Microsoft Spartan Browser Tested: Worse Than IE So Far

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project spartan

This week, Microsoft released the very first preview of its new browser, codenamed Project Spartan. Available only with the latest build of Windows 10 Technical Preview, Spartan promises to replace the company's infamous Internet Explorer with something that is "fast, compatible, and built for the modern Web."

The browser is obviously a beta-level product at best, but we were curious to see how it performs compared to the competition. So we ran Project Spartan, IE 11, Chrome and Firefox through a few tests on a Core i5-4200U-powered ThinkPad T440s laptop running Windows 10 on its 1920 x 1080 display. The very early results are in -- and they are a mixed bag at best.

Screen Real Estate

The more space your tool bars, buttons and status bars take up, the less that's available to show web content. Just a few pixels can mean the difference between seeing an extra line or two of text "above the fold" on a web page or needing to scroll.  

To see which browser shows the most content at once, we loaded the same review article in each one, maximized the window and took a screen shot. Each browser was configured to display the page at 100 percent magnification and with the default set of toolbars showing. We also counted the amount of vertical pixels each brower's menus took up.

Browser Screen Real Estate Compared

On this test, Spartan was significantly worse than IE 11, the browser it is replacing, coming in third place out of four with 96 pixels of menu space. Chrome was the clear winner with just 56 pixels devoted to its address bar and tabs while Firefox trailed the field by a wide margin, showing a full 56 pixels. IE 11 took second place with just 71 pixels of tools.

We're not sure what Microsoft is trying to accomplish by eating up 25 more pixels than it did on its previus browser. It's not like Spartan is so good looking that you'll want to spend more time looking at its toolbars. In fact, its dull gray toolbar is kind of depressing; the address bar fades into the background by using the same ugly color and the side icons look like they were grabbed straight from the Wing Dings font. Internet Explorer looks like America's Next Top Model by comparison.

IE vs Spartan

SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark

The SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark is one of the most popular browser tests around, because it measures the speed at which the software executes various commands. Since modern websites use a ton of JavaScript, in theory, fast performance on this test would matches with real-world performance. 

 Browser Performance Test: Spartan vs. Chrome, Firefox and IE

On SunSpider, Project Spartan came in second, completing all tasks in just 158.9 milliseconds. However, IE 11 was about 25 percent faster. Hopefully these are just early numbers, because the last thing anyone wants from Spartan is slower performance than its predecessor.

MORE: How to Switch Between Start Screen and Start Menu in Windows 10

Peacekeeper Browser Benchmark

Peacekeeper also measures JavaScript performance, but adds in HTML5 rendering and WebGL graphics. It gives an overall score where higher is better.

Peacekeeper

On Peacekeeper, Project Spartan trailed the field by a wide margin, dropping over 200 points behind IE 11 and nearly 2,000 points behind Firefox.

HTML Standard Compatibility

You definitely want your  browser to support every possible web standard, including all the HTML 5 tags. Running the test at html5test.com showed that Spartan has worse standards support than IE 11, and is way behind Chrome and Firefox. The site assigns each browser a compatibility score, with 555 being perfect.

HTML 5 Test

Bottom Line

It's too early to know whether Project Spartan will help Microsoft win the browser war, but the very early performance results aren't promising. We look forward to seeing how the new browser evolves over the next few months and will withold final judgment until it is production-grade software.

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
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10 comments
  • Afa Says:

    Actually, Spartan is BASED on chrome! Spartan is chrome and edited/or continuedly developed by Microsoft. I think they made an deal with Google about this, using chromium as (part of) engine takes a load off development needs from the Microsoft spartan teams. Confirm it by looking at browser identifier and browser checkup services. The user agent is chromium.



    Nice misleading microsoft. Can they also deny this? However i do think that once an next version of Spartan comes out (newer than the Windows 10 beta shipped one from build 10049) they will obscure and hide the chrome info and change the identifier strings to spartan only to hide filthy business of not having created an whole new browser. This should be an scandal.

  • Matt Says:

    The larger icons seem well suited for a touch interface.

  • Brook Monroe Says:

    I think it's germane to point out that while HTML5Test asserts a top score of 555, no browser will get 555 points because some of the items are supported optionally, and thanks to licensing issues, no browser will support all extant audio and video codecs.


    I'd like to pick a bone on the HTML5Test results quoted here, too, because as of today I'm showing Spartan:375 and IE11:341. I've never seen Spartan perform lower than IE11. 375 puts Spartan within a few points of Safari 8's score.

  • Ricky Says:

    From my point of view, It seems a perfect copycat of the Vivaldi browser...

    Thank you for writing.

  • Chris Says:

    As a webgl developer, early test runs on Spartan were very disapointing. I know its still alpha/beta, but I hope microsoft recognizes the future of 3D on the web, and puts a little bit more effort into building out this part of the browser to be more competitive.

    Microsoft has a successful browser only because it ships with all versions of windows, and all non savy computer users will use it. They have a responsibility to make this the best.

  • max henry Says:

    Microsoft should just buy Firefox and go that route. Cheaper and easier than developing a new browser.

  • xhesakh Says:

    The firefox screenshot for how much it's chrome takes up screen real estate seems to be misrepresented.

    At best, firefox should take up a similar space to chrome. The titlebar shows either the window wasn't maximised or changed to some non default value (or in WinXP mode)

  • Carl Says:

    Although performance and support for web standards are important this is a very old way of testing. The above parameters are likely to be improved to be on par or better than at least IE11. The focus of Spartan is usability, eg the toolbar should work well with touch which is difficult if the toolbar is too small. Spartan will probably follow the design of modern style apps and have full screen like IE11 modern app has. Also features like the ability to ink and save and share are not mentioned at all. The test should either mention that focus is on performance but I think that the test is incomplete without mentioning the new capabilities which is what the Spartan browser is mostly about.
    Thanks, Carl

  • Mike S Says:

    @Jackson,

    The article makes perfectly clear that is reviewing a technical preview product.

    Thanks

  • Jackson Says:

    Well duh, it's an alpha/beta.

    This is the sort of ill informed article that gets spread around tech sites with an anti-Microsoft vibe (of which there appear to be many) and an impression is formed.

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