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Internet Explorer 10: "fast" and "native" has gone to other browsers

by Ashley | 19th, March 2012

Browsers are improving faster than ever. Since our last HTML5 gaming performance measurements there have been 3 new releases of Firefox and 2 new releases of Chrome. There have been no official updates of Internet Explorer, but Microsoft have released the Windows 8 Consumer Preview which includes a beta of Internet Explorer 10. In just a mere three or four months, could browsers have improved much? It turns out yes, by quite a lot! Things are moving incredibly quickly in modern web browsers.

Since Construct 2's HTML5 engine has been tweaked a fair bit since November, I recompiled our previous performance tests with the latest release (r82) and re-ran them on the same machine as last time (see the link above for details). Since IE10 is a beta release due some time later this year, I've compared it to the next generation of other browsers: Chrome 18 beta (due as a full release shortly) and the Firefox 12 beta (due as a full release in a few weeks). Note that Firefox 12 introduces a significant optimisation that benefits Construct 2's engine greatly, so note if you run the tests yourself on Firefox 11 or earlier you may get worse results. I've also added IE9 to the graphs since its slower release cycle means it will be the one competing with the next versions of Chrome and Firefox until IE10 is released and gains market share. This typically happens very slowly with Internet Explorer releases - according to Net Applications, IE9 even now only has a 12.6% market share, less than half of the three-years-old IE8, so presumably it will take years before IE10 is the most-used version of IE.

Try out the canvas 2D performance test or WebGL-enabled performance test yourself. They measure the maximum number of objects that can render at 30fps. Results on the test machine are below. (Note these were all run on Windows 7, except IE10 which currently only runs on Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The same computer was used for both, though.)

HTML5 2D performance analysis - March 2012 update

Chrome 18's 2D canvas is already faster than IE9's. Firefox 12 has a faster 2D canvas than both IE9 and IE10 - already! This means even independent HTML5 game developers not using a WebGL-enabled engine like Construct 2 should see Chrome and Firefox performing better than IE9. And of course using WebGL, both Firefox and Chrome demolish both IE9 and IE10. WebGL is really fast!

In the space of just a few months, Firefox has improved by 146% for Canvas 2D and 72% for WebGL. Chrome has improved by 44% for Canvas 2D and for some reason measured a little slower on the WebGL test, but it still holds the #1 spot as fastest overall. Internet explorer improved by 37% for Canvas 2D. An improvement, but even without WebGL other browsers have caught up or overtaken. Still, the general pace of improvement in the browser market is impressive.

You might be wondering: why would you want to show thousands of blue rectangles on a screen anyway? Isn't this unrealistic? What is this useful for?

Answer: particle effects.

HTML5 particle effect demo

Click here to see Construct 2's particle effects demo. This is an eye-catching effect, and precisely the kind of thing that needs raw rendering power to make it work smoothly. With WebGL rendering it can run smoothly at 60fps, but both IE9 and IE10 struggle with the effect chugging along below 20fps. See the framerate results below:

HTML5 particle effect performance results

Given the previous performance results, I'm not sure why Internet Explorer falls even further behind, but it's still an example of a more real-world test rather than blue boxes filling your screen.

Internet Explorer 9 was the first browser to introduce a hardware-accelerated 2D canvas, and they deserve credit for that. Since then, the marketing around IE9 has highlighted its performance benefits. However, according to our tests this is about to change, and it looks to us like Internet Explorer can no longer be said to be the fastest browser even if you ignore WebGL and only measure the 2D canvas. On top of that, WebGL is still much faster and has big real-world performance benefits. Microsoft have also described IE9 as "unlocking Native HTML5 Experiences on the Web", noting "there is a real cost in terms of performance when browsers rely on abstraction layers when it comes to hardware and OS." This is more true than they seem to realise: WebGL allows direct programming of the graphics card (as "native" apps would), bypassing even the canvas 2D in the browser (which is an abstraction layer), resulting in the faster performance and better experience. So Firefox and Chrome are faster for the reasons even Microsoft point out! And it looks like it is going to stay this way for a long time. So it looks like Microsoft marketing needs to change their tune: fast and native has gone to other browsers.

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Jailson 12.9k rep

Chrome owns! :)

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 10:43:34 PM
ludodesign 30.7k rep

Oh!... good news!

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 10:45:37 PM
87santito 2,895 rep

webgl amazing!

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 10:50:15 PM
kataryna 6,057 rep

this looks awsome !

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 10:52:38 PM
Ashley 198.7k rep

@Jailson I think Firefox owns the most in this post...!

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 10:53:46 PM
ElCapitan 5,599 rep

sad, sad, ie.

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 11:04:47 PM
sqiddster 32.7k rep

Finally... something other than Chrome with decent performance. Safari and IE really need to get with the game, however :/

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 11:05:07 PM
Kiyoshi 13.4k rep

My results on ancient hardware: core 2 duo e8400 / geforce 9600gt:

2d :

5561 firefox 14a1 WINS
5541 firefox 12
3300 IE9
3000 chrome 19
2991 chrome 17
191 opera 11.61

webgl :

28440 firefox 12 WINS omg almost 30000. I made a similar test with desktop native engines recently and could get no more than 30000 sprites ! It's practically on par with native engines !!

27351 firefox 14a1
17881 chrome 17
16512 chrome 19
opera: fail :)


chrome 17 - 50fps 870particles
chrome 19 - 60fps 840particles
firefox 12 - 60fps 880particles WINS
firefox 14 - 58fps 860particles
IE9: WHAT ? :)

Result: Firefox Wins. I may have to come back to it :)

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 11:13:08 PM
gaboduarte 13.8k rep

It's weird... The video from Windows 8 shows Cut The Rope running on HTML5 and Javascript ( -1:35) on a tablet, and them on a pc... And I was like "WOOOOO here comes IE10"

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 11:15:17 PM
Dobandon 6,366 rep

Great read thanks!

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 11:20:24 PM
DravenX 7,176 rep

Hold on , I only get 20 fps with chrome ,the latest update and 15 fps with firefox ,also the latest update.I wont mention IE cause it does not count as a fully fledged html5 beast.I do however get some significant improvements when i test it on my new pc though.When benchmarking could you please show the specs off the pc your testing it with.

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 11:38:33 PM
dssonthenet 3,325 rep

Good to know browsers are getting better!

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 11:45:24 PM
Armitage1982 3,344 rep

I wonder if soon we are about to reach binary release performances. So around 30.000 particles at 60 FPS or even much more !

Actually there is a lot of others area where raw rendering power is needed like multiple tilemap layers, polygons rendering, breaking textured objects, etc.

Of course, this is a comparative test. But maybe it would be more interesting to test a full featured game with loading, logic, IA, etc.

Is the javascript engine improved also on these new generation browsers ?

Monday, March 19, 2012 at 11:48:06 PM
arevirlegna 3,809 rep

It seems Microsoft has been gradually loosing ground in many areas of desktop computing. The only time I use IE is to download Firefox!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 12:52:25 AM
Ashley 198.7k rep

@DravenX, it depends on if you get hardware-acceleration, which needs latest drivers (and some graphics cards are still blocked). Generally new PCs are fine and get hardware acceleration. Specs of the test machine are in the previous post, it's got a new graphics card.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 12:57:46 AM

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