Tag Archives: software

Chrome / Firefox Benchmarks on Android, Linux and Windows

Now that I’m finally able to run Chrome and Firefox on my Android phone, it’s time for another round in the cross platform browser test – will Android make a difference in the eternal battle of the browsers ? To find out, I ran a couple of benchmarks on all 3 platforms.

Hardware Setup

I ran my tests, quite naturally, on the hardware that is available to me – for Android I’m using my new HTC Desire X Smartphone, for Linux, it’s my trusty Asus 1215N Netbook running 64Bit Mint 13 XFCE, and the Windows checks are done on my work PC, a 2012 IBM ThinkCentre (Intel i5, 8GB RAM) running 64 Bit Windows 7. Due to the very different hardware capabilities this comparison offers no insight about Windows vs. Linux performance, this has been examined in detail by Tom’s Hardware Guide.

Benchmarks Setup

My focus was, as always, on benchmarks that picture REAL usage scenarios, so I picked Peacekeeper,  BrowserMark and Robohornet Pro over Sunspider and V8.

Special emphasis was put on Flash, to track down performance issues I experienced on the Linux Netbook using Firefox, so I included Flash Benchmark 08 and the Flash (and HTML5) tests from Guimark2.

Results

You can find the detailed results here, but to sum it up, Chrome won all benchmarks, except Microsoft’s Robohornet Pro. When doing real work the difference is not as big as the  almost 80% difference in Peacekeeper suggests, but still notable, at least on the netbook. You can ease the pain a bit by using Fasterfox but Chrome always feels more snappy.

The real dealbreaker for Firefox is Flash performance on Linux, NPAPI Flash 11.2 on my netbook is 10% to 400% slower than Chrome’s PPAPI Flash 11.5, which means fluent HD video replay is only possible in Chrome. I tried all known tweaks (including FlashAid with “Override GPU Validation” and turn off hardware rendering) but wasn’t able to get better results out of Flash 11.2, neither with Firefox nor any other browser (including Chromium and Opera).

HTML 5 performance is better in Chrome, too, even though the difference is not as drastic as for Flash.

Conclusion

Feature- wise both, Chrome and Firefox are viable alternatives for the desktop (see my comparison from September) and on Android there are very few differences, either. So which browser do you pick, the faster one, of course, which is Google Chrome.

It remains to be seen if Mozilla can achieve a turnaround in 2013 with interesting new projects like PDFjs, Firefox OS or Shumway, or if their steady decline in user numbers and importance will go on.

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Firefox vs. Chrome on Linux and Windows

Another round in the eternal battle of the browsers – this time Mozilla Firefox 15 competes vs. Google Chrome 21 in a mixed Linux / Windows cross location setup (Linux at home, Windows at work).

This naturally rules out all contenders who are not available in both environments (like MS Internet Explorer, Safari, or Chromium stable). Opera does not qualify because it fails with too many websites I’m using and has problems with the proxy settings at work.

Now to the different categories for Firefox and Chrome:

  1. Near 100% Website compatibility – both, Firefox and Chrome are supported by all major websites
    Score Firefox 1 : Chrome 1
  2. Corporate IT quirks (automatic proxy configurations, homegrown SSL certificates, some particularly stubborn intranet pages requiring IEtab access, and of course a portable USB version to install in “MyDocuments”) – Chrome can reuse IE settings / certificates and has a nicer extension to switch user agents. But Firefox can permanently suppress certificate warnings and has a better IE Tab integration. Overall both, Chrome and Firefox play, well with (or against) corporate IT.
    Score Firefox 2 : Chrome 2
  3. Browser Sync (Bookmarks, keywords / search engines, passwords, addons) – Firefox scores by syncing Addon settings but Chrome can sync Addons without restart
    Score Firefox 3 : Chrome 3
  4. Privacy – Google has improved, browser sync can be completely encrypted and privacy critical services can be turned off, so there are no objective privacy concerns anymore
    Score Firefox 4 : Chrome 4
  5. Adblock, WOT – Available for both browsers in good quality
    Score Firefox 5 : Chrome 5
  6. Screen estate – Firefox is much more customizable, the Classic Compact Theme and the option of customizing the UI with the Stylish Addon make it the most compact browser currently available
    Score Firefox 6 : Chrome 5
  7. Performance – Chrome offers faster startup (especially under Linux) and is better in all benchmarks, the “Fasterfox” addon can ease the pain but not close the gap
    Score Firefox 6 : Chrome 6
  8. PDF support – Firefox is catching up but PDFJS is still disabled by default and feels less mature than the integrated PDF viewer in Chrome
    Score Firefox 6 : Chrome 7
  9. RSS support – still no native RSS support or even a decent extension for Chrome
    Score Firefox 7 : Chrome 7
  10. Cross platform consistency – Different keyboard shortcuts, menu entries and not being able to hide the title bar under Linux is pretty annoying. The shortcuts can be fixed with an Addon, but Chrome just looks and works the same on both platforms
    Score Firefox 7 : Chrome 8
  11. Linux Flash Support – Google was smart enough to make a deal with Adobe, the rest of the Linux world will be stuck with Flash 11.2 forever, Point for Chrome
    Score Firefox 7 : Chrome 9

