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Summary:

Microsoft has released IE9, the latest version of the venerable Internet Explorer browser. To check out how it compares to to its competitors, I installed it (which, unlike other browsers, required me to restart my machine) and ran it through a few different benchmarking tools.

Screen shot 2011-03-15 at 11.23.04

UPDATED: Microsoft has released IE9, the latest version of the venerable Internet Explorer browser. It boasts greatly improved support for standards like HTML5, a new design and greater speed, as well as some nifty new features, like privacy controls and being able to pin websites to the taskbar.

To check out how IE9 compares to its competitors, I installed it (which, unlike other browsers, required me to restart my machine) and ran it through a few different benchmarking tools.

Acid3

Acid3 is a benchmark which checks how well a  browser follows selected web standards. The browser is marked out of 100.

UPDATE: Replaced figure

Microsoft has made an effort to improve the standards support in IE in this release, and as you can see, IE9 scores a creditable 95 (much better than IE8 which scored a paltry 21), but it still can’t match Opera and Chrome’s perfect scores.

The HTML5 Test

Acid3 doesn’t test for HTML5, as it’s a newer web standard, so I also ran the browsers through The HTML5 Test, which provides an indication of how well they support the upcoming HTML5 standard and its related specifications.

UPDATE: Replaced figure

HTML5 support is important, because as more browsers are able to handle its advanced features, developers will be able to build much more powerful apps (see Why HTML5 Web Apps Are Going to Rock Your World). As you can see, although Microsoft has made a bit of fuss about IE9 supporting newer standards like HTML5 (even providing some online demos to show off the browser’s HTML5 chops), it’s actually lagging behind its competitors here, although none of them scores perfectly. However, I’d take this benchmark with a pinch of salt, as the standard isn’t finalized yet.

Kraken

Kraken is Mozilla’s JavaScript benchmark, primarily based on the SunSpider suite. It tests how well a browser handles JavaScript and is supposed to simulate a number of different “real world” scenarios.

UPDATE: Replaced figure

 

JavaScript performance is vital, because we’re all increasingly reliant on JavScript-heavy web apps. The Kraken score above is a the time in milliseconds it takes for the browser to complete the test runs; a lower score is better. Note that JavaScript benchmarks should be regarded with a healthy degree of skepticism; it’s incredibly hard to create a realistic benchmark that accurately indicates how fast a browser will be in day-to-day use, so these tests can only give an indication of how fast a browser might be. That said, once again, IE is lagging behind the best here: It took twice as long to complete the tests as Chrome, and nearly three times as long as Firefox (although it’s much better than the beta of IE9, which scored around 50,000 ms).

Overall

IE9 is a great improvement over previous incarnations; it has caught up to the pack and now doesn’t lag so very far behind the other  browsers available. In particular, Microsoft should be applauded for its efforts to support web standards in this release. However, unless you really want some of its novel features, like the ability to pin websites to the taskbar, or your choice is restricted by your employer to Microsoft’s browser, I still can’t recommend it over Firefox, Chrome and Opera.

Internet Explorer 9 can be downloaded from microsoft.com; it requires Vista or Windows 7.

  1. Why are you graphs so misleading? Why on the ACID3 test would you have the value go up to 102 when 100 is the highest? It makes it seem as though no browser has received a perfect score. Then your second graph (HTML5) only goes up to 300 when the value is up to 400. You really need to attend a webinar or something on graphs.

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  2. The difference on the Acid3 test between Chrome’s 100 and IE9’s 95 is SVG fonts and SMIL animations. That’s some really obscure stuff, so that won’t make much of a dent.

    The HTML5 test makes no sense whatsoever, since HTML5’s still not done so the specs could change at any time. MS has implemented some cool stuff, but probably wants the spec to be final before implementing any more.

    The JS engine is faster then the one in IE8, but nowhere near as fast as the one in Chrome (I’m highly sceptical about the Kraken test, since it’s from Mozilla and seems to prefer Firefox more then all the other benchmarks do).

    Overall I think IE9 will be a great option for most average users, for “high power” users (developers, l33t h4xx0rs, script-kiddies) Chrome is the best choice at this time for its speedy JS and awesome debugging tools.

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  3. Taking a look at tests above, I conclude that Microsoft is going to lose it’s leadership in browser’s market as Chrome and Firefox are already better and improving faster than Microsoft’s browser. It’s impossible for IE to revert this trend.

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  4. I have seen too many Anti-MS articles before, but this one takes the cake. Seriously, setting aside your bias, even your testing is flawed.

    Take a look at the test from ZDNET. “http://www.zdnet.com/blog/networking/chrome-10-vs-internet-explorer-9-reconsidered/792″

    Don’t write tech articles just to be cool. Write it for its worth.

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  5. You’re really biased. I’ve been using the RC since it was released and it’s awesome. Please let go the google kool-aid.

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  6. Interesting facts but your visuals really tell a different tale than you are saying. They exaggerate your points. Your graphs start with a baseline so high it makes the bottom end seem so much worse than it is. Your first graph the point difference is only 5 points but your visual is designed to confuse people at a glance into thinking it’s much greater. Very disappointing article. Makes me lose trust in what you are saying.

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    1. I’m sorry if you think so, it really wasn’t my intention to deliberately mislead anyone.

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      1. That was exactly your intention. You’re just another Microsoft-hating tool with no credibility, especially after this article.

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      2. Fix your graphs then… They are completely misleading, as has been pointed out by most commenters.

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  7. LOL — what’s up with the misleading graphs, FOX News?

    If the scale is from 0 to 100, why make the graph from 94 to 102?

    You have them all drawn to unfairly exaggerate IE9’s deficiencies.

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  8. Very informative.
    But why do you use a beta version of Chrome in your comparison?
    If the others are GA versions that you’re using as a comparison, then you should have also used the latest GA version of Chrome as well to be fair – not a beta (no matter how close it is to being released).
    But all in all, some useful information in here.
    Thanks!

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  9. Stable version of Chrome is actually faster than mozilla on Kraken benchmark with the inclusion of crankshaft version of V8 javascript engine. Check mozilla’s own Are we fast yet page: http://arewefastyet.com/

    Also, you should not use non zero Y axis on such graphs.

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    1. mda, arewefastyet shows the most recent unstable bleeding-edge versions. Stable Chrome is slower than Firefox 4 on Kraken, and stable Chrome doesn’t include crankshaft yet.

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  10. Performance is certainly an important factor to consider when deciding to install Internet Explorer 9. Another is a set of security features that Microsoft included in the new browser:

    http://isc.sans.edu/diary/Internet+Explorer+9+is+out+includes+new+security+features+/10552

    Overall, IE 9 looks like a must-have update for people still using older versions of Internet Explorer. The security features of the new version also, in my opinion, bring IE 9 above Firefox on a Windows platform.

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