the last of the "next generation" browsers finally shuffled in -- Firefox 4. The industry's top players -- Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 4, Chrome 10, Opera 11, and Safari 5 -- each brought something unique to
the table this round. But ultimately Chrome 10 proved to be the quickest
of the crop in many tests, and among the most proficient at HTML 5. It
was also among the first of this crop to land in finished form -- an impressive
Not content to rest on its laurels the folks at Mountain View have been busy
cooking up a new beta [blog]
of their next browser, Chrome 11. That beta landed in
the test channel yesterday and late this afternoon we took it out for a spin.
I. Speech to Text
Among the browser's most impressive features was the inclusion of a new HTML5 API
that allows websites to implement speech-to-text dialogue boxes. We were
skeptical at first, but nonetheless made our way over to Google's
minimalist demo page.
To start we tried a simple example, saying "Hello world, from
Google". Sure enough it transcribed:
hello world from google
Next we tried a more challenging passage, the opening sentence of the Abraham
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this
continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition
that all men are created equal.
After contemplating for a second Google spit out:
4 score and 7 years ago our fathers brought forth on this
continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated this proposition all
men are created equal
We'd consider that a pretty ringing success for the API. We did try to
read it a longer portion of the speech, but were met with an error, suggesting
we check our microphone settings. We're pretty sure there's some sort of
a programmatic limit in the test applet on how much text can be input. It
is an impressive example, nonetheless.
Also, note that the HTML5 standards committee has not approved this spec.
Google has submitted the technology as a proposal to the HTML
Speech Incubator Group, the group in charge of creating a web standard
(The sentences indicated as transcribed were directly copied and pasted from
the resulting text in the test page's text box.)
One of the more novel additions to Chrome 11 is the inclusion of 3D cascading
style sheets. CSS sheets rule most of the web, determining how web pages
are arranged and how the text on them appears. With the exception of a
few all-Flash sites, nearly any website worth its salt has devote much time and
effort to CSS design.
3D CSS allows for text and simple cells to be drawn in 3D dimension, for
example warped onto the surface of a cylinder. It also allows for unique
3D-esque animation effects, such as a spinning/card flip effect upon mouse
As you might guess, these effects demand a lot of processing power, which is
why Google has thrown GPU acceleration at the task.
While we don't see this as ground moving, it's certainly entertaining and could
make for an entertaining twist on the old page-view counter.
Google has set up another demo page on
the new feature.
As mentioned, the speech-to-text feature is part of Google's growing library of
supported HTML 5 features. After the speech-to-text test, we took it
through the paces of The HTML5 Test.
As usual all tests were run on a 2009 era MacBook Pro with a 2.8 GHz Core 2 Duo
processor, NVIDIA graphics card, and 4 GB of RAM. The tests were run in Windows 7 Professional (Boot Camp) 64-bit edition
We combined the results of our Monday piece on the release of Firefox 4, to add
For humors sake, as Apple Steve Jobs is always hyping HTML5, we tested Safari 5, too, for
good measure (in Windows 7). As you'll see, perhaps he's more talk than
action -- all Webkit browsers (Safari is also built on Webkit) are obviously
not created equal.
We obtained the following results (higher is better):
1. Chrome 11 beta - 293 points (+13 bonus points)
2. Chrome 10 -------- 288 points (+13 bonus points)
3. Firefox 4.0 -------- 240 (+8 bonus points)
4. Safari 5 ------------ 228 (+7 bonus points)
For fun we next ran Acid3, a general compatibility test, that tests
things like CSS and SVG, we received:
T1. Chrome 11 beta - 100/100
T1. Chrome 10 -------- 100/100
T1. Safari 5 ------------ 100/100
4. Firefox 4.0 ---------- 97/100
It's a bit unfair to test an early browser test build's speed as much tuning
goes into optimizing the speed side of things late in the test cycle.
Still, we decided to take a quick peek at what kind of results the new
beta might yield.
test. Note, as we wrote Monday, Firefox did not properly animate the
text, so it's unknown whether this impacted performance. Nonetheless,
here is the results (lower is better):
1. Chrome 11 beta - 283.0ms +/- 2.1%
2. Firefox 4.0 -------- 299.1ms +/- 3.6%
3. Chrome 10 ------- 509.7ms +/- 10.2%
4. Safari 5 ----------- 592.2ms +/- 5.2%
benchmark. Note, in the fast we've noticed Firefox perform unusually well
here versus third party benchmarks, so we tend to take its results with a grain
of salt. We observed:
1. Firefox 4.0 --------- 8209.6ms +/- 1.6%
2. Chrome 10 -------- 10164.5ms +/- 1.8%
3. Chrome 11 beta - 13030.9ms +/- 2.7%
4. Safari 5 ------------ 18231.6ms +/- 1.9%
We wish we could use Celtic Kane's JSBenchmark,
as Chrome did particularly well in it in our testing on Monday. However,
to our dismay apparently the developer had some database issues, so the
benchmark is offline. Our best wishes go out to him for a speedy recovery
-- we love his test!
As a final general performance metric, we ran Futuremark's Peacekeeper
benchmark, which tests a variety of standards. We received:
1. Chrome 10 -------- 8020 points
2. Chrome 11 beta - 6439 points
3. Firefox 4.0 -------- 3511 points
4. Safari 5 ------------ 2767 points
Ultimately the Chrome 11 beta, in its current state, appears to have slid back
slightly in terms of speed. It's still faster than Firefox or Safari,
overall, though. This is quite healthy, as we mentioned, as browser
development is kind of like exercise -- you have to tear down the browser's
"muscle" (engine code), before building new stronger, faster
"muscle" (engine code) in its place.
Chrome 10 is one of our favorite browsers right now, simply because it is so
fast. Overall, there's no compelling reason not to switch from Chrome 10
to Chrome 11 beta. We haven't experienced any crashes, and qualitatively
the page load speed feels about the same. The GUI actually feels a bit
more responsive (again, qualitatively) than Chrome 10.
Aside from support for new standards and web-technologies (including speech-to-text), there's little
noticeably changed in the test build. The GUI remains almost identical in
look, though the icon did change.
Firefox and Opera, however, remain strong challengers. Firefox has great
extensions, and Opera is fast and has some great UI features like tab stacking.
Internet Explorer 9 also has its merits (namely manageability in a
business setting), though it falls flat for lack of extensions and still falls
short of speed/standards support.
At the bottom of the barrel is Safari 5, which has a pretty clunky UI and
little unique to write home about. Quantitatively in benchmarks Safari 5
brings up the rear in virtually all our tests (besides Acid 3).
We really can't tell you which browser you'll enjoy the most, but we'd suggest
taking Chrome 11 beta out for a spin of your own -- it can't hurt.