Chrome wins with a close 9:7, made even closer by the fact that the Flash issue is not really urgent (Chrome is only at Flash 11.3 right now, just one minor version ahead). Still, especially in a cross location / cross platform environment Chrome has become the most valuable browser by catching up with all important Firefox features while retaining its superior performance.

Clementine – a cross platform music player

Clementine is a music player inspired by Amarok 1.4. Unlike its archetype it is not limited to KDE, but is available for GTK- based Linux (Gnome etc.), Mac and  Windows, too. There is even a portable version here.

The big advantage over other advanced players like Amarok 2, Rhythmbox or Itunes is, that while you CAN add all your music to a database, you don’t have to. Clementine is working very well on the folder view.

Feature- wise it has everything that a good player needs, down to mobile player support (incl. iPod), automatic tagging, Visualizations and webradio / lastfm integration – for a comprehensive list take a look at the homepage. Compared to other advanced players Clementine is very fast and lightweight, the portable version needs only 27MB including QT.

Before Clementine, I was always forced to switch between an ultra- light “directory player” like 1by1 and a full featured player – Clementine can do both, quickly play that mp3 from your USB stick AND organize your music library. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed !

Opera@USB

Opera is maybe not the most popular, but definitely one of the fastest and most feature- rich browsers you could have on your PC or laptop, but what if you need to work on a PC that has not (yet) Opera installed ?

For this, there is an excellent “portable” version of Opera, called Opera@USB. The beauty of Opera@USB is, that (unlike Opera Portable) it does not need a launcher, but works just with a modified settings file, so you can pin it to the taskbar in Windows7 (will only work of course if you have copied to your local HD or if the USB stick is plugged in).

With 35MB installed size (with an empty profile), Opera@USB needs roughly the same amount of disk space than firefox, which is only fair, considering Opera includes Bittorrent support as well as an email client, RSS reader and even an IRC client. But the key feature of Opera@USB is speed – even with disk cache turned off and memory restricted to 64MB it runs really fast, Opera Turbo adding another speed boost on slow connections.

So if you have a little spare room on your USB drive, give Opera@USB a try, it will change your portable browsing experience forever. And if you want to know more about Opera in general, check out my other posts about the subject, Opera 11.5 review and Opera Customizing.

Opera Tweaks and Customizing

Opera offers loads of customizing options. This post describes the stuff I’m using (more or less), feel free to add a comment to share additional tweaks and customizing options of our favourite browser 🙂

Toolbar Layout
Opera has the most flexible toolbar layout you can imagine, any toolbar can be attached to any side of the window (e.g. for the Tab Bar select Tab Bar Placement –> Top / Left / Bottom / Right from the context menu of the bar). To hide and show toolbars choose Opera Button –> Toolbars. This flexibility enables interesting setups like this one (great for widescreens):

Appearance Dialog, Skins
Skins can be set in the Appearance Dialog  (screenshot shows the Z1-Glass skin) but also the properties and buttons for each toolbar (the toolbar in focus is highlighted). There’s a big choice of built in buttons and you can find a lot more “Custom Buttons” in OperaWiki. Of course existing buttons can be moved by drag & drop when the appearance dialog is active and remove them using the context menu(Customize –> Remove From Toolbar).

Shortcuts and Search Keywords
Opera’s keyboard shortcuts are completely customizable (Preferences –> Advanced –> Shortcuts), same as  search engines. In Preferences –> Search you can assign keywords for the various searches, an in “Details” you can set a search engine as default (URL bar, so you can get rid of the search field) and / or Speeddial search engine.

Nicknames
Much like search keywords, you can add nicknames to bookmarks (“Details” in bookmark properties). This works for bookmarklets, too – set “tweet” as nickname for the Twitter Bookmarklet, any you will be able to bookmark the current page to Twitter, just by typing “tweet” in the URL bar. I’m sure you can come up with some interesting ideas what to do with this feature … Google Translate, anyone ?

