Browser Wars: Is Internet Explorer 10 a Relevant Browser?

One of the things I was interested to learn about Windows 8 is whether Internet Explorer 10 is a good browser or not. Is it worthy to use as your main browser? Does it offer good enough performance to be considered a relevant browser in the future? I ran a few tests and also compared it with Google Chrome, Firefox and Opera. Also, I compared the data from my previous tests with Windows 8 Consumer Preview, the Release Preview and I have noticed some very interesting changes. Let's see what I have learned.

The Benchmarks Used for Testing

I decided to go for the following benchmarks: HTML5 test, SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark and Peacekeeper.

To quote their website, "The HTML5 test score is an indication of how well your browser supports the upcoming HTML5 standard and related specifications. Even though the specification isn't finalized yet, all major browser manufacturers are making sure their browser is ready for the future. Find out which parts of HTML5 are already supported by your browser today..."

The SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark measures JavaScript performance on tasks relevant to the current and near future use of JavaScript in the real world, such as encryption and text manipulation. This is one of the few benchmarks where it is important to receive a lower mark. The lowest results mean faster speed and better performance.

The Peacekeeper benchmark measures the browser's performance by testing its JavaScript functionality and its ability to handle commonly used JavaScript functions. If you want to know more about what it tests, check their FAQ page.

V8 benchmark - version 7 - is a JavaScript test suite by Google, used to optimize the Google Chrome web browser. It contains a suite of pure JavaScript benchmarks that is used to tune Google Chrome performance. Obviously, Google Chrome will have the highest score in this benchmark. However, it serves to compare the performance with other browsers according to what Google considers to be relevant in terms of JavaScript performance.

SunSpider, Peacekeeper and V8 were run three times on each browser. The results you see below represent the average of the scores obtained by each browser in each test.

The Test System

I used my personal desktop to make these tests, which has the following hardware components: an AMD Phenom II X4 905 (2.5 GHz) processor, a Gigabyte GA-MA785GT-UD3H motherboard, the memory is Corsair XMS3 DHX 6GB DDR3 1600 MHz, a Gigabyte Radeon HD6870 OC 1GB DDR5 video card, an 120GB RunCore Pro V 2.5" SATA III SSD drive.

The tests for Internet Explorer 9 were run on Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit with Service Pack 1 installed and all the latest updates.

Previously, I tested Internet Explorer 10 in the Consumer Preview and the Release Preview of Windows 8 on the same computer. Finally, I also tested the final version of Windows 8.

To make sure the tests are as unbiased as possible, I disabled all the add-ons and modules in Internet Explorer. The other browsers had no modules installed either. Also, no special configuration was made. All browsers used their default settings.

I tested the following browsers: Internet Explorer 9.0, Internet Explorer 10 Consumer Preview, Internet Explorer 10 Release Preview, Internet Explorer 10 final, Firefox 16, Chrome 22 and Opera 12.

All browsers except Internet Explorer 9 were tested in the final version of Windows 8.

Internet Explorer 10 vs. Internet Explorer 9 - Impressive Improvements!

First, I was interested to compare the different versions of Internet Explorer and see if there are major improvements in version 10. I also wanted to learn about the improvements done between the Consumer Preview and the Release Preview.

As we can see from this first test, Internet Explorer 10 provides a lot more support for the HTML5 standard and specifications. The Consumer Preview delivered an impressive 122% improvement over Internet Explorer 9, the Release Preview took the improvement to 126% while the final version of Internet Explorer raised it to 127%. A great job on Microsoft's part to support modern features existing in the HTML5 standard.

Internet Explorer 10 vs Internet Explorer 9

Let's see the performance of the new browser. Luckily we see a pretty big improvement here too. Both the Modern UI and Desktop versions of Internet Explorer 10 deliver better performance.

Internet Explorer 10 vs Internet Explorer 9

In SunSpider, the Desktop version of Internet Explorer 10 delivers a 41% improvement vs. Internet Explorer 9 while the Modern UI version delivers a 38% improvement.

Also, it is impressive to see that the performance of the browser, in this benchmark, has improved a lot with each test release. Kudos to Microsoft for delivering such major improvements in JavaScript processing.

The PeaceKeeper benchmark revealed some unexpected results. While the performance of Internet Explorer 10 is a lot better when compared to Internet Explorer 9, the scores have decreased between the Consumer Preview and the Release Preview of Internet Explorer 10. I am not sure if this is a result of the changes made by Microsoft in the development process of Internet Explorer 10 or that of changes made by PeaceKeeper in its evaluation algorithms.

Internet Explorer 10 vs Internet Explorer 9

In PeaceKeeper, when compared to Internet Explorer 9, the Desktop version of Internet Explorer 10 delivers 29% better performance while the Modern UI version delivers 25% better performance.

NOTE: I noticed that older versions of Chrome received higher ratings in PeaceKeeper than newer versions. Most probably this "decrease" has something to do with PeaceKeeper updating their testing methodology and rating algorithm.

Next, I used Google's V8 benchmark. Unfortunately I did not test the Consumer Preview version of Internet Explorer 10 in V8.

Internet Explorer 10 vs Internet Explorer 9

As you can see in the chart above, in the V8 benchmark, the Desktop version of Internet Explorer 10 delivers 108% better performance vs Internet Explorer 9, while the Modern UI version delivers 67% better performance.

A great improvement which confirms once again the great job done by Microsoft.

The Modern UI version of Internet Explorer 10 continues to deliver performance similar to its Desktop counterpart. With the exception of the V8 benchmark, the differences in performance are small enough not to be noticeable by most people: 6% lower performance in SunSpider and 4% in PeaceKeeper. However, V8 reveals a difference of 20% in performance between the two.

Internet Explorer 10 vs. Chrome, Firefox & Opera

To put things into perspective and understand how relevant Internet Explorer 10 will be in the browser wars, I have made the same comparisons as above against its main competitors.

Internet Explorer 10 vs Internet Explorer 9 vs Chrome vs Firefox

In the HTML5 test, Internet Explorer 10 sits in fourth place, at a big distance from Google Chrome 22, which provides the best compliance with the HTML5 standard.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Internet Explorer 10 taking first place in the SunSpider benchmark.

Internet Explorer 10 vs Internet Explorer 9 vs Chrome vs Firefox

In SunSpider, the Desktop version of Internet Explorer 10 is 19% faster than Google Chrome 22 and 22% faster than Firefox 16.

The PeaceKeeper benchmark revealed different results though. This time Chrome took the lead with a big margin. Opera is second place while Internet Explorer 10 is fourth.

Internet Explorer 10 vs Internet Explorer 9 vs Chrome vs Firefox

In PeaceKeeper, Chrome 22 delivers 84% better performance compared to the Desktop version of Internet Explorer 10.

As expected, the V8 benchmark revealed Google Chrome as the winner, by a strong margin. Firefox is a distant second and Internet Explorer 10 third, but ahead of Opera.

Internet Explorer 10 vs Internet Explorer 9

In the V8 benchmark, Google Chrome 22 is 120% faster than Internet Explorer 10.

Internet Explorer 10: Best in Sunspider, Third in V8 and Fourth in PeaceKeeper

It is evident that Microsoft has invested a lot of effort into making its browser better. Internet Explorer 10 might end up being the most consistent upgrade ever made by Microsoft. This is great for all Windows users, for web developers and for the web in general. Personally, I can't wait to see it distributed to Windows 7 users too, sometime in the next few months.

With this new version, Microsoft has proved once again that jokes about Internet Explorer and how bad it is should become a thing of the past, no longer representative of the real performance of the browser.

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