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Head to Head: Chrome vs IE 8

The Googlers talk a good story, especially when it’s delivered as a “graphic novel” comic book, but now that the browser is available, how well does their story really stand up under scrutiny? After all, IE 8 claims many of the same benefits, including the isolation of processes to tabs.  Well, I set out to find out.

My setup is a quad core pentium system with 3G of memory and dual monitors.  On the left side, Chrome. On the right, IE 8.  

Test #1. Page rendering speed.  I chose the front page of CNET as my target, emptied caches, cookies, etc on both browsers, and then navigated to www.cnet.com.  Quel choque! IE 8 rendered the page in approximately six seconds.  Chrome?  A pokey 35 seconds. I redid the test several times to confirm.  It’s true.  Chrome beta is a web browsing model-T.  In fact, IE 8’s rendering times were comparable to Safari, Opera and Firefox.  It was only Chrome that sucked.

Test #2.  Javascript speed.  For this test I loaded up GMail – as Javascript heavy an application as there ever was. No surprise, Chrome won the day with it’s heavily optimized Javascript interpreter.  Nevertheless, the difference was close enough to be marginal — 4 seconds vs 6 seconds.

Test #3. Memory footprint. With Gmail and the CNET front page loaded into two tabs in each browser, both browsers were actually running 4 separate instances, proving the contention that both browsers isolate processes in tabs.  However, IE’s memory footprint was a beefy 195M, while Chrome’s was a comparably skinny 80M.

Test #4. Rendering.  For this test, I loaded the Calliflower application in both browsers.  Calliflower does some reasonably sophisticated things including pushing status to dynamically updating web pages.  Let’s just say that they both suck.  Whether it was mis-sized boxes in IE, or features that didn’t work in Chrome, neither one of these apps can render Calliflower as well as IE 7, Firefox 3, Safari or Opera.

The verdict?   Google had a great launch, filled with breathless oohing and aahing from the cognoscenti, but in the hard light of day I’d say the emperor has no clothes.  For now, I give the nod to IE.  It’s mostly faster, and a lot faster, even if it does consume a little more memory. 

UPDATE: An hour later, Jim Courtney phoned me up and we did the experiment again.  Mysteriously, whatever was blocking my rendering of CNET before has now resolved itself.  CNET renders consistently in 4 seconds now.  Computers!

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{ 17 comments… add one }

  • Bob September 2, 2008, 6:02 pm

    I found Chrome to be faster than IE8 beta2

    Both have similar features. I like the way MSFT is pursuing a Google like integration with all the Live stuff.

    Live Search wow'd me.

  • Steve September 2, 2008, 8:57 pm

    Cnet loads in 3 seconds for me on chrome. Not sure of your problem.

  • Eyebee September 2, 2008, 9:05 pm

    A little more memory? IE’s 195M against Chrome’s 80M looks like a classic case of MS bloat-code to me.

  • Alec September 2, 2008, 9:33 pm

    Yeah – but you know half of it’s paged anyway. I just don’t see it being a huge deal. Browsers are big apps.

  • General C# September 3, 2008, 2:31 am

    At first I thought that Chrome was awesome, but then quite a few things didn't work like Windows Live. Pretty much everything with Silverlight failed to work as well. I understand that Google didn't do much testing with the dynamic stuff and we've got to give them time, but there were also some weird stuff like pages that have regular controls like text boxes rendering really tiny.

    Remember that you can't measure IE by the apparent memory usage, because Microsoft's software usually scales to memory. So it'll use memory in accordance with the amount you have. If you look at Vista. My machine has 2GB memory, and when the OS is loaded 1GB is used. Exact same machine with 1GB memory, Vista will just grab 500MB. It's called making good use of your resources and shouldn't be shot for doing so.

    We'll have to give both IE8 and Chrome a year or so after release before you can start dumping on them.

  • Vaibhav September 3, 2008, 4:30 am

    Well, I think Chrome is pretty fast. Sure it sticks every so often here and there (thus the beta feel), but I will be using it more and more…

    I did a comparison with Firefox: http://blog.gadodia.net/google-chrome-vs-mozilla-

  • Kichu September 3, 2008, 4:31 am

    Google Chrome is pretty unstable at this time. It crashed few minutes after installing. See a crash report here – http://www.indiastudychannel.com/resources/35865-

    The only good thing I see with Chrome at this time is, it is light weight and fast even with 20-30 tabs open. I could never get more than 20 tabs open in IE.

  • Andrew September 3, 2008, 5:19 am

    The only thing that impressed me with Chrome was its memory footprint, it would be nice if Firefox would use 1/2 of its current resources.

    Maybe they can use the graphics and memory usage pieces that Google open sourced to optimize a bit.

  • bob e September 3, 2008, 5:43 am

    I have been using IE8 and am happy so far. I'm going to wait a few months and see how Chrome pans out before making any changes.

  • Alec September 3, 2008, 4:11 pm

    I'm using both at the moment. Big caveat for me? The Truphone softphone that we deployed in Calliflower runs great in IE, but won't load in Chrome.

  • Saint Germain September 4, 2008, 5:01 am

    Google Chrome is very fast, but with firefox i can have a lot of extensions… so… i keep my Fierfox.

  • Akceptor September 5, 2008, 2:12 am

    Google Chrome Final will be really the best browser: Chrome bugfixes are so rapid…

  • Drew September 8, 2008, 2:48 pm

    I'll stick with Firefox, I enjoy internet security and web standards, something IE knows nothing about.

  • Garrett September 10, 2008, 4:40 pm

    This is one of the most unscientific benchmarks I've ever seen. CNet takes literally seconds to load on chrome. I'm not about to claim that as fact as numerous other factors play in when testing, machine type, processes, multiple machines, os versions, etc. Options do not make a test, quantified statistics do.
    "as Javascript heavy an application as there ever was" can you please be more vague?


  • Tim Acheson July 7, 2009, 6:56 am

    Microsoft has released a lot of information about this, with a video showing the results of their own performance tests:

    Interstingly the date on some of the material is earlier than the IE8.0 release date!

  • acnetech September 13, 2009, 6:30 am

    i find that IE8 is more stable compared to the previous versions of Internet Explorer, i am pretty much happy with IE8

  • Alicia Matthews April 28, 2010, 9:43 am

    Internet Explorer 8 is very good because it is as stable as Opera. I hate the previous versions of IE like IE6 because it hangs frequently. "

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