Home & Office

What's 2017's fastest Windows 10 web browser?

In years past, Google Chrome was easily the best. This time around it's a three-horse race.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Best Windows 10 web browser: The favorites for 2017

Last year, Google Chrome was the speediest Windows 10 web browser by a mile. This year, it's a different story.

To put today's browsers to the test I ran them on the latest shipping edition of Windows10 Home: Version 10240.17236. I ran the benchmarks on my latest Windows 10 test PC. This is a Dell XPS 8910. It's powered by a 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-6700 Quad-Core Processor, backed by a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750Ti graphics card with 2GBs of graphics memory. This tower PC also comes with 16GBs of RAM and a Terabyte, 7,200 RPM hard drive. This, in turn, is connected to a Gigabit Ethernet switch. From there, it links to the internet with a 100Mbps connection.

On this system, besides Windows 10's built-in Edge 38 and Internet Explorer (IE) 11, I tested the latest versions of the most popular desktop web browsers. These are Chrome 56, Firefox 51, and Opera 43. I didn't include Safari in this round-up because Apple no longer releases new major Safari updates for Windows. The 2012 version of Safari, 5.1.7, with some security patches, is still available.

For each round of testings, I ran freshly installed vanilla web browsers after rebooting the system.

I then ran the following series of benchmarks. In the past, I've used RoboHornet as a test. But, like its developers, I've given up on it. This benchmark hasn't been updated since 2012.

JetSteam 1.1: This JavaScript benchmark builds on the foundation of the no-longer-supported SunSpider. It combines several JavaScript benchmarks to report a single score that balances them using geometric mean. JetStream includes benchmarks from the SunSpider 1.0.2 and Octane 2 JavaScript benchmark suites. This test suite also includes benchmarks from the LLVM compiler open-source project, compiled to JavaScript using Emscripten 1.13. It also includes a benchmark based on the Apache Harmony open-source project's HashMap and a port of the Cdx real-time Java benchmark, hand-translated to JavaScript. Larger scores are better on this benchmark.

While Chrome dominates on this test in Windows 7, Edge, which is only available on Windows 10, took first place on JetStream with a score of 253.83. A long way back came Chrome with a score of 213.8. This was followed by Opera with 206.16 and Firefox with 188.87. IE 11 failed on the test.

IE was unable to complete the bigfib.cpp test, which computes very long Fibonacci numbers. This would prove not to be the last test IE 11 was unable to complete.

Kraken 1.1: This benchmark, which is based on the now obsolete SunSpider, also measures JavaScript performance. To this basic JavaScript testing, it added typical use case scenarios. Mozilla, Firefox's parent organization, created Kraken. With this benchmark, the lower the score, the better the result.

With Kraken, it was a different story. Here, Opera, which is based on Google's open-source Chromium web browser, and Blink, Google's WebKit web browser engine fork, took first with 757.5 milliseconds (ms). Opera was followed by Firefox, at 915.3ms. Edge was right behind at third place with 927.1ms. Chrome fell well behind the others with a score of 1,134.6ms. IE stunk the joint up with a miserable score of 1,692.8ms.

Octane 2.0: Google's JavaScript benchmark also includes scenario testing for today's interactive web applications. Octane is not Chrome-specific. For example, it tests how fast Microsoft's TypeScript compiles itself. In this benchmark, the higher the score, the better.

Google may have wrote this benchmark, but Opera won it with a score of 40,356. Chrome couldn't even take second. Second place with 38,806 went to Edge. Chrome was right on its heels with 38,352, and Firefox took the fourth spot with 35,650.

IE once more failed to complete the test. This time it couldn't complete Mozilla's zlib test. This is an old benchmark from the Emscripten suite, which times LLVM-to-JavaScript compiling. Even without completing a full run, IE still came in far, far behind the others with a score of 19.926.

WebXPRT is my favorite browser benchmark. It's produced by the good people at Principled Technology who specialize in benchmarking. That's none too surprising since its senior staff were the founders of the Ziff Davis Benchmark Operation, the gold-standard of PC benchmarking.

WebXPRT 2015 uses scenarios created to mirror every day tasks. It contains six HTML5 and JavaScript-based workloads: Photo Enhancement, Organize Album, Stock Option Pricing, Local Notes, Sales Graphs, and Explore DNA Sequencing. Here, the higher the score, the better the browser.

Edge once again took the blue ribbon with a score of 466. Nipping at its heels was Chrome with 444. Opera was right behind in third with 424 points, while Firefox came next with 416. And IE came in last again with 335.

HTML5 Test: Finally, I checked to see how well each browser complies with the HTML5 web standard. This "test" isn't a benchmark. It just shows how close each browser comes to being in sync with the HTML5 standard. A perfect score, which no one got, would have been 550.

Windows 10 Web Browsers

Picking out the best Windows 10 web browser isn't easy at all. The worse, however, by a country mile, is Internet Explorer 11.


Chrome took home the gold by a nose over Opera, 519 to 516. Edge came in third with a score of 460 and Firefox placed fourth with 416. Way, way back, once more, was IE -- 312.

Looking purely at the scores, one thing pops out immediately. IE 11 on Windows 10 is awful. I've found IE annoying as a web browser since day one when IE was born as a spinoff from Spyglass. I, and many others, were also glad IE 6 finally died long after it became more of an annoyance than a web browser. But, with two failures to run basic tests, it appears that Microsoft is putting IE in for early retirement.

Microsoft Edge, on the other hand, runs much better than it ever has before for me. Edge took the blue ribbon in both JetStream and WebXPRT. If performance were the only criteria, I'd give Edge the win. It's not.

For example, I use extensions a lot. On Chrome, my main browser on all platforms, I use over a dozen extensions every day. They allow me to search through a site using Google, invoke the ZenMate virtual private network (VPN), and save pages to Google Drive. Edge finally supports extensions, but instead of thousands, Edge supports a mere 22. That's not good enough.

Opera, which has been slowly dropping in popularity for years, actually shows up quite well in my tests. For the first time in ages, Opera won two of the benchmarks, Kraken and Octane. It may be time to give Opera another look.

Firefox has been declining in both popularity and speed for some time now. I see no reason for this changing in this go-around.

Chrome, once unquestionably the fastest of the fast, has fallen behind both Edge and Opera. While its HTML5 support is still superb, Google needs to retune it for greater speed.

So, which is the best? To me, it comes down to Chrome, Edge, or Opera. Since I want one browser for all the operating systems I run and a lot of extensions, Chrome's my choice. But if pure speed is what you want, Edge or Opera are both good choices.

Related Stories:

Editorial standards