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

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.

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. 

Conclusion

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.