How to Benchmark Your Browser for HTML 5

The Benchmarks

A large number of HTML 5 and JavaScript performance tests exist; I selected three that looked pretty good. Of the three, only one--Futuremark’s Peacekeeper--behaves like the standard benchmarks designed to assess desktop PC performance. Peacekeeper runs a range of tests, including Web page rendering, HTML 5 with WebGL, HTML 5 canvas, and HTML 5 video, and it generates a single score at the end.

Futuremark's Peacekeeper tests a wide range of Web rendering capabilities, including various HTML 5 features.

Asteroids looks 3D, but it’s really a 2D HTML 5 canvas drawing test. The artwork looks slick, and it’s based on an actual game developed in HTML 5. Like Peacekeeper, it spits out a single score, but it also generates an average-frame-rate number.

The third test is the Impact HTML5 Benchmark. This one is also based on an actual HTML 5 game, and the author admits on his blog that Impact “tests one very specific use case: smooth running games rendered with the element.”

HTML5 Benchmark runs through a side-scrolling shooter game level, purely testing performance in this style of game using HTML 5.

Benchmarking Your Browser

One important note: For benchmarking, you need a robust broadband connection. I’m not talking about raw bandwidth, but rather reliability. The last thing you want during a benchmark run is to have your system burp due to a DNS error or some other network-related problem.

As with any performance testing, you’ll want a clean system. In this case, however, that means something a little different than the norm: In hardware benchmarking, of course, you want a clean install of the OS, but with Web browser testing you also need to make sure that the browser itself is clean. This process involves tidying up several different aspects of your browser.

  • Uninstall your existing version and do a fresh install. In today’s world of automatically updated browsers, this step isn’t completely necessary, but starting fresh is still the best approach.
  • When you install, make sure not to install additional toolbars inadvertently. Sometimes browser installs--particularly if they don’t come from the original source--will carry assorted toolbars as options. Typically you have to opt out to ensure that the installer doesn't add these toolbars to the browser.
  • Purge all add-ins and plug-ins. It’s not good enough to just check the browser’s plug-in page in the options settings. If you’re running on Windows, you should also look at the Windows Add/Remove Programs control panel, since some browser add-ins need to be uninstalled the same way normal applications do.
  • Confirm that your network and graphics drivers are current.

When you run the benchmark, have only the one tab open (unless the benchmark itself opens additional tabs). Most of these tests don’t have performance-sucking Flash advertisements or background animations running, but the sites in your other tabs might.

Next Page: Browser Performance Sample Results

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