All-new test results: What browser will you use to run Web apps?

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Three laptop computers, all of them cool-looking, all with well-respected brands, all have the features you want, all sell for the same price. This isn't going to be a toy for you; it will be, for at least the next few years, the engine for your work and your livelihood. How do you make a purchasing decision? You check online to see which one is the better performer, and which one other customers prefer.

Five Web browsers, all of them cool-looking, all with well-respected brands, all have the features you want, all of them...are free. But this isn't going to be a newspaper reader or a Twitter feed carrier for you; it will be, for at least the next few weeks, the engine for your work and your productivity. Sure, you'll install all of them. But which one will you install as your default, and which one will you trust with your everyday applications?


Click here for a complete introduction to the Betanews Comprehensive Performance Index.

When the everyday functionality of Microsoft Office moves to the Web, and PCs are sold not with Office installed but with desktop shortcuts to Office Web Apps instead, and when the applications you run depend on the Web browser you choose, the decision you make about Web browsers will be more important than ever before. If you care about whether an AMD processor that sells for eight dollars less than its Intel counterpart can perform at the same levels under overclocking, or whether adding a second graphics card will crank out ten more frames per second after you add that fourth monitor, then you should care about the performance of your software platform. The differences here are not so incremental.

At Betanews, we've been testing Windows-based Web browsers with greater and greater accuracy throughout this year, with the objective of being able to give you a simple and indisputable way to consider their all-around performance. All through that time, we've been listening to your responses as to how we can improve our methods, and we've been getting a lot of responses.

Here's what we've learned from you:

  • You want a simpler, flatter index. Just as the Dow Jones Industrial Average represents the general state of investment in the American economy for any point in time, you need one number that represents the all-around performance of every browser in the field, something you can remember and discuss.
  • You also want all the data. Specifically, you want to be able to see exactly how that final index number is obtained. Our verbal explanations haven't always been enough, and you know from personal experience that a browser we've called relatively slow is actually faster in the areas that matter specifically to you.
  • You want us to cast our net wider, and find a fairer and more accurate way to assess basic performance. You've told us that page load times, to you, represent basic performance -- if a page loads faster, it's a faster browser. But timing how fast a browser loads Yahoo or Facebook, for example, is a process loaded with uncontrolled variables -- the pages change, the network ebbs and flows, and ads can be textual or in interactive Java 3D. You need a fair and regulated means for assessing real-world page loading speed.
  • You warned us not to trust browsers' different methods for reporting their own load times. Since different browsers work in various ways, for example, they fire the JavaScript onLoad event at different times, for different reasons -- so we can't accept onLoad as the complete "finish line." Instead, we need to pay attention to the whole page loading process, specifically with regard to how soon the scripts inside a page can access the elements of that page and start styling and displaying them.

We already had four tests in our previous Web browser suite, and after careful research, we've added four more that focus on areas that you say matter to you, and that some of you say we've overlooked. And as usual, you're right: If we're going to claim to measure "all-around" performance, we need to cover all the bases.

On the next page, we introduce our new solution and our response to your many, many very good suggestions. This is your comprehensive index.

Next: How Betanews will measure Web browser performance...

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