Browser Wars: Best Web Browser 2011

By Gary Navat

When I was just starting to learn the internet and browsing back in the year 2000, I only knew two browsers – Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. After eleven years there are now dozens of browsers, and they are not just here to show you the webpage you want to view, but they are also here to compete with each other; claiming to be the best, the fastest browser is now one of their primary objectives. But do we really need to bother with this agenda? Yes, perhaps. With the increasing demand and barrier being developed for online applications and content, each browser is a test subject not only for this content but also for the users – from internet geeks to casual surfers down to the ordinary computer users. You don’t want to see an error in loading a page or error in a script, do you? You also don’t want to wait longer for each page to load, or experience frequent crashes, right? Then you should be concerned with what browser you are using. So we put a bunch of browsers to the test to help you out in choosing the right one for you.

Test Setup and Methodology

Hardware

Processor: AMD Athlon X2 5000+ 2.6GHz Dual-core
Motherboard: ASUS M2N68-CM
Memory: Kingston 2GB DDR2-800
Hard drive: Seagate 500GB hard disk
Video Card: Sparkle nVidia GeForce 9600GT DDR3-512MB

Software

Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 x64 with Service Pack 1
Antivirus: Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security 2012
Video Driver: nVidia Forceware 280.26
Browser Plug-ins: Adobe Flash Player 11.0.1.152
Shockwave Player 11.6.1.629
Silverlight 5.0.60818 RC
Oracle Java Runtime Environment 6 Update 27

Methodology

- Each browser was set as default after installation. Avant and GreenBrowser were set to Internet Explorer 9 standard mode. No other plugins were installed except for the ones mentioned.

- Once the computer booted up, the operating system was set to idle for 2 minutes after the last service was loaded. Then 1 minute idle after each run.

- For loading times, the corresponding websites were set as homepage. A stopwatch was used and measured in seconds. The timing started simultaneously with hitting the enter key on a highlighted browser icon.

- For measuring the memory usage, we used the Task Manager to check specifically for the Private Working Set that the browser uses and other processes that are related to the browser (eg. plugin container, renderer, etc.)

- All tests, except for the compliance tests, were run 3 times, unless specified. After testing a browser, caches were cleared using the browser’s cleanup utility and CCleaner, and a system reboot before going on to the next browser. Compliance test were only ran once.

- For our scoring method, we used the point system for each tests, giving 11 points for the top-placer, 10 points for the second and 1 point for the last placer. If a browser failed to load the test, no point will be given. In case the browser performed irregularly or it didn’t conform to the standards of the test, a penalty will be given depending on the seriousness of the irregularity.

The Browsers

BROWSER VERSION LAYOUT ENGINE
Mainstream  
Internet Explorer 9 9.0.8112 Trident
Opera 11.51 Presto
Chrome 16.0.899 Webkit
Firefox 7.0.1 Gecko
Safari 5.1 Webkit
Alternatives
Maxthon 3.1.8.1 Trident / Webkit
Avant 2011 build 33 Trident
SlimBrowser 6.00.061 Trident
GreenBrowser 5.9.0802 Trident
SeaMonkey 2.5 Gecko
RockMelt 0.9.68.1420 Webkit

Aside from the mainstream browsers, we added a number of “alternatives” to give them an opportunity to show what they got and how they measured up against the competition. All of them are iterations and customized versions of their mainstream counterparts. While the mainstream browsers should be enough for most, it is always a good practice to try out an alternative for a hands-on evaluation and better judge which is better and which is not.

Load Times & Memory Usage

Single Tab

We used Facebook as a benchmark to test each browser; how fast it loads a single website and how much memory it uses.

Load timesOpera took the lead away from the Chrome with just 0.06 of a second. Almost the entire mainstream browser segment took the top five except for Safari, as Maxthon replaced it in 5th position. RockMelt received a 1 second penalty because it stops the browser from loading the homepage and immediately pops up a Facebook login window. Closing the pop-up will resume its loading.

Memory usageGreenBrowser and SlimBrowser took the first two positions that used the least memory while Firefox and Maxthon used the most memory.

