Expect 22.8% performance boost from next week's Firefox 3.6 beta

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The developers at Mozilla have set next week as the tentative rollout window for the first public beta of Firefox 3.6 -- the first edition of the organization's big fixes for 3.5 where it's accepting analysis and advice from the general public. Betanews tests this week on a late version of the 3.6 beta preview, close to the organization's planned code freeze, indicate that users will be visibly pleased by what they see: Generally faster JavaScript execution and much faster page rendering will result in a browser that's almost one-fourth faster than its predecessor -- by our estimate, 22.78% faster on average.

Betanews tested the latest available development and stable builds of all five brands of Web browser, on all three modern Windows platforms -- XP SP3, Vista SP2, and Windows 7 RTM. Once again, we threw the kitchen sink at them: our new and stronger performance benchmark suite, consisting of experiments in all facets of rendering, mathematics, control, and even geometry. Like before, we use a slow browser (Microsoft Internet Explorer 7, the previous version, running in Windows Vista SP2) as our 1.00 baseline, and we produce performance indices representing browsers' relative speed compared to IE7.

Averaging all three Windows platforms, the latest Beta 1 preview of Firefox 3.6 posts a Betanews CRPI score of 9.02 -- just better than nine times the performance of IE7. Compare this against a 7.34 score for the latest stable version of Firefox 3.5.3, and 7.81 for the latest daily build of the Firefox 3.5.4 bug fix.

When looking at the results broken down by platform, we've noticed that in the CRPI scores for Firefox's development builds, moving up through the latest Alpha of version 3.7, the Windows 7 score has been pulling closer to the XP score. Typically, XP has been the fastest platform by a noticeable margin; that hasn't been the case in the latest builds. This trend has definitely permeated Opera 10, whose stable and development builds on XP and Win7 are almost dead-even.

Still, Firefox 3.6's score on XP crossed over the 10 mark on our new index, with a 10.44 on that platform versus 9.09 for the current stable version 3.5.3, and 7.38 for version 3.6 on Vista.

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

For our long-time readers who watched browsers' performance scores before we added new tests to our comprehensive suite: You'll recall how during the development of Firefox 3.5, test builds flirted with a 10.00 score on the old index in Windows XP SP3, and only occasionally crossed that mark. Right now, using the old scoring system, Firefox 3.6 Beta 1 is scoring a 13.59 on XP -- moving into the territory that Google Chrome blazed when it first hit the scene.

For all its forward strides, the pace of Firefox's acceleration is finally approaching that of Chrome. That is, Firefox is getting faster at the rate Chrome is getting faster. Of course, Chrome's acceleration has been, and continues to be, meteoric, absorbing about one IE7's worth of performance in its development builds every two months. Having posted a CRPI score of 15.37 just one month ago, the latest stable build of Chrome posted a score of 15.85 this week. (In strange but typical Google fashion, build 195.25 was posted to both the stable and beta channels simultaneously, for reasons known only to Google at the moment.)

While the Chrome 4 development builds had been lagging behind Chrome 3 somewhat, they're catching up nicely now with a CRPI score of 15.35. On Windows 7, Chrome 3 and Chrome 4 are almost dead even in performance (15.27 versus 15.23), and only two tenths of a point separate the stable and dev builds on Vista.

Next: Performance breakdowns by individual test...

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