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IE9 vs Chrome 10 vs Firefox 4 vs Opera 11.01 vs Safari 5 - The BIG browser benchmark

Now that Mozilla has finally released Firefox 4 to the masses, it’s time for a BIG browser benchmark where we take the leading browsers and pit them against four of the toughest benchmark tests available to see which is the tortoise, and which is the hare.
Note: This post has been updated for the final release of Firefox 4.
Here are the browsers that will be run:
  • Internet Explorer 9 (9.0.8112.16421) 32-bit
  • Internet Explorer 9 (9.0.8112.16421) 64-bit
  • Firefox 4
  • Chrome 10.0.648.151
  • Safari 5.0.4
  • Opera 11.01
Here are the tests that the browsers will face:
  • SunSpider javascript 0.9.1 - A javascript benchmark developed by Mozilla with a focus on real-world problem solving.
  • V8 Benchmark Suite - A pure javascript benchmark used by Google to to tune the V8 javascript engine.
  • Peacekeeper - FutureMark’s javascript test which stress-tests features such as animation, navigation, forms and other commonly utilized tasks.
  • Kraken 1.0 - Another javascript benchmark developed by Mozilla. This is based on SunSpider but features some enhancements.
All testing carried out on a Windows 7 64-bit machine running a Q9300 2.5GHz quad-core processor with 4GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GTX 260 graphics card.
On with the testing!

SunSpider javascript Benchmark
  • Hare: IE9 32-bit
  • Tortoise: IE9 64-bit

V8 Benchmark

  • Hare: Chrome 10

  • Tortoise: IE9 64-bit

  • Peacekeeper Benchmark

  • Hare: Chrome 10

  • Tortoise: Firefox 4

  • Kraken Benchmark

  • Hare: Firefox 4

  • Tortoise: IE9 64-bit

  • Conclusion
    OK, so what conclusions can we draw? Well, let’s begin with the obvious and say that Internet Explorer 9 64-bit is an absolute dog when it comes to javascript performance. This is to be expected given that IE 9 64-bit is using an older, slower javascript engine, while IE 9 32-bit was using the newer, more efficient Chakra JIT.
    OK, with the loser out of the way, what’s the winning browser? Well, out of the four benchmarks, Chrome 10 won two, IE9 32-bit won one and Firefox 4 won one, so in the strictest sense, Chrome 10 is the winner. But in the SunSpider test there is so little separating the four fastest browsers (a shade over 40 milliseconds) that you could almost say it is a tie. Then there’s the V8 test, which Chrome 10 aces, but then that’s to be expected given that Google, by its own admission, use that benchmark to tune the V8 javascript engine.
    So, what’s the conclusion? Simple, IE9 64-bit is shockingly bad, and all the other browsers are, on the whole, pretty evenly matched. I’m pleasantly surprised that IE9 32-bit actually aces the SunSpider test, but I expect that over the coming weeks Google will manage to catch up and take the lead once again (Microsoft’s painfully slow update cycle for IE (especially compared with Google’s aggressive update cycle) works against it in the long run. Microsoft has worked hard on IE, taking it from being the slowest in the pack to one of the fastest. That itself is worthy of recognition.

    Note: The 64-bit version of IE is only available to those with a 64-bit OS, and even then you’ve got to go searching for it. My advice, don’t bother.
    Bottom line, I really don’t think that javascript performance is an issue any more, and certainly in real-world testing it’s hard to see a difference between the browsers (some HTML 5 sites not withstanding, given that many are optimized for a particular browser). In fact, unless one of the players managed to boost javascript performance by an order of magnitude, shaving a few milliseconds off here and there hardly matters any more.