4 Tabs

The following websites were used as homepages for this part of the test:

http://www.facebook.com/

http://www.youtube.com/

http://www.yahoo.com/

http://twitter.com/

4tabsOpera retains its top position, while two from the alternatives, SlimBrowser and Avant, entered in the top five. Maxthon also received penalty this time because it cannot set multiple homepages. You have to make a Favorites folder as an option if you want to open multiple sites at once.

memory usageGreenBrowser and SlimBrowser are living up to their names in using the least memory. Only the Internet Explorer from the mainstream is in the top five this time. Maxthon still used the most memory, almost twice the GreenBrowser that used.

8 Tabs

Along with the previously used websites, we added the following for our 8 tabs test:

https://login.live.com/

http://www.amazon.com/

http://www.bestgaminglaptop.net/

http://www.gamingpcbuilder.com/

8 tabs

This time Avant took the top position, followed by SlimBrowser and Opera. Despite using the least memory, GreenBrowser took the longest time to load all of the 8 websites. Chrome is showing one of its weaknesses by using the most memory.

8 tabs memory use

Speed Tests

Futuremark Peacekeeper v1

Futuremark Peacekeeper is an online browser benchmark performing a variety of tests ranging from rendering, JavaScript, Canvas, HTML5, and text parsing.

peacekeeperRockMelt topped our first speed test, leading with 6619 points, only 58 points higher than Chrome.  GreenBrowser and Avant received the least points from this test.

Kraken and SunSpider Javascript

Kraken and SunSpider are browser benchmark to test JavaScript performance using real-world workloads like ray tracing, image manipulation, cryptography, and code decompression.

krakensunspiderChrome took the lead in Kraken, followed by Rockmelt and Maxthon while Safari finished last. SunSpider gave us a different story. SlimBrowser and Internet Explorer were almost tied at the top position with only 1 millisecond difference. Maxthon performed better in Kraken, ended up 2nd to the bottom. GreenBrowser ended last, more than twice the time SlimBrowser took.

Flash Benchmark 2008

This benchmarking suite by SnailsAnimation will test the browser’s performance when running Flash-based animations and games. The benchmark have four stages, each stage have different level of detail and load. Sadly, the entire lineup failed to get into the last stage, which is the Ultra-Heavy stage.

flashInternet Explorer took the top spot followed by Safari. SlimBrowser and GreenBrowser performed well finishing 3rd and 4th place. Firefox and SeaMonkey, both based on Gecko engine by Mozilla, finished 10th and 11th place.

GUIMark 2 – Flash

GUIMark 2 benchmark will test the browser’s performance on running Flash-based contents, specifically in vector charting, gaming, and flash-based text.

flashguiOpera took the first place in two of the three tests while GreenBrowser took one.  GreenBrowser, SlimBrowser, and Safari were tied at 4th place in Vector Charting test. Avant and Maxthon finished 10th and 11th place in all of the three tests.

Encog Silverlight

Encog is a benchmarking application to test the performance of Silverlight, a plugin used in some video streaming websites.

engogAvant took the top spot with a slim victory of just 0.02 point away from SeaMonkey while GreenBrowser and Internet Explorer were tied at the bottom with 15.25 points.

GUIMark Java 5 – Swing

We used GUIMark Java test to measure the performance of each browser in running Java-based applications.

java5SeaMonkey performed the best here in this test with 31.57 fps while Chrome and Opera were tied in the second place with 31.2 fps. RockMelt and Internet Explorer were also tied in the 5th place. Avant finished with 18.33 fps, 10 fps slower than Safari.

GUIMark 2 – HTML 5

GUIMark HTML5 tests were almost identical as GUIMark Flash, only done under HTML5 compliance.

html5-vectorhtml5-gaminghtml5-textOpera, Internet Explorer, and Firefox took the top positions in three different tests. GreenBrowser failed to load the test in vector charting and in bitmap gaming but came out strong to take the 4th place in text column test.

CSS Layout Performance

We used the IE Testdrive’s Maze Solver for this test. It focuses on how the browser handles the CSS 2.1 and CSS 3 layouts.

css-mazeSafari finished the fastest with only 6 seconds, followed by RockMelt and Chrome.  Surprisingly, Firefox and SeaMonkey finished last that took almost five minutes.

