Google boosts Chrome 6 speed into dead heat with leaders

New version is 17% faster than Chrome 5, 2.5 times faster than Firefox 3.6

Google's Chrome 6 is 17% faster than the version it replaced, putting it in a virtual dead heat with the speed leaders, Opera and Safari, according to benchmark scores.

When Google celebrated the second anniversary of Chrome's launch last week, Brian Rakowski, the browser's director of product management, said: "A lot of things have changed in the last two years [in browsers], but the one thing we've learned is that speed matters."

Tests run by Computerworld support Rakowski's claim that speed matters: Chrome 6 is Google's fastest browser ever at rendering JavaScript.

But although Chrome 6 is nearly 17% faster than May's Chrome 5, it's still slightly slower than both Opera 10.61 and Safari 5, the No. 1 and No. 2 browsers, respectively.

The speed race is tighter than ever, however; the SunSpider times of Opera, Safari and Chrome are within 12 milliseconds each other.

While that trio was essentially in a photo finish, Mozilla's Firefox remained out of contention for the title of "Fastest Browser." Firefox 3.6.9 beat only Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) in the JavaScript trials, and was two-and-a-half times slower than Chrome 6.

Mozilla will have better luck later this year when it ships Firefox 4. The newest preview, Firefox 4 Beta 4, was much more competitive than its production-level cousin: Chrome 6 was only 29% faster than Firefox Beta 4.

Firefox 4 has already met its JavaScript speed goal, according to Mozilla's public plans. The firm's developers have said they want their new browser to be "near or even to" Chrome 5, and score within 20% of Google's now outdated browser on SunSpider. That's almost exactly where Firefox 4 Beta 4 is: Chrome 5's SunSpider score was 19% faster than Firefox's.

As usual, IE8 brought up the rear, taking between five and 12 times longer to complete the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark suite than its rivals.

Microsoft should be able to get back into the game next week when it releases the first public beta of IE9 on Sept. 15. The four developer previews shipped since March have been competitive with Chrome, Safari and Opera in JavaScript trials.

To peg browser speed, Computerworld ran SunSpider in Windows XP Professional Service Pack 3 (SP3) three times for each browser, then averaged the scores.

Browser scores
Chrome 6 is in a dead heat with speed leaders Opera and Safari on Windows. Smaller results are better. IE8 is not shown.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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