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What's the fastest Windows 10 web browser in 2021?


The most important program on your PC is your web browser. Oh sure, your bread and butter work may be on QuickBooks, Photoshop, or Premiere Pro, but where do you find information or exchange emails? Answer: Your web browser. Heck, Google has proven that all you really need to do most work is the Chrome web browser on a Chromebook.  And, Microsoft wants you to move to the web-based Windows 365 Cloud PC. And, what do you need to get the most from your web browser? Speed, speed, and still more speed. 

Web browser developers know this, so lately there’s been a lot of effort behind making them ever faster. So, who’s the fastest now?  I put the most popular Windows 10 browsers to the test. 

Here are our contenders in order of popularity. First comes Google Chrome 93. It’s easily the most popular web browser. Next up is Microsoft Edge 93, which recently switched to using Google’s open-source Chromium web browser. Today, except for Mozilla Firefox, all the web browsers that matter, such as Opera, Vivaldi and Brave, run on top of Chrome’s open-source base Chromium. Firefox, while declining in popularity, is the third-most popular Windows web browser.

Believe it or not, Internet Explorer (IE) 11 is still hanging in there, coming in as the next-most popular Windows 10 web browser. However, even on my 2018 browser benchmarks, it was just awful. I took a quick look at it, and I decided that between Microsoft getting ready to retire it and its dreadful performance, I wouldn’t waste time benchmarking it. If you’re still using IE, just stop already. You’ll be better with anything else.

Firefox was followed by Opera 78. This was originally a Norwegian-based browser, but it was acquired by a Chinese private-equity company in 2016. Next is Brave 1.29. This open-source browser’s owners claim to do the best job of protecting your privacy. Still, in 2020 they admitted to sharing default autocomplete answers with an affiliate cryptocurrency exchange. Finally, there’s Vivaldi 4.1. This was started by Opera expatriates, who missed the original Opera’s community and look-and-feel. 

Although all of these browsers, except Firefox, are clone brothers, they do not have the same performance. Each vendor has changed the Chromium code to make them quite different from each other. 

I benchmarked these browsers on my Windows 10 Beelink GTR7 Mini test PC. This runs Window 10 Pro May 2021 Update, version 21H1. It’s powered by a 4GHz AMD Ryzen 7 3750H processor. The CPU is backed by 16GB DDR4 RAM. For storage, it comes equipped with a 512GB NVMe SSD. It’s connected to the internet via my NETGEAR 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Unmanaged Switch (GS108) and a Spectrum Gigabit cable connection, which really delivers just over 900 Megabits per second (Mbps) speeds. 

With everything ready and the PC cleaned up of all non-essential software, it was time for testing.

JetSteam 2

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

Chrome won this competition easily with a score of 114.132. Opera, somewhat to my surprise, came in second with 105.95. Behind it was Edge with 103.774. Next was Vivaldi with 100.437, with a small lead over Brave’s 99.231. The real surprise, though, was Firefox with a dismal 73.208.

Speedometer 2.0

Speedometer is a newish web browser benchmark. Created by Apple’s WebKit team, it measures the responsiveness of JavaScript-based Web applications. To do this, it uses demo web applications to simulate user actions such as adding to-do items. Once more, higher scores are better on this test. 

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Once more, Chrome comes out comfortably on top with a score of 124. Only Edge came relatively close to Chrome by scoring 109.1. Dropping way back, Chrome and Edge were followed by Opera at 99.3, and Firefox at 90.3. Then, there’s another considerable dropoff in performance to Vivaldi at 80.4 and Brave at 79.3.

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 in milliseconds (ms), the better the result.

You would think that Firefox should ace this benchmark. It doesn’t. Chrome took first place here with 891.9 ms. Opera came in a distant second with 974.1 ms. Behind it came Edge at 1016.8ms Vivaldi at 1043.8 ms and Brave at 1059.2 ms in a logjam. Then, and only then, does Firefox make a last-place appearance with a pathetic 1279 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 39,828. Behind it there’s a pile-up for second place with Opera at 37,789, Vivaldi at 36,417,  Brave with 37,072 and Edge with 37,019. Way, way back in last place, you’ll find Firefox with 20,014.

WebXPRT 3.0

The latest version of WebXPRT is the best browser benchmark available today. It’s produced by the benchmark professionals at Principled Technology This company’s senior staff 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 213. Chrome took second place with 187. Then, there’s a pile-up from third through fifth place: Edge and Opera are in a dead tie for third with 178. They’re followed by Vivaldi at 170 and Brave at 165.

HTML 5 web standard

You’d think by 2021, 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, four of the browsers — Brave, Chrome, Vivaldi and Edge — scored 528. Opera, with 526, scored just below the quartet.  In last place was Firefox with 513.

Final Results

So, which is really the fastest? It used to be a real mixed bag in my earlier browser tests, but these days Google Chrome has a solid lead over everyone else. The one exception was Firefox, which usually scored dead last, but did manage to snag a surprise win on the WebXPRT benchmark.

I have other problems with Firefox, including both its management and its developers’ indifference to what Firefox users want from the browser. So for me, it’s an easy choice. The best, and largely the fastest, web browser is Chrome. If privacy is your top priority, however, keep looking.  

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