Hands-on: Chrome 10 pushes the browser speed barrier

The new version of Google's Chrome browser adds speed, password syncing and a new Options tab.

As Web sites become increasingly complex, streaming media becomes more common, and applications migrate from PC-client-based to Web-based, it becomes increasingly important for browsers to be as fast and responsive as possible. In fact, if you spend most of your life in Web-based apps, a speedy browser has gone from being a nice-to-have to a must-have.

The just-released Chrome 10 comes with speed improvements that make Web sites load faster and Web-based apps run more quickly. It also offers a revamped Options interface, such as improved security and better syncing. Put them all together and you have a winning upgrade.

A need for speed

Chrome has always been speedy, and with this release it gets even faster. Version 10 incorporates Google's new Crankshaft JavaScript engine, which the company first showed off in December. In its Chromium blog, Google claims that Crankshaft offers a 66% improvement in JavaScript performance as measured by the V8 benchmark suite.

In order to see how Chrome 10 compares to its rivals, I ran the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark using a Dell Dimension 9200 with a 2.40GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor and 2GB RAM running Windows Vista. I ran three sets of tests on each browser and averaged the results.

Results showed that Chrome has caught up to the long-time speed champion, Opera. Chrome 10 averaged 312.23 milliseconds (ms) to complete the tests, while Opera 11.01 averaged 309.97ms -- a virtual dead heat. Safari 5.0.3 came in at 406.933ms, with Firefox 3.6.15 well behind at an average 978.37ms and Internet Explorer 8 lagging at 5,035.07ms.

Keep in mind, however, that Internet Explorer 9 could take the lead once it becomes an official release on March 14. My tests showed Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate proved to be fastest of all the browsers with a 274.6ms average time. In addition, Firefox 4 Beta 12 took 321.3ms to complete the tests, essentially a dead heat with Chrome and Opera.

SunSpider browser results
Chrome 10 and Opera 11.01 are in a virtual dead heat in the author's SunSpider JavaScript benchmark tests. IE8 brings up the rear, but the IE9 RC leads the pack. (Smaller numbers are better.)

Feeds and speeds are one thing, but personal experience is another. I can vouch that virtually every Web site I visited was exceptionally fast and responsive, whether it was a simple, straightforward page, one that featured plenty of graphics or a Web-based app.

The upshot: If you want fast browsing and responsive Web-based apps, you want this version of Chrome.

Happy news for tweakers

The most noticeable change in Chrome 10 is the Options settings, and they'll be welcomed by tweakers and anyone who ever changes Chrome options. When you click the gear icon in the upper-right corner and select Options (Preferences on a Mac), the menu now opens in its own tab rather than in a relatively small window, as with previous releases, making it easier to find the options you want to change. (Story continues on next page.)

Chrome 10 Options
In Chrome 10, Options now opens in its own tab.
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