Tested: Firefox 10 Can't Catch Up to Internet Explorer, Chrome

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Today marks the official release of Firefox 10, which adds new developer tools and changes the design of the navigation bar to show the forward button only in instances where it can be used. Mozilla's update gives us a perfect opportunity to reassess the browser playing field, and that's exactly what we did, pitting Firefox 10 against Chrome 16 and Internet Explorer 9 in a series of tests. The results show that the Mozilla project still has a lot of work to do if it wants to take back the number two browser position from Google or the number spot from Microsoft.

Using a Dell Inspiron 14z with a Core i3 CPU and 4G of RAM, we ran two web-based browser benchmarks: SunSpider and Peacekeeper on Firefox 10, Chrome 16, and Internet Explorer 9. We ran each test three times and then took the average. After that, we measured browser open times and available screen real estate on an ASUS ZenBook UX31 notebook with a Core i5 CPU and a SATA 6Gb/s SSD.

SunSpider JavaScript Test

The SunSpider test measures a browser's ability to execute a series of complex JavaScript functions. Because most web pages contain a lot of JavaScript, this test effectively shows how quickly the browser can render pages or perform dynamic actions. A shorter time result is better.

Sunspider Tests

Firefox 10 completed the test in 276.3 milliseconds, putting it in between the 312.4 notched by Chrome and the 247.5 we got on IE 9. It's still not the fastest. 

Peacekeeper Benchmark

Peacekeeper is a synthetic benchmark where higher scores are better. On that test, Firefox 10 turned in a score of 1536, which  trailed IE 9's mark of 1483 and Chrome 16's 2918.



One of the least talked about performance features of any browser is its ability to open quickly (or not). Every millisecond you spend waiting for a program to launch is a millisecond you'll never have again. We tested all three browsers' open times on the powerful ASUS ZenBook UX31, because it has a blazing fast Sata 6Gb/s SSD that allowed each program to open at its fastest possible time.The results confirmed that Firefox is still a slowpoke. Chrome 16 opened in an average of 1.8 seconds and IE 9 in just 1.1 seconds while Firefox 10 turned in a relatively sluggish 2.4-second average, an eternity in particle physics. 

Screen Real Estate

The more space its toolbars take up, the less space each browser has left for viewing web pages. So our final test entailed capturing a screen on each of the browsers and determining how many pixels of screen real estate each navigation bar takes up. Firefox has the largest navigation bar, with a height of 62 pixels, while Chrome's and Internet Explorer 9's measure 58 and 53 pixels, respectively. 

Real Estate


Firefox 10 by no means bombed on our tests, but it didn't give anyone a valid performance reason to switch to it or stay with it. The Firefox 10 results are in line with our previous browser showdowns, which similarly showed IE pulling ahead of Chrome and Firefox in terms of SunSpider rendering, application open times, and screen real estate. Chrome is the leader in Peacekeeper, but Firefox only appears to be a follower in all of our tests.

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  • John Says:

    This article makes me laugh!

    Internet Explorer is great? Puhlease!

    Firefox 13 is fast. Faster than IE.

    Internet Explorer has Active X, so it is like surfing the web without a condom, since any malicious script can download & install automatically ("drive by" download"). Yes, IE has whitelisting, but McAfee found that scripted XML pages can cause IE to download older controls & bypass this.

    I had more malware foisted onto computers running IE than you would believe. I even tested using Firefox on IE systems that were always getting malware, & the rate of malware dropped. 99% less malware. Instantly, the automatic installation of malware came to a complete stop, leaving the only malware that got installed to be what they installed manually through toolbars/programs/other.

    And stability? Internet Explorer 6 does NOT have tabs! I tested Windows & it does not open more than 64 total windows, whether IE or Windows explorer windows. But hey! At least you could OPEN up to 64 IE 6 windows. Yes, it had active x problems too, but at least it worked.

    IE 7 & 8? Come on! They crashed at anywhere from 4 to 20 tabs open. And crashed on tab recovery!

