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The conclusion of our three part series looking to expose each next gen browser's greatest strengths and weaknesses

In our exploration of next generation browsers we first examined the user interface, installation details, time to install, and application launch times.  We next turned our attention to CPU and memory usages, as well as comparing and contrasting the security of the various browser offerings.  Topics we haven't looked at yet include rendering comparisons, synthetic benchmarks, plug-ins, and standards support, as well as our conclusions.  We planned just one more piece, but that's a lot of ground to cover, so we've broken it up into two more pieces. 

In this first piece, we'll look at synthetic benchmarks and plug-in support.  In the next (and final) segment, we'll examine rendering performance, standards support (including performance in the Acid3 benchmark), and our conclusions on the state of the browser war and who we believe the current winner(s) is/are.

6.  Synthetic Benchmarks:

The first synthetic benchmark we ran was Celtic Kane's Javascript test.  The homepage for the test showed Safari 4 to be the leading web browser.  Our own testing indicated that it has been passed by Google's Chrome.  Safari came in second, Opera in third, Firefox in fourth, and Internet Explorer came in at a distant fifth.

The next synthetic benchmark run was the popular Sunspider Javascript test.  This test again showed Chrome 4 beating Safari 4.  This time, though, Firefox was a runner up.  Opera performed unexpectedly poorly in this test, though Opera 10 managed a bit better performance.  And Internet Explorer 8 performed the worst of all, taking nearly eight times as long as Chrome 4 to complete this test.  Combined with Celtic Kane, these tests indicate the Safari's Squirrelfish engine, Chrome's V8 to be the clear JS leaders and the JS performance of Trident, IE 8's engine, to be dismal. 

Our next synthetic benchmark was Peacekeeper, a Futuremark test suite which we recently profiled.  Our testing with the suite indicated Chrome to be in the lead, followed closely by Safari and then Firefox.  Opera 10 managed middling results.  Meanwhile, Internet Explorer was the slowest, managing a mere sixth of the score of Chrome.  The suite looks at a number of aspects, including JS performance, CSS performance, rendering, and more, so it is a good general indicator of speed.

The last synthetic benchmark we used was How-To-Create UK's CSS test.  The test loads approximately 2,500 DIVs and times how fast the load takes.  Unfortunately, WebKit browsers (Safari and Chrome) aren't supported due to how they measure time, so we could only get results for Firefox, IE 8, and Opera.  For these browsers,  Opera 10 barely led Firefox 3.6a1, while Internet Explorer 8 yet again lagged in performance.

Conclusions to be drawn from the synthtetic tests -- Chrome is the fastest browser with Safari close behind.  Opera and Firefox are just slightly behind.  And Internet Explorer 8 is the slowest browser.  Even on content heavy sites, though, this performance difference is not as great as these tests might seem to indicate.  In fact, it may only account for a couple of extra seconds of load time.  Still, it could become an annoyance on content-heavy pages like Facebook.

7.  Plug-ins

A common misconception is that Firefox is the only browser that has plug-ins, add-ons, extensions, or otherwise named optional components.  Plug-ins/add-ons/extensions are, in fact, a vital part of modern browsers.  There are a diverse variety of formats include ActiveX, NPAPI, Java, Google Gears, RSS, and Atom. 

Mozilla Firefox does arguably lead in this field, having the most enthusiastic developer community for plug-ins, and the most useful plug-ins.  Firefox 3.6a1 does not provide is support for classic Java plugins and ActiveX plug-ins. 

Looking at the other browsers, Opera (which does not support Gears, ActiveX), Chrome (also no ActiveX), and Safari (no ActiveX, Gears partial only) all offer decent plug-in support, but their developer communities are still in a fledgling state.  Internet Explorer 8, on the other hand, offers a lot of plug-ins -- in fact, plug-ins are essential to improving the browser's standards support.  Unfortunately IE 8 does not support the NPAPI extension language commonly used for Mozilla.  IE 8 plug-ins are generally more for utility rather than aesthetics.

Plug-ins are most accessible to Firefox users, as Firefox's plug-in system is friendly enough for even beginning users.  Nonetheless, if other factors make you pick another browser, it's a good idea to check out what kind of plug-ins are available for it, as there will surely be some useful ones.

Note: All benchmarks were performed in 32-bit Vista on a Sony VAIO laptop with 3 GB of RAM, a T8100 Intel Processor (2.1 GHz), and a NVIDIA 8400 GT mobile graphics chip. The number of processes was kept consistent and at a minimum to reflect stock performance.

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RE: If only
By SilthDraeth on 9/10/2009 10:07:28 AM , Rating: 5
You mean... sort of like Anandtech?

I have Anandtech bookmarked, and if there is some interesting looking headline at DT, I click over to it.

RE: If only
By bhieb on 9/10/2009 11:06:56 AM , Rating: 3
Yes that was the joke. Why is this here and not on AT? It seems out of place. DT usually features articles about hardware reviews, usually linking to Tom's, AT, ... but it does not do their own (at least not to my recollection).

RE: If only
By ClownPuncher on 9/10/2009 1:02:44 PM , Rating: 4
Anand and crew are probably mired in P55 board tests right now.

RE: If only
By DLeRium on 9/10/2009 7:19:03 PM , Rating: 3
Anand and crew are probably mired in P55 board tests right now.

Have you seen the level of coverage on AT recently? We were promised a roundup of X58 mobos and we got a roundup of like 4. Tom's had to do like 3 - 4 SERIES of roundups because there's JUST SO MANY of them. We were promised an OCing guide to explain things like Uncore and all that crap on the i7 that I still don't get because I don't have an i7 yet, but that never came. We were promised a DDR3 roundup that never came.

It seems the only thing that they're solid on is video card reviews, but we haven't seen a huge release since the 4870/4850 really and at least AT is keeping on top of the minor half gen steps too.

Meanwhile Anand himself is running iPhone reviews like a CPU review when it should be left to the more knowledgeable mobile crowd out there who can ACTUALLY comment on Nokia's N-series and HTC's Hero because they truly know Symbian and Android in and out instead of looking at it as a MHz/FLOPS perspective that a computer user might.

Honestly I don't know what they're trying to do. More and more articles are about product previews and not REVIEWS. Honestly, I hope the i5/P55 coverage is solid. I hope...

RE: If only
By Bladen on 9/11/2009 7:00:47 AM , Rating: 2
We never did get an SSD article with RAID in it did we?

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

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