Google Chrome for iOS vs Safari: an in-depth speed and feature test

Features Matt Bene 16:33, 3 Jul 2012

We look at how the new Chrome for iOS compares to Apple's Safari and what new features Chrome has

We've tested Google's Chrome Browser for iOS against Apple's default Safari Browser on an iPad 3 tethered to a 3G Android device on Three.

The iPad 3 uses the A5X processor, Apple's most up-to-date chip. All tests were run on the same iPad 3 keeping every test equal.

Speed Tests

We used six different mobile browser benchmarks to test each browser's performance: BrowserMark, SunSpider JavaScript test, Peacekeeper by Futuremark, V8 Benchmark Suite, The HTML5 test and CSS Rendering Benchmark.

BrowserMark and Peacekeeper are in-browser tests that indicate how well each browser handles JavaScript, HTML5, and other tasks, while SunSpider and V8 test JavaScript, which is a dynamic style scripting language. The HTML5 test rates the ability to support HTML5. The CSS Rendering Benchmark tests the speed at which the browser reads different formatting.

BrowserMark: Safari

Testing HTML5 and Java rendering, BrowserMark kicks out a score and the highest score wins. Safari scored 100,674 while Chrome only managed 49,654. According to this test, Safari runs about 2x faster than Chrome.

Safari - 100,647

Chrome - 49,654

SunSpider: Safari

SunSpider runs JavaScript tests for pure speed, so, of course, lowest time wins. Here, Safari completed the test in 1,808.6 milliseconds while Chrome took 7,249.7 milliseconds to complete the test. Chrome was about 4x slower than Safari in this test.

Safari - 1,808.6 ms

Chrome - 7,249.7 ms

Peacekeeper: Safari

In another test that runs JavaScript and HTML, Safari again came out a winner. Like BrowserMark, Peacekeeper gives an overall score and the highest number wins. Safari scored a 379 while Chrome scored a 256. According to Peacekeeper, Safari comes in about 1.5x faster than Chrome.

Safari - 379

Chrome - 256

V8 Benchmark Suite Version 7: Safari

The V8 test is created by Google and tests JavaScript benchmarks that are used to tune V8, Google's JavaScript engine. In theory, Chrome should perform well in this test because the code is optimised for Chrome, but again Safari scored much higher. Safari scored 433 while Chrome scored 113, almost 4x faster.

Safari - 433

Chrome - 113

The HTML5 test: Draw

This test simply rates your browser's ability to support HTML5 and gives a score out of 500, higher being better. ‘Even though the specification isn't finalized yet, all major browser manufacturers are making sure their browser is ready for the future.' In this test both browsers scored 324 with ‘9 bonus points.'

Safari - 324

Chrome - 324

CSS Rendering Benchmark: Draw

This CSS test determines the speed at which the browser formats a page when it loads. After running this test, both Safari and Chrome finished in 15 milliseconds.

Safari - 15 ms

Chrome - 15 ms

Eye Test: Chrome

When using the browsers to surf the web, Chrome is noticeably faster when loading webpages. It seemed strange that Chrome lost every benchmark test, but still seemed faster when browsing.

The answer is Safari's Nitro JavaScript engine. Rendering and the JavaScript engine on Chome were provided by iOS through UIWebView because Chrome does not have access to the Nitro JavaScript engine.

Users may experience slower scrolling on Chrome because of UIWebView, but we didn't notice any slower speeds. This also helps Safari score better than Chrome on tests like BrowserMark and V8 because Safari renders in a background thread while Chrome renders on the same thread as the rest of the page

This difference is noticeable on webpages like Facebook and Gmail where the page is changing without refreshing. This would be like the Facebook News Feed that continuously loads new data. Safari would slightly out perform Chrome because it loads this new data in the background while Chrome must load it in the main thread.

Chrome Features

The key feature of the Chrome is the ability to synchronise the browser across multiple devices, desktop, iPad and iPhone, and continue browsing on the go. The new synchronisation system moves all bookmarks and settings from other devices and allows you to open any tabs currently open on other devices you are signed in on. Not only does this feature work on iOS devices, but it works across all platforms at once: desktop, iOS and Android.

Chrome for iOS is designed to look just like Chrome for your desktop and the tabbed browsing is slightly different than the tabs on Safari. On Chrome, you can add as many tabs as you'd like compared to only nine in Safari.

Also added to Chrome is the Incognito tab. This feature is similar to the desktop Incognito mode, but not identical. Because Chrome uses UIWebView, HTML5 local storage is shared between Incognito and regular tabs. History is not kept, passwords are not remembered, OmniBox suggestions are disabled and cookies and cache are separated.

One feature lacking from Chrome and iOS is the ability to set Chrome as the default browser. On iOS devices, Safari is set as the default and when accessing the web through apps or links, Safari always opens the webpage.

This can be changed if the iOS device is jailbroken. The third-party app BrowserChooser allows users to set Chrome, or any other mobile browser, as the default browser on the device.

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