    IE 9? Hey, at least it still has active x. It is far more stable than prior versions, as well as faster, & easier to use. But it still has active-x & it fails to load websites properly on Facebook & other sites. Un-smooth scrolling as well.

    I have had 1,611 tabs open in Firefox with no crash before. Not that firefox never crashes, because it does. But it is rare. Firefox is waaaaayyyyy more stable than IE, far more resistant to malware, & the profiles are so easy to backup.

    Try backing up your bookmarks & saved website passwords in IE!

    Firefox also wins on being able be completely uninstalled & reinstalled. Try that in IE! Not possible with IE.

    Firefox -> Right-click + t for new tabs. -> IE? What a laugh!
    Firefox -> CTRL + mouse wheel to enlarge or reduce the entire webpage. IE? Text only!

    There are so many problems with IE, that I do not even know where to begin.

    Anyone who loves internet explorer, clearly has not used it much & is out of their minds.
    Or is getting paid to endorse it. Because it is not that great.

    It is dead last! Even Chrome is better. So is Opera. So is Safari.

  • Thom Says:

    IE is the best the other browsers are crap. there is no doupt about it. Firefox has gone down the tubes since chrome and now with googles policy change that will be gone too. IE is really the best broswer to go with. If you want old school try netscape :P

  • Anon. Says:

    This article was written very poorly. Firefox does not come last in any of these benchmarks, and your
    "problems" with the interface show a general inability to use or configure your browser, either through plugins or existing features. "Screen Real Estate"? Really? F11 hides the interface (for ALL of these, I believe). Learn your shortcut keys.

    There is a whole suite of tests for web browsers, and simply performing two tests is inconclusive and unhelpful. Also, the unitless Peacekeeper benchmark doesn't tell me anything quantitative; can you tell us what it is testing and what these points represent?

  • Ted Says:

    You forgot to mention that once IE9 goes over three tabs they go onto a line below the address bad and take up many more pixels.
    and the only reason that IE is winning on the script side is because it takes advantage of hardware acceleration that MS hasn't opened to the public yet.

  • James Says:

    Has SunSpider been updated lately? If memory serves, the last time IE's performance on SunSpider was touted, it turned out to be because its JavaScript interpreter did better elimination of dead code and calculations whose results were discarded rather than used--much the same way that the first version of Dhrystone proved worthless as a benchmark when C compilers became better at those optimizations. The author(s) of Dhrystone rewrote it so that it couldn't be optimized away, and the authors of SunSpider should do the same--until they do, it too is worthless as a benchmark.

  • Paula Says:

    Thanks for these results, but I have to agree with that the pixels are bit petty, as FF can be reduced.

    Also, the thing I hate about Chrome, is that I end up closing tabs by accident, because being used to FF that has an X in the right corner of the tabs, it allows you to click on a tab and only once that tab is open does the X close the tab.

    Meaning that if I click on the right of a tab accidentally (while in another tab), instead of the middle, it won't close the tab I clciked on. But with Chrome, you don't get any second chances. If you click a bit to the right of center it closes the tab!

    Hugely annoying.

  • Thomas Says:

    Right... here's how it is on my computer (FF, IE9, Comodo Dragon(modified Chrome):
    1. My configuration of the three browsers has FF with the smallest toolbar, then Comodo, then IE9 - Firefox has the back button in the tab bar to take advantage of the screen edge, while IE has the tabs moved so they aren't inline with the address bar.
    2. Any performance gains by IE are wiped out by having to accurately position the mouse to switch tabs (when I'm not using the keyboard that is...) FF/Comodo use the top of the screen and Fitt's law.
    3. IE9 has a truly lame copy of the Omnibox in my opinion - FF with BrowseByName and Comodo with keyboard shortcuts for search providers both work better
    4. IE9 keeps tripping DEP and otherwise crashing
    5. IE9 keeps prompting to disable add-ons, completely ignoring the fact that the add-ons are there to be used! This happens even when I tell it not to.
    6. I heaps prefer FF's download manager to IE9s
    7. IE9's fonts are blurry (I know there's a patch to fix this though.)

