Just how fast is Firefox Quantum?

Can Mozilla's new Firefox Quantum browser unseat Google Chrome as the fastest browser?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Video: Firefox Quantum will give you a faster browser but there's a price to pay

So, Mozilla has released Firefox 57, which the company claims is so fast that it's decided to rename it Quantum. But just how fast is Quantum? Does it have a chance against Google's Chrome browser?

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To see how fast Firefox 57 Quantum is, I pitted it against Firefox 56, Microsoft Edge 41, and Google Chrome 62 in a series of benchmark tests to see which browser would come out on top.

The System

  • AMD Ryzen 7 1800X
  • 16GB RAM
  • 1TB Samsung 960 Pro M.2 SSD
  • 2 x Nvidia GTX 1080
  • Fully updated Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

The Browsers

  • Firefox 57 Quantum
  • Firefox 56
  • Chrome 62
  • Edge 41

The Tests

  • JetStream 1.1: A JavaScript benchmark that includes benchmarks from the SunSpider 1.0.2 and Octane 2 JavaScript benchmark suites. Larger scores are better.
  • Kraken-1.1: An updated version of the SunSpider benchmark. Lower scores are better.
  • Octane 2.0: A JavaScript test that includes tests that focus on interactive scripting. This benchmark has been retired, but it's still handy as a comparison. Higher scores are better.
  • WebXPRT 2015: This benchmark contains six HTML5 and JavaScript-based workloads: Photo Enhancement, Organize Album, Stock Option Pricing, Local Notes, Sales Graphs, and Explore DNA Sequencing. Higher scores are better.
  • HTML5 Test: A web standards compliance test. The maximum score is 550, and higher scores are better.
  • Speedometer: This benchmark measures the responsiveness of web applications. It uses demo web applications to simulate user actions such as adding to-do items. Higher score are better.
  • ARES-6: Measures the execution time of JavaScript's newest features, including symbols, for-of, arrow functions, Map/Set/WeakMap, let/const, classes, proxies, string interpolation, destructuring, default arguments, spread, tail calls, and generators. Lower scores are better.

These tests were run multiple times to ensure consistency, and the results averaged.

The Results

OK, so how did Firefox Quantum stack up? Very well.

Just how fast is Firefox Quantum?

Firefox Quantum beat Firefox 56 across the board, so if you're a Firefox user, there is a measurable performance upgrade. It's not outstanding, and the browser extension hit might sour the upgrade, but it's certainly there.

But what's really interesting is how Firefox -- both Firefox 56 and 57 Quantum -- has caught up with, and in some cases, beats Google Chrome.

Talley of wins

For those of you keeping score, here is the tally of wins for each browser across the seven benchmark tests:

  • Firefox 56: 0/7
  • Firefox 57 Quantum: 3/7
  • Chrome 62: 3/7
  • Edge 41: 1/7

This is a very respectable score for both Firefox 56 and Firefox Quantum, and it shows that there's been a lot of effort put into performance over the past year (benchmarking carried out earlier this year put Firefox far behind Chrome).

Real-world usage

Getting away from artificial benchmarks and into the real world, I have to be honest and say that I couldn't feel much of a speed difference no matter which browser I used, and that's hardly a surprise given how fast modern browser have become and how small the gap between them actually is.

The bottom line

These days I feel that which browser someone chooses is less about performance and more about which ecosystem they prefer, with each browser having its own strengths and weaknesses.

Performance, even if you're using the slowest browser, really isn't an issue these days. It's rare that I hear anyone complain about browser performance, and when they do, the problem is down to some bug or issue, not the browser's overall performance. It feels like Mozilla's focus on speed has more to do with headlines and nostalgia than it has to do with giving users what they want.

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