The IE9 preview has been out for a while (if you haven’t checked it out, then do so here – it’s a quick install that will sit side by side with your existing browsers, including IE8) and as the “wild story” dust settles serious posts are starting to emerge about the future of IE and browsers in general.
Yesterday a post on the IE blog compared IE9′s 2D rendering example (“Flying Images“) with other major (released) browsers including Chrome 4.1, Safari 4.0.5 and Firefox 3.6. Unfortunately (as pointed out by this slashdot story) the IE blog have chosen to compare a pre release of IE9 with a release of everything else, skipping (for example) Firefox’s nightly versions which already include 2D acceleration.
Sidetrack – Pet Peeve: Along with recent trends to create infographics for everything, more and more sites display pretty graphs showing different measurements and statistics, without showing – in a reproducible way – how they got to them. Kudos to the IE blog for stating that they used xperf, now if only they’d show which perf counters and settings they were hitting…
With a distinct lack of time ahead and no time to properly reproduce the results in xperf, I’ve decided to quickly reproduce the test on my hardware, relying on the software FPS counter (which in the end is king, since that’s what the user is going to see on their screen) and the trusty old “CPU Usage History” counters in Task Manager. I did start using xperf and Windows’ “Performance Monitor”, but the numbers are essentially the same and less confusing.
System Specs: My dev machine (at work) is a relatively souped up machine – Intel Core i7 @ 2.67GHz, 6GB of memory running Windows 7 Enterprise 64-bit.
CPU Usage at Test Start
IE9 clocks in with 63 FPS and an extremely low CPU usage. During the test I can see activities on 3 of the 8 virtual cores peaking at around the 20% of each. Average CPU during the test is a flat 3%.
IE9 Doing the Rounds
Low CPU Usage Across all cores
Firefox 20100408 3.7a5pre
Firefox nightly, with 2D acceleration enabled, clocks in at 48 FPS with a little more activity on the CPU (a fluctuating 9-10% with activity on 4 cores peaking at around 30%).
Firefox Nightly Gets Into the Fray
Respectably low CPU usage for Firefox
Chrome 184.108.40.2065 (42898)
Chrome clocks in at 2 FPS with a flat 12% CPU usage caused by heavy usage of one core peaking at just over 80%.
Chrome valiantly tries to keep up
One Core To Rule Them All...
All in all the behaviour of these browsers on my machine indicates that the IE blog was spot on with their general analysis that hardware acceleration is the way of the future. Chrome’s reliance on one CPU core to achieve rendering in this scenario doesn’t get it very far whereas Firefox and IE9, when taking full advantage of the hardware capabilities of the host cruise through this example with flying colours.
Time will tell how many applications will actually come to rely on this type of hardware acceleration for good performance, but with the rise of Canvas based applications who knows what we may be playing in-browser next?