A regular to my blog will know by now that I'm a HUGE Google fan. I've said it before and I will stand by my statements, that if any company takes over the world, it should be Google!

They have recently been VERY aggressive in shaping the way we use the internet and have even been trying to OWN the internet, by buying up ISP's, laying down cables and even looking at launching satellites to facilitate cheaper internet access.Google Gears was a major step towards cloud computing and Google has strategically launched an array of other products to enable a semantic web environment. Their latest product has been over blogged about recently and has definitely shaken up the browser market, Google Chrome.

Google has the habit of building really great applications and offer them free to the public. They are usually at the forefront of usability, speed and reliability, but is Google Chrome actually better than Firefox? I still find myself using Firefox as my default browser as my love for Firefox's extensibility is yet to be challenged by a similar offering. Especially with plugins like the Cool Gmail Skin, Firebug and a host of other really great plugins available!

LifeHacker has recently done some pretty good testing on Google Chrome, Firefox 3.0 and Internet Explorer 8.0b. The test results are VERY interesting:

The Tests

As with my previous browser tests, I installed completely fresh copies of the three browsers on my Windows Vista laptop, with all settings left to defaults. With the second beta of Internet Explorer 8, I reset the browser to factory settings and chose whatever Microsoft suggested during the click-through setup.

My test system has the same specs as before: A 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of memory, and running Windows Vista Home Premium. For the time-based tests, I again used Rob Keir's ultra-lightweight timer app, simultaneously tapping the "\" key with "Enter" to launch a browser shortcut or folder full of bookmarks. I performed each test on each browser three times and averaged out the results, while eliminating obvious oddities. (With Vista's often empirical hard drive usage, there were definitely artificially long start-ups).

It's the same system I used to test Internet Explorer 7, Firefox 3 RC3, Safari for Windows, and Opera 9.5, so you can make fair comparisons between all the browsers. It's not scientific in the strict sense, but it's meant to measure browser performance as real humans experience it—load, click, and wait.

Test 1: Startup Time—Winner: Chrome!

Drawing inspiration again from Mark Wilton-Jones trend-setting tests, I timed each browser loading up "cold" load (straight off a system restart) and "warm" (having run twice already). I used a locally-saved copy of Google's minimalist home page to negate net connection variations, and, to compensate for Vista's start-up fickleness, timed each browser exactly two minutes after boot-up. Here are the first results:

Note the small scale of the time on the X-axis: Even though Chrome was (quite surprisingly) slower at startup than Firefox or even IE 8, it's less than a second of difference between them all. That's a bit more than an error from my twitchy fingers, but probably not enough to rate any one browser on. Let's check out the warm boots:

As you can see, Chrome's noticeably fast on reload, although all the results are so close it's hard to confidently crown a winner. Just like last time, IE 8 slightly edges out Firefox on warm boots, but lags just a bit behind when starting up.

You don't start your browser to look at clean, white, locally-saved pages, do you? No, you speed around your must-visit sites, and often keep a bushel of them open at once. For the next test, I led each browser page-by-page through the assortment of web sites pictured at right—some heavy with interactive elements, some just text and pictures—before jumping back to a blank page (entering about:blank does this in any browser) and loading all the links at once. Each browser keeps a spinning icon on tabs as they load, so I measured from first click to the last tab settling in.

IE 8 and Chrome clock in too close to call, but Firefox fell behind. Based on the minuscule difference in cold-boot time and the two warm tests, I'd call Chrome the fastest, but definitely hand IE 8 a Most Improved Player trophy at the awards banquet.

Test 2: JavaScript & CSS—Tie: Firefox & Chrome!

JavaScript continues to grow in importance as a browser benchmark, because it's the backbone of no-reload interfaces like Gmail, Facebook, and lots of other webapps. Once again I used Sean Patrick Kane's revised JavaScript speed tests and averaged out three results to measure the browsers:

Firefox bests Chrome in this test by a handy lead, while IE 8 takes nearly twice as long (in milliseconds, of course) to perform all the actions Sean runs it through. It's anybody's guess who's got the most objective test—CNET's testers show Chrome wrecking all comers, while Mozilla's own tests declare their orange scrapper the winner in tight races. I can only take away that IE 8 is definitely an improvement from IE 7's fall-behind pace, while Chrome and Firefox are pretty evenly matched...

...until I ran the CSS tests, that is. CSS determines the layout and appearance of a page, and nontropp's downloadable form makes a browser work like a page designer on an all-guarana-and-coffee diet.

In the CSS test, as you can see, Chrome takes a commanding lead, Firefox doesn't lag too far behind, and IE 8 actually stalled and froze on just about one of every two loads I ran. When it came out of memory freeze, it did report consistent times, though—consistently behind. One could hand the Dynamic Web Performance title to Firefox for the probably weightier JavaScript test, but Chrome also shows a notable grace in running down the type frequently found on blogs. Let's call this a tie.

Test 3: Memory Use—Winner: Firefox!

How far the great-great-nephew of Netscape has come in its respect for your system's resources. Measured by Vista's Task Manager from cold boots and then with eight tabs loaded, Firefox shows some serious savvy with megabytes:

Do note, however, that Chrome handles tabs differently than others—each tab loads as its own process, so that if it crashes or stalls, the rest of your reading doesn't go down with it. So if you've got solid-state chips to spare, it's not that much more of a hit to run Chrome in a busy session.

As with our last test, we'll note that browsing is much more than speed and bit usage—many of us can't imagine web life without our favorite extensions, or Windows integration, or, soon enough, Chrome's unique features.

What's been your experience with the newest competitors in the web field? Got your own criteria to compare? Share it all in the comments.

Kevin Purdy, associate editor at Lifehacker, wrote this feature in all three beta browsers. His weekly feature, Open Sourcery, normally appears Fridays on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Open Sourcery feed to get new installments in your newsreader.

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4 Opinions

  1. angel // 14 September 2008 at 20:28

    this is very cool! i love how your comparisons are actually explained in english!

  2. Goblin // 15 September 2008 at 08:55

    I like Google for a lot of things but I think I'll stick with firefox for a while...stuck in my ways ;)

  3. Island Chic // 22 September 2008 at 09:57

    Err...I have to agree with Goblin. I do like a lot of things in Chrome and ofcourse Google in general has been my all time favourite.

    BUT

    I'd still go with firefox for now...

  4. HoTsTePPa // 23 September 2008 at 00:35

    Yup! I completely agree... Firefox unfortunately is MILES ahead of Chrome when it comes to the extensibility of the browser. As you know, I'm a pretty big Firefox fan as well and the thousands of plugins available for it, make it VERY hard to justify using Chrome!