable channel.
03/29/12: Mozilla says that the new six-week release cycle for Firefox is not set in stone.

Now, let's take a quick look at past Web Browser Grand Prix winners and today's contenders.

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  • wheredahoodat
    "Both Opera and Chrome feltmuch smoother on our old PC than Firefox"

    I do kinda feel the difference with Firefox's responsive going from my main modern desktop to my older labtop that has regulated to a makeshift HTC. I believe Firefox XUL interface is the culprit; it was a big enough problem for Firefox mobile to abandon it in favor of native Android GUI, but who knows at this point. I guess might actually give Opera a chance.
  • agnickolov
    How come only a single reader requested numerical composite scoring, that's the most logical way of scoring after all! With that said, I'd have liked if you didn't use the rankings but the raw scores after a more intelligent transformation as the input for weighted averaging...
    For example, for each category you could subtract the lowest-placed score from all scores and then normalize in the range [0-1] by dividing all adjusted scores by the topmost adjusted score. This way the top perfomer always has 1 and the worst performer always has 0 modified score (you'd need to invert them for tests where lower is better of course, e.g. subtract these from 1). Then apply your ranks to these scores and you get the composite score. It's not a perfect transformation, but it certainly has more fairly distributed weight (pun intended) than what you have used here.
  • gwiz1987
    Why is IE8 being benched and not IE9?
  • aznjoka
    Thats my Opera, for those who have never tried Opera. It's an amazing piece of software, it does the job, and it does it better then most.
  • confish21
    Interesting move to make this article. Well done! Don't waste your time on a vista run though... Im so close my release date. xD
  • csbeer
    aznjokaThats my Opera, for those who have never tried Opera. It's an amazing piece of software, it does the job, and it does it better then most.

    XP can't run 9. Need to upgrade OS in order to get higher IE.
  • dameon51
    gwiz1987Why is IE8 being benched and not IE9?

    XP doesn't support 9, only 8.
  • mayankleoboy1
    excellent review!
    some points:

    1.A lot of corporates still use IE7. maybe you should include that too in your benchmarks

    2.if you remove HTML5 (with and without H/W acceleration), i think Opera's victory margin will be quite huge.

    3.Regarding smoothness, i beleive FF is quite poor in this. But the developers know about it and are very activle working on it. I thik FF13 will be the release when smoothness will improve. look at "Firefox Snappy".

    4. i would like to have a subjective recommendation at the end of the article, something you subjectively felt was the best amongst all the browsers, even though it may be trailing in numbers.
  • mayankleoboy1
    Why did you use the AGP? I bet 99.99% of those Pentium4 era computers use the onboard Intel IGP.
    Also that would definitely disable the H/W acceleration of browsers.
  • Anyone who is still stuck using Windows 2000, Opera supports you.

  • bunnywannyAnyone who is still stuck using Windows 2000, Opera supports you.

    Toms, the "add an url" in the comment toolbar doesn't work. Here is the link:
  • ronch79
    I don't know about you guys, but I've been a fan of Opera for a few years now, until recently. I've noticed that the then-latest version, 11.61, took so long to load pages. At first, I thought there was something wrong with my internet connection. For some reason I installed Chrome. I noticed right away that browsing with Chrome was faster (pages loaded quickly). My first suspicion was that it was just plain luck; that the bandwidth simply was faster coincidentally when I was using Chrome. I did a side-by-side comparison with both browsers open, and yes, Opera did load pages sluggishly. I was stumped. For the record, I'm NOT bashing Opera here, folks. I just don't know why this is happening. Heck, I'd switch back to Opera in a flash. This all happened with Opera 11.61. I think I'll give Opera 12 a shot.
  • straatkat
    The html5 ranking is surprising. A score north of 300 for HTML5 support is, I would say, about par. In the end, HTML5 adoption in the wild is a good as the lowest score, because you want people to have access to your site, you are not going to build a site that locks out a substantial portion of the internet. So you are not going to target a HTML5 feature that is specific to a browser.
  • hellfire24
    man i still love XP!!!!
  • for me 0.5 ponts is noting and for me chrome is the winner here
  • straatkat
    Can you state which version of Windows XP you were using? Circa 2003 you had Windows XP service pack 1 only.
  • assassin123
    I love firefox
  • Cryio
    muhsi44even though the OSes are still in beta.

    What OSes?
  • Hypertraxx
  • sheol
    Out of the box, no browser that I know of comes close to Opera when it comes to usability(mouse gestures, tab manangement, "Closed Tabs " - a recycle bin of tabs if you will, an awesome feature that keeps your closed tabs for easy retrieval for when you might need them.
    This is why I believe Opera uses so much memory after 39 tabs have been closed.

    And reliability, who could complain? Routinely i have 50+ tabs open for days, and I have not had a single crash because of it.
  • Tamz_msc
    Yes, Opera is the best browser out-of-the-box, but I've seen that sometimes it takes a long time to load a page and there is no way to tell if its done or not. On complex websites it keeps showing Elements 87/88 and it seems like its stuck at that point.

    Anyways, Firefox is my primary browser and I use Opera as a backup.
  • trumpeter1994
    I use firefox still because in my opinion it's like a swiss army knife among browsers. I have chrome and use it on the rare occasion but I will definetely be getting opera now, because I'm very impressed with it's performance even on an outdated system.
    I do think its unfair though to compare IE8 to the newer versions of the other browsers, but theres not much you can do about that on this test system so I'll just disregard it.
  • LaloFG
    This is a better approach qualifying browsers, at least now you're mention the feeling in responsiveness.
    Opera deserve this win (and others that it lost for bad testing in tomshardware), maybe someday will caught a bigger quota.
  • tipoo
    I'm glad you included the responsiveness results, to me it never mattered if Firefox or other browsers met or surpassed Chrome and Opera in benchmarks, the fact was that Chrome and Opera just stay responsive no matter what you throw at them which no other browser has yet come close to.