AddOns
Opera 11 introduced AddOns, so now most of your favourite Firefox / Chrome Addons (WOT, Adblock, Shareaholic, etc.) are available in Opera, too. If you miss an AddOn, the feature is most likely already included in Opera Core, like Flashblock (Preferences –> Context –> Enable plug-ins only on demand), Greasemonkey (User Scripts) and Stylish (User CSS). And when performance really matters, urlfiter.ini, while not as polished (automatic updates, whitespace handling), is still much faster than Adblock because it filters out the adds before downloading the page.

Site Preferences
In Opera you can have individual settings for each page, just select “Edit Site Preferences” from the page context menu – there are numerous options, one of the more interesting besides User Scripts and User CSS is the “Browser Identification” dropdown in the “Network” tab, which allows you to mask your Opera as Firefox or IE, to avoid being locked out by overly precaucious web or intranet admins.

Turbo
If you are on a slow connection (everything below 1 MBit) turn on Opera Turbo (Status Bar or Opera Button –> Settings –> Quick Preferences –> Enable Opera Turbo). Turbo will load a compressed version of the page from Opera servers, which reduces your bandwidth and speeds up surfing a great deal on slow connections.

Link (Sync)
If you use Opera in more than one Computer, enable Opera Sync. It can not only sync your bookmarks, Speeddial, Passwords and a lot of other stuff, but also makes available most of your data (not the passwords) on my.opera.com (just in case you’re at a computer with no Opera installed).

Private Mode, Privacy Settings and Profiles
Opera does not only offer a comfortable, Chrome- Style Private Mode (Ctrl + Shift + N for a new private browser window) but also private tabs (“New Private Tab” on the Tab Bar context menu) and very sophisticated privacy settings (Preferences –> Advanced –> History / Cookies / Security). You can also work with different profiles, setting this up is not reall straightforward, but this blog post should get you started.

Netbook Browser Benchmark, Windows & Linux

On the netbook performance still matters – unlike your average 8 core 8G RAM desktop rig, browsing performance (and screen estate) can differ a lot depending on what browser you’re using.

To find the fastest netbook browser, I ran the Peacekeeper benchmark on my Asus Eee PC 1215N (Atom 525D, 2GB RAM, Intel Mode) Firefox 5, Chrome 12 and Opera 11.5. in both operating systems, Xubuntu Linux 11.04 and Windows 7. On the latter, IE9 and Safari have been added as reference, but they are disqualified from the contest for not supporting Linux.

So let’s have a look at the overall results, first:

Chrome 12: 2196 / 2217
Opera 11.5: 2094 / 1928
Firefox 5: 1148 / 1154
IE 9: 1337 / –
Safari 5: 1335 / –

Chrome and Opera are leading the pack, roughly doubling the score of Firefox, IE and Safari. There are no major differences between Windows and Linux, while FF and Chrome seem to be a little faster on Linux, Opera scores a little better on Windows.

Update: Current FF6 Beta is not a game changer, but scores 200 points better (Linux), so it catches up with IE9 and Safari at least.

A look at the details shows Opera winning 4 out of 6 categories, with Chrome only achieving a significantly higher score in the “Data” section, which could be interpreted as Java Script benchmark optimization. So, while I’m tempted to support the (former) Opera claim to be the “fastest browser on earth”, I hereby declare both, Chrome and Opera winners of the Netbook performance test 😛

But I added a little spreadsheet, so you can do your own number crunching …

Opera 11.5

Older readers might remember, I have always been a big fan of the Opera browser and was already forecasting Opera’s immediate breakthrough in 2008 … 3 years later, with Opera 11.5 “Swordfish” there is finally another version that opens most of the websites I need, so it’s time for a follow- up !

Although some of you might not be aware of this, Opera invented most of the things that we love in today’s browers – speed dial, browser sync, tabs, tabs in titlebar, user scripts, user CSS, form autofill, spell checking and many many more have all been “firsts” in Opera, and many other features still can’t be found in any other browser, e.g. “Turbo” website compression, the “Unite” collaboration environment (based on streaming and sharing), integrated Email / RSS client, mouse gestures, voice control and loads of other stuff.

So why is Opera’s market share on the desktop (outside Russia) still below 1% ? First they are pretty sluggish implementing features NOT invented by them, Chrome standards like private browsing and a decent addon interface have only been added recently. Second, a lot of sites (including Google Docs, Napster, Blogger, WordPress and many more) just didn’t work in Opera 10. While Opera still is not officially supported for a lot of pages, issues can usually be solved by setting “mask as Firefox” in the site preferences (Google Maps still had issues last week but seems to be fixed right now).

Important addons like Adblock, WOT or Shareaholic are available now, too, and Peacekeeper benchmark results indicate that Opera is definitely up to speed with Google Chrome, so there really is no more excuse for not giving this excellent browser a try …

Download Opera – A faster and more secure Web browser.