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Apples to apples?

PCMag published a great review of the Opera browser this week. In addition to looking at the many features Opera offers, the review included performance data from multiple benchmarks, which look at areas such as hardware graphics acceleration, WebGL performance, memory consumption, and battery life.

Three of the benchmarks have a significant, though not exclusive, focus on JavaScript performance: Google Octane 2.0, JetStream 1.1, and WebXPRT 2015. The three benchmarks did not rank the browsers the same way, and in the past, we‘ve discussed some of the reasons why this happens. In addition to the difference in tests, there are also sometimes differences in approaches that are worth considering.

For example, consider the test descriptions for JetStream 1.1. You’ll immediately notice that the tests are much lower-level tests than the ones in WebXPRT. However, consider these phrases from a few of the test descriptions:

  • code-first-load “…This test attempts to defeat the browser’s caching capabilities…”
  • splay-latency “Tests the worst-case performance…”
  • zlib “…modified to restrict code caching opportunities…”


While the XPRTs test typical performance for higher level applications, the tests in JetStream are tweaked to stress devices in very specific ways, some of which are not typical. The information these tests provide can be very useful for engineers and developers, but may not be as meaningful to the typical user.

I have to stress that both approaches are valid, but they are doing somewhat different things. There’s a cliché about comparing apples to apples, but not all apples are the same. If you’re making a pie, a Granny Smith would be a good choice, but for snacking, you might be better off with a Red Delicious. Knowing a benchmark’s purpose will help you find the results that are most meaningful to you.


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