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Fastest JavaScript Engine Might Surprise You


When rendering anything on a browser, it's all about speed, and that's as true for JavaScript as it is for anything else. So when InfoWorld decided to measure how quickly several web browsers handled JavaScript based on one of the accepted benchmark tests, it's only natural that the results would be of interest. But the winner was a surprise.

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By: Terri Wells
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July 06, 2012

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When rendering anything on a browser, it's all about speed, and that's as true for JavaScript as it is for anything else. So when InfoWorld decided to measure how quickly several web browsers handled JavaScript based on one of the accepted benchmark tests, it's only natural that the results would be of interest. But the winner was a surprise.

You can check out the full article, written by Woody Leonhard. He used the SunSpider 0.9.2 JavaScript benchmark. He acknowledges that this is not an unbiased tool. After all, it's made by Apple, and Apple is far from fair when it comes to any browser other than its own Safari. Leonhard noted that “non-Apple browsers are all forced to use a slow rendering class known as UIWebView, while Safari gets to run its Nitro version of JavaScript.”

Given that, you'd expect anything other than Safari on one of Apple's operating systems to run as slow as molasses. And Leonhard's initial tests supported that point. Pitting Google's new Chrome browser against Safari on his iPad 2 with iOS 5.1.1, Safari scored 1,722 milliseconds on the benchmark, versus Chrome's 7,224 ms. That's four times as long.

But when Leonhard switched to an older MacBook Pro running OX X 10.7.4 and Safari 5.1.5 to run the benchmark, it clocked in at 185 ms. “That's quick, and it makes the iPad look positively pokey,” he noted. That's not a typo, folks; Safari operates at one-tenth the speed on the iPad as it does on the MacBook Pro.

This result made Leonhard curious about other browsers on other systems. How would they measure up? For instance, how quickly would Google's beta version of Chrome for the Metro side of Windows 8 finish the benchmark? Using a test desktop, Leonhard ran the SunSpider 0.9.1 benchmark on Metro Chrome (remember, it's still in beta) and came back with a result of 196 ms. That's “within spitting distance of Safari running on full-blown OS X,” Leonhard noted.

The biggest surprise was yet to come, however. Remember, the SunSpider 0.9.1 benchmark is just one test, and can be assumed to favor Apple products. So it shouldn't deliver better times for Microsoft products, right? Well, Leonhard decided to put it to the ultimate test: a beta Microsoft browser (Metro IE10) on a beta Microsoft operating system (Windows 8). The result: 155 ms. That's right, the beta Microsoft browser blew them all out of the water.

What does this mean? When it comes to JavaScript, perhaps Microsoft is finally getting the message. Granted, this is just one benchmark. But perhaps there is something to be said for having browser competition after all – and perhaps Microsoft reacts better to that kind of stimulus now than it has in the past. At the very least, it will be interesting to see how well Metro IE10 works with JavaScript when the browser comes out of beta. 


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