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Firefox is faster, but not as fast as Chrome

Nick Mediati | July 21, 2009
Still, at least in our tests, Chrome and Firefox 3.5 impressed us with their overall snappy feel.

SAN FRANCISCO, 20 JULY 2009 - When Mozilla released a new version of Firefox a couple of weeks ago, its developers promised a faster browser, and Firefox 3.5 delivers, racing past IE and Safari in our latest set of page-loading speed tests. But its page load times are still about two-tenths of a second slower than Google Chrome.

Google Chrome showed the fastest page load time in five of the eight sites we tested it against, with an average page loading time of 1.699 seconds. However, Firefox 3.5 also put on a strong showing, coming in a close second with an average page-loading time of 1.762 seconds. For the most part, the difference between Chrome's page-loading times and those of Firefox is approximately two-tenths of a second. In our previous testing, Firefox 3.0.7 came in fourth in a four-browser field.

Internet Explorer 8 and Safari 4 both did a decent job loading pages, but fell behind Chrome and Firefox with average page-loading times of 1.833 and 1.964 seconds, respectively. Opera 10 Beta came in last, roughly a half second behind its nearest competitor.

By far the most inconsistent results involved loading PC World's Twitter feed page. We saw load times ranging from about 1 second to over 20 seconds. Since Twitter has a history of server issues, we think this has less to do with the browsers themselves, and more to do with Twitter, although we were surprised by the wildly inconsistent results. For this reason, even though we list the loading times for the Twitter page in our results chart (click on the thumbnail image above), these loading times are not taken into account for the overall average loading time.

Some browser vendors, such as Apple and Mozilla, have touted big improvements in JavaScript performance. That has made some browsers shine in benchmark results. For example, Safari 4 earned the highest scores in both the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark and the Peacekeeper browser benchmark. But Apple's browser was at the back of the pack in our real-world page- loading tests. Browser benchmarks typically take elements that impact page-loading speed out of context, so while they'll give you a feel for how well a browser handles JavaScript or HTML rendering, for example, they won't tell you how fast a browser feels when you're clicking around from site to site. By comparison, our tests use real, popular sites to get a better idea of what you'll experience with any one of these browsers.

How We Test

In our browser speed comparison, we pitted Internet Explorer 8 against Firefox 3.5, Chrome 2, Safari 4, and the public beta of Opera 10. We used pages from a set of eight popular Web sites in our testing: PC World (of course), Amazon, Twitter, Yahoo, YouTube, The New York Times, eBay, and Wikipedia's English-language home page. To ensure that we measured the page-loading times as accurately as possible, we recorded our testing on video for review later on.


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