BoraMurdar

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From Gizmo's

I recently took over the category Best Free Web Browser for Windows here at Gizmo's Freeware. We have three categories of Windows web browser, as shown below, and I have been running some benchmarks that can be used to rate each web browser. The purpose of this article is to keep you updated with some of the key results and conclusions that will help you to understand the differences between those web browsers.

Note that these tests were run on a low-end system because I was primarily testing for lightweight browsers. To get an idea of how each browser is likely to perform on your system, you can either run benchmarks yourself or you can refer to comparative reviews on systems that have closer specs to your own system.

An example of the trade-off between performance and resources used
I have found that in general there is a clear trade-off between the browser performance, as measured by various benchmarks, and the resources required to achieve it. This relationship is illustrated in Diagram 1. There are many benchmarks that can be used so I also tried this with different groups of benchmarks and the underlying relationship did not change.

What this means is that the worst performing browsers are usually the least resource-hungry and the best performing browsers are usually the most resource-hungry. The browsers also fall into groups consistent with the underlying web (layout and rendering) engine that they are built on.

Diagram 1 Web browser performance versus resources used to achieve that performance





The performance that I was measuring consists of an average of the speed of rendering and the browser's conformance to web standards such as HTML5 and CSS3. The resources that I measured are primarily CPU time and memory used (working set private memory). The trend line is drawn in to make it easier to observe the relationship and compare the three charts.

For each benchmark score that I recorded, I normalized all data in the range 0% to 100% where the best score represented 100% and all other values were calculated in relation to that. The normalized scores went down as low as zero if the benchmark failed to run to the end.

  • Performance is the average of the normalised benchmark results. None of the scores reach 100% because they are the averages of the HTML5/CSS3 scores and the throughput benchmarks which include Javascript rendering speed.
  • Resource use is the average of the normalised CPU and memory usage. For example, resource usage of 4 means four times the lowest usage. This is shown on the x-axis at the bottom of the chart, where "1.0" is the least amount of CPU and memory used by any of the web browsers and "10.0" is ten times that minimum. No web browsers have a resource usage of one because two different browsers had the lowest memory usage and the lowest CPU time.
Only 32-bit web browsers running in Windows are included. 64-bit web browsers were tested but are excluded from these charts.

The two outliers in the results are Maxthon using the Trident engine and Sleipnir using the Blink engine. If I get the time I will do some more testing to identify exactly why they have such different benchmark results from the other browsers.

Note 1: These are examples not general recommendations
You need to be aware that my results are specific to the low-end computer they were tested on. Different combinations of CPU and graphics processor can produce much different results and the relative performance of browsers can change. While the engine averages and the overall trends should not change, the results for each specific browser will.



Note 2: There are other factors to consider when choosing a web browser
The results that I am illustrating here do not say anything about many browser features such as security, add-ons and extensions, bookmarking, menus, and settings. As an example of this you can see In Diagram 2 that Opera uses less resources than Chrome to provide similar performance. One reason for this is that Opera lacks many important features. So my preference would be to use Chrome because some of those features are really important to me.



Comparing the major web engines and web browsers
If you are considering a major web browser then other browsers using the same engine are more likely to be faster. This is the case for Firefox and Chrome, at least, as Diagram 2 shows. I have indicated the more popular browsers using each engine and the average for each engine. Most of the reason for the difference appears to be that the other browsers do not implement the same features.

In the case of Internet Explorer the average for the Trident engine is dragged down by the poor performance of the old engine used by Maxthon.

Diagram 2 Web engine averages and the major web browsers





Some other browsers stand out
Three web browsers stand out because they provide greater performance using fewer resources than their companions:

  • Maxthon is also the fastest browser
  • Lunascape with the Gecko engine uses the least resources
  • For the Trident engines, SlimBrowser is almost competitive with Internet Explorer
Diagram 3 Some stand-out web browsers