COMPLIANCE TESTS

The following tests will test the browser’s compatibility in CSS selectors and HTML5 standards and specifications. Bonus points were not included in HTML5 test.

css3-infoAll of the browsers except GreenBrowser finished the CSS Selector Test without errors.

html5-testChrome and RockMelt finished 1st and 2nd in HTML5 test while GreenBrowser ended with only 40 points, no wonder why it failed to load the HTML5 charting and gaming tests.

Awards

The Speed King:

Opera

operaIf you want a speedy browser and you have plenty of system memory, then you will like Opera. It performed very well in our load times, Java, and Flash-based tests, which is more likely what you always do with your browsing, be it a Flash game in Facebook, Flash-based websites, or running a Java application.

Runner-up: Internet Explorer 9

The Lightweight Browser

GreenBrowser

GreenBrowserGreenBrowser did a clean sweep from single to eight tabs in using the least memory. Plus, it also performed well in our Flash-based tests. But GreenBrowser did not performed well in our compliance tests. Failing to load a page or script errors might be your problem especially when you are visiting a site that uses HTML5 standards. Luckily, HTML5 is not yet mainstream, just a very few sites that uses it, for now. So if you are running on older systems or running with low memory, GreenBrowser is your browser.

Runner-up: SlimBrowser

Best Alternative

SlimBrowser

slimbrowserIf you want to try an alternative but don’t want to sacrifice anything, we highly suggest SlimBrowser. Aside from using less memory, it also performed well in our speed tests, faster than from the mainstream browsers in some tests.

Runner-up: SeaMonkey

The Champion

opera

Opera

Opera takes the crown in our first Browser Wars.  Aside from being the fastest, the browser itself is a wonderful application and the developer never stops from improving and giving the users the power to customize the browser; they even provided a community and Facebook-like network for their users.

Runner-up: Internet Explorer 9

SUMMARY

Below is the summary table for the total points each browser have garnered from different tests. The 1st and 2nd placer for each set of tests have been highlighted.

 

Memory Usage

Speed

Compliance

TOTAL

Champion, Speed King Opera

11

135

17

163

Internet Explorer 9

24

122

15

161

Best Alternative SlimBrowser

28

106

14

148

Firefox

16

107

19

142

Chrome

11

101

22

134

Safari

19

99

16

134

SeaMonkey

16

91

20

127

RockMelt

15

85

21

121

Avant

18

77

13

108

Lightweight GreenBrowser

33

70

2

105

Maxthon

7

69

18

94

Opera only won by two points against Internet Explorer and the SlimBrowser slipped right through the 3rd place. Firefox is actually faster and earned more compliance points than SlimBrowser, but SlimBrowser’s memory usage points were so high to put it on top of the Firefox. Chrome and Safari were tied at 5th place position. Again, Chrome is faster and has earned compliance points than Safari, but Safari’s memory usage points were enough to make it up and tied with Chrome. While GreenBrowser impressed us with such low memory usage, it still needs to work speed and compliance to move on higher position.

Well, there it is, our first Browser Wars. We are not saying that only the champion can deliver all the goods, or it will never fail to load a page or generate errors. It still varies from different users, different machines, and different situations.

Stay tuned for the updates and next edition of our Browser Wars, until next time.

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5 Responses to “Browser Wars: Best Web Browser 2011”

  1. Marco
    December 2, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    Is not Chrome 16 a beta and Firefox 7.0.1 an old version (8.0.1 is out from quite some time), what’s the point of comparing different release channels? Wouldn’t be better to test all stable or all beta releases.
    How was memory usage measured? Using the internal tools or the task manager? which processes were summed up?
    The flash measures should take into account the fact some browsers run plug-ins in a separate process, and that has a setup cost.
    Firefox behaves weirdly in Maze Solver because the test is hitting an exotic code path that is not optimized, since it would hardly be hit by common pages.

  2. agawtrip
    December 2, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    “For measuring the memory usage, we used the Task Manager to check specifically for the Private Working Set that the browser uses and other processes that are related to the browser (eg. plugin container, renderer, etc.)”

    some browser use only one process, others use separate process for each tab.

  3. Mark
    December 7, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    Chrome 16 vs Firefox 7? I can’t take that seriously!

  4. December 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    Yes! What an unfair comparison! Chrome 16 vs Firefox7! Think you need a rematch.. I am using Firefox 9.

  5. agawtrip
    December 14, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    last line
    “Stay tuned for the updates and next edition of our Browser Wars, until next time.”

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