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Category: Microsoft Edge

Using WebXPRT 3 to compare the performance of popular browsers (Round 2)

It’s been nine months since we’ve published a WebXPRT 3 browser performance comparison, so we decided to put the newest versions of popular browsers through the paces to see if the performance rankings have changed since our last round of tests.

We used the same laptop as last time: a Dell XPS 13 7930 with an Intel Core i3-10110U processor and 4 GB of RAM running Windows 10 Home, updated to version 1909 (18363.1139). We installed all current Windows updates and tested on a clean system image. After the update process completed, we turned off updates to prevent them from interfering with test runs. We ran WebXPRT 3 three times on five browsers: Brave, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera. The posted score for each browser is the median of the three test runs.

In our last round of tests, the four Chromium-based browsers (Brave, Chrome, Edge, and Opera) produced scores that were nearly identical. Only Mozilla Firefox produced a significantly different (and better) score. The parity of the Chromium-based browsers was not surprising, considering they have the same underlying foundation.

In this round of testing, the Chromium-based browsers again produced very close scores, although Brave’s performance lagged by about 4 percent. Firefox again separated itself from the pack with a higher score. With the exception of Chrome, which produced an identical score as last time, every browser’s score was slightly slower than before. There are many possible reasons for this, including increased overhead in the browsers or changes in Windows, and the respective slowdowns for each browser will probably be unnoticeable to most users during everyday tasks.

Do these results mean that Mozilla Firefox will provide you with a speedier web experience? As we noted in the last comparison, a device with a higher WebXPRT score will probably feel faster during daily use than one with a lower score. For comparisons on the same system, however, the answer depends in part on the types of things you do on the web, how the extensions you’ve installed affect performance, how frequently the browsers issue updates and incorporate new web technologies, and how accurately each browsers’ default installation settings reflect how you would set up that browser for your daily workflow.

In addition, browser speed can increase or decrease significantly after an update, only to swing back in the other direction shortly thereafter. OS-specific optimizations can also affect performance, such as with Edge on Windows 10 and Chrome on Chrome OS. All of these variables are important to keep in mind when considering how browser performance comparison results translate to your everyday experience.

What are your thoughts on browser performance? Let us know!

Justin

A new playing field for WebXPRT

WebXPRT is one of the go-to benchmarks for evaluating browser performance, so we’re always interested in browser development news. Recently, Microsoft created a development channel where anyone can download early versions of an all-new Microsoft Edge browser. Unlike previous versions of Edge, Microsoft constructed the new browser using the Chromium open-source project, the same foundation underlying the Google Chrome browser and Chrome OS.

One interesting aspect of the new Edge development strategy is the changes that Microsoft is making to more than 50 services that Chromium has included. If you use Chrome daily, you’ve likely become accustomed to certain built-in services such as ad block, spellcheck, translate, maps integration, and form fill, among many others. While each of these is useful, a large number of background services running simultaneously can slow browsing and sap battery life. In the new Edge, Microsoft is either reworking each service or removing it altogether, with the hope of winning users by providing a cleaner, faster, and more power-efficient experience. You can read more about Microsoft’s goals for the new project on the Microsoft Edge Insider site.

As we’ve discussed before, many factors contribute to the speed of a browsing experience and its WebXPRT score. It’s too early to know how the new Microsoft Edge will stack up against other browsers, but when the full version comes out of development, you can be sure that we’ll be publishing some comparison scores. I’ve installed the Dev Channel version of Edge on my personal machine and run WebXPRT 3. While I can’t publish the scores from this early version, I can tell you that the results were interesting. Have you run WebXPRT 3 on the new Microsoft Edge? How do you think it compares to competitors? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Justin

WebXPRT and user-agent strings

After running WebXPRT in Microsoft Edge, a tester recently asked why the browser information field on the results page displayed “Chrome 52 – Edge 15.15063.” It’s a good question; why would the benchmark report Chrome 52 when Microsoft Edge is the browser under test? The answer lies in understanding user-agent strings and the way that WebXPRT gathers specific bits of information.

When browsers request a web page from a hosting server, they send an array of basic header information that allows the server to determine the client’s capabilities and the best way to provide the requested content. One of these headers, the user-agent, presents a string of tokens that provide information about the application making the request, the operating system and version, rendering engine compatibility, and browser platform details. In effect, the user-agent string is a way for a browser to tell the hosting server the full extent of its capabilities.

When WebXPRT attempts to identify a browser, it references the browser token in the user-agent string.

The process is generally straightforward, but in some cases, browsers spoof information from other browsers in their user-agent strings, which makes accurate browser detection difficult. The reasons for this are complex, but they involve web development practices and the fact that some web pages are not designed to recognize and work well with new or less-popular browsers. When we released WebXPRT 2015, Microsoft Edge was new. The Edge team wanted to make sure that as much advanced web content as possible would be available to Edge users, so they created a user-agent string that declared itself to be several different browsers at once.

I can see this in action if I check Edge’s user-agent string on my system. Currently, it reports “Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64; ServiceUI 9) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/52.0.2743.116 Safari/537.36 Edge/15.15063.” So, because of the way Edge’s user-agent string is constructed, and the way WebXPRT parses that information, the browser information field on WebXPRT’s results page will report “Chrome 52 – Edge 15.15063” on my system.

To try this on your system, in Edge, select the ellipses icon in the top right-hand corner, then F12 Developer Tools. Next, select the Console tab, and run “javascript:alert(navigator.userAgent).” A popup window will display the UA string.

You can find instructions for finding the user-agent string in other browsers here: http://techdows.com/2016/07/edge-ie-chrome-firefox-user-agent-strings.html.

In the next version of WebXPRT, we’ll work to refine the way that the test parses user-agent strings, and provide more accurate system information for testers. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding this topic, let us know!

Justin

Please let us know

Todd Reifsteck from the Web Platform Team at Microsoft was kind enough to let me share a conversation we had last week:

Todd reported he was having problems running WebXPRT on the Edge browser. This was a surprise to us, as we’d already released a WebXPRT update to resolve Edge browser issues.

We were not seeing this problem, and as we talked with Todd we verified there was no issue in WebXPRT itself. The fix we released was working; however, we found a path through the web site that launched the previous version of WebXPRT. Once we fixed that URL to point to the latest version of WebXPRT, Todd reported that WebXPRT was working with Edge, just as we expected.

This problem would not have affected results on other browsers. The results from the previous version of WebXPRT are comparable to the current version. Compatibility with the Edge browser is the only difference between the versions.

Thanks to Todd for his help. As always, we encourage you to contact us if you have any issues or questions. We’ll do our best to resolve them as quickly as possible.

Eric

WebXPRT update is now available

This update resolves an issue we found with the Local Notes test running in the Microsoft Edge browser. We described the issue in the blog post Mystery Solved. Both versions of WebXPRT now run correctly in the Microsoft Edge browser. The change did not affect the benchmark scores. Results from the new versions are comparable to existing results.

This issue affected both WebXPRT 2015 and WebXPRT 2013. The updated versions of WebXPRT 2015 and WebXPRT 2013 are now live on WebXPRT.com.

If you want more information, please contact BenchmarkXPRTSupport@principledtechnologies.com.

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