    I don't want to hear anything about "the problem's with the computer/user", the fact is that on my machine FF and Comodo both work, and I don't need or want to go out of my way to get another browser to work as expected when there are alternatives.

  • Colej2k Says:

    Would have been a good review if you included Opera

  • Olivier Says:

    On my 3Gbps SATA SSD, both Firefox and Chrome open near instantly, in under a second. Something with your hardware must be wrong, or you have tested on the wrong machine for start-up times.

    This article is poorly written. As the above comments say, the data does not lead to the conclusion; IE wins one benchmark, Chrome the other, how does it follow that Firefox is slow?

    Your benchmarks also seem irrelevant. It does not tell me how its like to browse the web. The pixel differences are negligible.

    Here's what this article makes me think:
    a) It reads like you started with a decision already made, run short of arguments and threw the few nitpicks you could think of
    b) Maybe the article is erroneous. Either way, it seems not to have been proofread
    c) Browsers are all so close that publications only have nitpicks to bring up in reviews

    I would like to see useful benchmarks: e.g. an automated script loading 1,000 websites sequentially.

    It would be interesting to see if the differences are substantial, e.g. from 20 mins of loading various websites.
    Of course, you'd need to isolate other random network issues.

    What does 1,000 peacekeaper points mean? Its meaningless if it means a page is rendered 0.12 seconds faster.

  • James Says:

    "Firefox has the largest navigation bar, with a height of 62 pixels, while Chrome’s and Internet Explorer 9′s measure 48 and 53 pixels, respectively. "

    Yet your images show Chrome at 58 and IE9 at 53. Do you not proofread your articles before publishing?

  • John Says:

    This article is completely misleading. Firefox finishes 2nd in both tests, with one test going IE's way and the other going Chrome's way. The author notes that "On that test, Firefox 10 turned in a score of 1536, which trailed IE 9′s mark of 1483 and Chrome 16′s 2918," which is completely incorrect. How does it trail with a score between IE and Chrome?

    This article seems to have it out for Firefox, plain and simple. As noted in another comment, screen real estate is easy to change. The only really valid criticism is the start up time of Firefox vis-a-vis the rest. Let's not be so biased out of the gate...

  • Mike Ratcliffe Says:

    Your startup time for Firefox seems very slow for an SSD. On my non SSD system it starts in around 0.6 seconds.

    How are you measuring startup?

  • Spex Says:

    The test isn't very pertinent (seriously, only those two tests and pixel height without optimizing the display?), but my point is: can we please include opera in those already? If we are concerning ourselves with speed, I don't really care to know that Chrome might be x% faster than FF if opera beats them all anyway. I prefer Opera for browsing because of its speed/design/some shortcuts, but I still use FF 50% of the time because of the addons.

  • Amul Says:

    Well, came to read the article and got to know i had to update my FF, so good to know.
    As for the contents of the article, well as a web developer I can say only this, and I believe I'm saying this for most people in my community, THAT a few pixels don't matter and a few milliseconds don't matter... FF IS THE STANDARD FOR US. Period. We only use IE/Chrome for browser compatibility checks.

  • Salar Says:

    Are you an IE fan?
    This test absolutely is not fair.
    If you test javascript speed, you should do all the benchmarks, testes you forgot, V8, kraken.
    And a few more pixels doesn't mean one browser is good and other is bad, actually it doesn't matter at all. I personally prefer firefox big back button.

    And you should remember IE has more users because it is installed *by default* on grandmothers computer.

  • Ha Says:

    If you're talking about screen real estate, then you also have to consider the fact that Firefox lets you choose small icons, reducing navigation bar down to ~51 px

  • Paul Says:

    Why can't you folks just evaluate real web sites? On my PC, IE is fastest, followed by FF. On my Macs, Safari, then FF. Chrome has been hanging quite a bit on both platforms lately. When Chrome runs, it runs well. I have a feeling Chrome doesn't like OpenDNS servers.

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