Whether we’re comparing Firefox to Chrome or testing the real-world speed benefits of a 64-bit browser, I see a lot of comments saying one browser feels faster. When people compare web browsers, they don’t usually perform rigorous benchmarks.
Instead of trusting your gut and worrying about the placebo effect, use these browser benchmark tools to compare browsers. If you’ve seen news articles comparing web browser performance, this is usually all they do – run the browsers through these tests and create pretty graphs.
Peacekeeper is a browser benchmark created by Futuremark, developers of the popular 3DMark and PCMark benchmark tools for PC gaming and general PC usage. Unlike the other browser benchmark tools here, which each come from a specific camp of the browser wars, Peacekeeper was created by a neutral third-party, hence its name.
All you have to do is visit the Peacekeeper website and click the “Test your browser” button on the page to get started. You can benchmark any type of browser, including one running on a smartphone or tablet.
Peacekeeper also tests for HTML5 features like WebGL, for browser-based 3D graphics, and HTML5 video. It’s the most consumer-focused, polished tool here, with its graphics, animations, and videos.
The tests take about five minutes. After they’re done, you’ll get a benchmark number, which you can compare to other devices. If you’re comparing different browsers on your computer, run the test in each browser and compare the numbers (higher is better!) to see which is actually faster.
SunSpider is a browser benchmark created by the WebKit team – WebKit being the rendering engine that powers Google Chrome, Apple Safari, the default browsers on Android and iOS, and others. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “Start SunSpider now!” link to run SunSpider.
Like the other browser benchmarks here, SunSpider isn’t as “pretty” as Peacekeeper – you won’t find any animations or 3D graphics.
SunSpider won’t show you any arbitrary score numbers, just the amount of time each benchmark took to run (lower is better). If you want to compare browsers, you’ll have to do it yourself by performingtwo separate tests and pasting the URL of another test result into the text field.
Interestingly enough, my (unscientific) sample test found that Firefox 11 was actually faster than Chrome 18. Not the result I would have expected, considering that this benchmark came from the WebKit camp!
Given the benchmark’s links to Google Chrome, it would be fair to wonder whether it’s the best method of comparing performance across different browsers. It provides a score – again, bigger is better.
Dromaeo is Mozilla’s benchmark. It uses some of its own tests, as well as tests taken from SunSpider and V8. The test takes significantly longer to run than the others – around fifteen minutes.
You’ll see the number of runs per second for each test. More is better, of course. There’s no easy way to compare two different test runs, but you can bookmark a test run and revisit it later to compare the results manually.
Let us know how the benchmarks stack up for you – does a 64-bit browser actually offer improved performance on your system? I’m dying to know!
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 04/16/12