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Futuremark, makers of 3DMark, have launched PeaceKeeper, the first comprehensive browser benchmarking suite.

The results are intriguing -- Apple's Safari and Google Chrome are the top browsers speed-wise. Windows 7 beats Windows Vista with similar hardware and the same browser version, but still lags behind OS X. And the hardware on the system, particularly the CPU dramatically influences results.  (Source: PeaceKeeper)
The makers of 3DMark take on the web

Mozilla, Apple, Google, Opera, and Microsoft all claim the same thing -- that their browser is the fastest.  So who is telling the truth? 

Until recently, that was a tough question to answer.  Sure there was a handful of free tests, such as SunSpider's JavaScript benchmark, Celtic Kane's JavaScript benchmark (a bit older), or the crude CSS benchmark posted on HowToCreate.  However, these tests all had one thing in common -- they did not fully test the browser's speed across a variety of rich-content standards.

FutureMark, makers of the popular 3DMark hardware benchmarking software, know all about how to provide a cohesive benchmarking suite.  So amid ongoing work on PCMark, 3DMark, and even a video game (Shattered Horizon), FutureMark decided to try to settle the browser bragging match once and for all by releasing a comprehensive test suite.

The result is the Peacekeeper benchmarking suite, which is now available as a free online applicationDailyTech had the pleasure of talking with FutureMark President Oliver Baltuch and learning more about this exciting new test, as well as some of its more interesting results.

Currently, the test covers page rendering using everything from HTML 5.0 to CSS.  It also includes a number of tests to gauge JavaScript performance with typical algorithms such as encrypts, filters, parses, sorts, and array manipulation.  DOM performance is also tested.  Currently, flash performance tests are not included.  Mr. Baltuch says that a second version is in the works "that would include more of the HTML 5.0 and something that works to measure flash performance as well as possibly power performance."

The core set of tests now simulate conditions that might be encountered on content-heavy pages such as YouTube, Facebook, or Meebo.  The results are intriguing.  For the same browser version tested across different OS implementations running on virtually the same hardware Mr. Baltuch states, "The Apple [computers] tend to be 5-10 percent faster [than Windows machines].  We believe that is based on the middleware of the OS.  We believe that it is more streamlined."

While OS X holds the speed lead, Mr. Baltuch noted that Windows 7 featured substantial gains over Windows Vista.  However, Internet Explorer 8.0, Microsoft's flagship browser remains much slower than the industry's speed-leading browsers -- Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari.  Mr. Baltuch comments, "Windows 7 is faster than Vista is.  But Internet Explorer 8.0 is 5 times slower than Chrome and Safari."

Despite Chrome and Safari being the fastest, Mr. Baltuch says he uses Opera 10.0 beta 2 for browsing because he likes the user interface and features the best.  He also praised Mozilla users for their very helpful feedback.  He says that some browser makers have embraced his company's efforts, while others remain standoffish.

He states, "Some seem to be happy.  The Norwegians (Opera) seem to hate us at the moment (FutureMark is Finnish).  The guys at Microsoft have been silent so far."

For those interested, Peacekeaper is funded by advertising revenue and is also funded by sales of consulting services to large businesses.  Also, the benchmark has helped to increased the adoption of FutureMark's paid products like PCMark, according to Mr. Baltuch.

A couple of final interesting notes.  Mr. Baltuch says that the test is compatible with the popular Apple iPhone.  He also notes that there is a large difference between web performance, going from a netbook processor (such as the Intel Atom) to a high-end desktop processor (such as the Intel Core i7).  This is due to the CPU's pivotal role in running increasingly heavy web applications.  He also says that for users looking to try something off the typical beaten path, the Epiphany (browser packaged with Gnome Linux), Shiira (Webkit-based), and Midori (also Webkit-based) browsers all provide relative good Linux browsing performance.

Mr. Baltuch says his company loves feedback, so feel free to head over to the Peacekeeper page, check it out, and leave your comments.

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RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By poohbear on 8/10/2009 3:35:58 PM , Rating: 2
really? i find that hard to believe. i've never noticed a diff in internet browser speeds ever since the single core Athlon XP days.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By TomZ on 8/10/2009 4:20:28 PM , Rating: 2
Then you're not paying attention too closely.

Try this - find an old (slow) machine and a new (fast) machine. Load the same OS and browser, and run them side-by-side. You'll notice that the faster machine lets you browse quite a bit faster. Pages load and render faster.

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By Alexstarfire on 8/10/2009 5:01:17 PM , Rating: 2
The difference between my netbook with an Atom CPU and my E8500 OCed to 3.0Ghz there is very little difference, the browser itself loads a bit faster, but that's likely due to the slower HDD it has in it. If you'd like me to go back further I could go check out the P3 CPU I have just sitting in my basement. Though considering it'll have to run XP or Win 7 with a low amount of RAM it might just be slow in general.

Any live-CD version of Linux that wouldn't slow it down?

By boldingd on 8/10/2009 5:55:05 PM , Rating: 2
Hmm. Not an Ubuntu spin. But, find something using BlackBox as a WM. That should run pretty well. ;)

Maybe ?

RE: Why is browser speed a concern?
By omnicronx on 8/10/2009 6:01:43 PM , Rating: 2
Atom CPU and my E8500 OCed to 3.0Ghz there is very little difference
Well then there must be something wrong with your system. I have my X2 3800 setup next to my X2 2.7GHZ setup on separate monitors and my new computer definitely loads pages much faster. Same amount ram, same OS but different, clockspeed and rendering times. There is no way you cannot tell the difference between an Atom and a C2D 3GHZ.. Its night and day, even with basic HTML, add in javascript and the difference can be two fold.

By Alexstarfire on 8/10/2009 8:18:52 PM , Rating: 2
I would argue that something must be wrong with yours because both load at nearly identical speeds for me.

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