Home & Office

What's Windows 10's fastest web browser in 2020?

Everyone says their latest web browser is the fastest one ever. They can't all be right. I took them to the test bench. Here's what I found.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The single most important program on pretty much everyone's PC these days is the web browser. Indeed, Chromebooks show you can have a useful laptop with only a web browser. 

But which Windows 10 web browser is the fastest of them all? I put the most popular Windows 10 browsers to the test. 

Here are our contenders in popularity order. First comes Google Chrome 84, with its new popup blocker. Next up is Microsoft Edge 84, which recently switched to using Google's open-source Chromium web browser. Believe it or not, Internet Explorer (IE) 11 is the next most popular Windows 10 web browser. But even on my last browser benchmarks in 2018, it was the worst of the worst. I took a quick look at it, and I decided between Microsoft getting ready to retire it and its awful performance, I wouldn't waste time benchmarking it. If you're still using IE, just stop already. You'll be better with anything else.

After IE, we have the sadly declining Mozilla Firefox 79. While it's still an innovation leader, fewer and fewer people are using it. Today, only 3.3% of all web browser users are working with the fox. 

Firefox was followed by Opera 68, originally a Norweigan-based browser, which was acquired by a Chinese private-equity company in 2016. Next is Brave 1.11. This open-source browser claimed to do the best job of protecting your privacy. Recently, however, its privacy reputation has taken some dents. Finally, there's Vivaldi 3.1. This was started by Opera expatriates, who missed the original Opera's community and look-and-feel. These browsers are all based on Google's open-source Chromium code.

Yes, that's right. All these browsers, except Firefox, are essentially, if not twins, very close siblings. You might think that this would mean they'd all have pretty much the same performance. You'd be wrong. 

I benchmarked these browsers on my Windows 10 test PC, a Dell XPS 8910. It's powered by a 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-6700 Quad-Core Processor, backed by an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750Ti graphics card with 2GB of graphics memory. This system is running with Windows 10 Home, Version 2004. This older tower PC comes with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB 7,200 RPM hard drive. For networking, the system is connected to a 100Mbps internet connection via a Gigabit Ethernet switch. 

JetSteam 2

First up: JetSteam 2.0, which is made up of 64 smaller tests. This JavaScript and WebAssembly benchmark suite focused on advanced web applications. It rewards browsers that start up quickly, execute code quickly, and run smoothly. Higher scores are better on this benchmark.

JetStream's top-scorer was Brave with 101.185. But, right behind it within the margin of error, were Chrome, 99.97 and Vivaldi, 99.329. Right behind these three was Opera with 98.688. Then Edge falls behind with a score of 94.967. The real surprise, though, was Firefox which trailed badly with 88.229.

Kraken 1.1

Next up: Kraken 1.1. This benchmark, which is based on the long-obsolete SunSpider, 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.

To no great surprise, Firefox took first place here with 1,085.8 milliseconds (ms). Following closely on its heels was 1,104.5 ms. Then came Opera with 1,085.8 ms, Brave with 1,104.5 ms. and Chrome with 1,131.1 ms. Then, there's a dropoff to Edge with 1,192.7 ms and, in last place, Vivaldi with 1,201.5 ms. 

Octane 2.0

Octane 2.0, Google's JavaScript benchmark, is no longer supported, but it's still a useful benchmark thanks to its scenario testing for 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.

On this Google benchmark, Chrome took the blue ribbon with a score of 38,652. Right behind it in second place was Brave with 38,615. Then, there's a dead-heat for third with Vivaldi at 37,836, edging out Opera with 37,822. Edge drops back with 36,497. And, way back in last place, you'll find Firefox at 30,719.

WebXPRT 3.0

The latest version of WebXPRT is arguably the best browser benchmark available today. It's produced by the benchmark professionals at Principled Technology This company's executives were the founders of the Ziff Davis Benchmark Operation, the gold-standard of PC benchmarking.

WebXPRT uses scenarios created to mirror everyday tasks. These include Photo Enhancement, Organize Album, Stock Option Pricing, Local Notes, Sales Graphs, and DNA Sequencing. Here, the higher the score, the better the browser.

On this benchmark, Firefox shines. It was an easy winner with a score of 176. There was a bunch-up for second through fifth: Vivaldi, 157; Opera, 155;  Brave, 154; and Chrome 152. Then dropping off quite a bit, you'll find Edge, 142, in last place.

HTML 5 web standard

You'd think by 2020, every browser would comply with the HTML 5 web standard, which became a standard in 2014. You'd be wrong. This "test" isn't a benchmark. It just shows how close each browser comes to being in sync with the HTML 5 standard. A perfect score, which none got, would have been 550.

For a real change of pace with web HTML compatibility, Microsoft, which in years past was dreadful at sticking to standards, took top honors with 532. Then, there's a four-way tie for second-place, with Brave, Chrome, Opera, and Vivaldi at 528. In last place, believe it or not, is Firefox with 514.

Final Results

So, which is really the fastest? Frankly, the results are a real mixed bag. But, all-in-all, Brave, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Vivaldi all have their bright spots. Edge, however, performs consistently poorly. This may be because Microsoft is still getting a handle on its new Chromium-based version of Edge. With time, we can expect Edge's developers to do a better job of tuning its performance. 

Frankly, I don't see any performance reasons to switch from one browser to another. I've been happily using Chrome for years now across platforms, and I won't be changing. If you're happy using Firefox or one of the others, go ahead and stick with it. There's no compelling reason to switch browsers.

Related Stories:

Editorial standards