Browser Performance Match-up: Windows 10 IE With Spartan Engine vs. Chrome and Firefox

When we reported on the release of Microsoft's latest preview build last week, we mentioned that while Cortana made an entrance, the much-anticipated Spartan browser did not. But little did we realize that some of Spartan made the cut, in the form of an experimental rendering engine hidden under IE's hood.

As we learned in late December, Microsoft has separated its Trident engine into two separate versions: one is for Spartan, now called EdgeHTML, while the other remains with Internet Explorer. The reason Microsoft doesn't simply forego the lesser version is due to compatibility, which is hugely important in the enterprise sector.

If you're running the Windows 10 9926 build, chances are good that you're automatically taking advantage of the new EdgeHTML engine in IE. To check, you can type 'about:flags' into the address bar. "Automatic" means that the non-Spartan Trident engine will be called-upon only if needed; in all other cases, you'll be taking advantage of the future Spartan web rendering engine.

IE Experimental Features

With the new EdgeHTML engine in hand, we thought this would be as good a time as any to give it a performance test, and of course compare it to the competition. Being in beta, we'd never suggest that the data here is representative of what we'll see at launch, but it's a good first look. It could be that Microsoft is still polishing it up in advance of launch, and it goes without saying that the competition will continue to make improvements as well.

For testing, I installed build 9926 fresh to a PC equipped with an Intel Core i7-4960X, 32GB of DDR3-1600 RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, using the latest (347.25) graphics drivers.

IE 11 (Spartan) IE 11 (Old) Chrome 40 Firefox 35
WebXPRT 2013 1505 1219 1718 1657
HTML5test 351 339 511 449
Octane 2.0 28457 17448 31208 29322
Kraken 1.1 * 1227.6 ms 2027.3 ms 1274.7 ms 1148.3 ms
Sunspider 1.0.2 * 101.2 ms 107.6 ms 174.7 ms 164.1 ms
Peacekeeper 2848 2701 4527 4211
* Lower results are better.

Old versus new, the IE results are like night and day in spots. Some of the improvements are significant. IE's Sunspider result already outperforms the competition, but it's been further improved here, and with Kraken, the latency with the Spartan-bound Trident fork dropped 40%. Similar results are seen with the boost in the Octane test.

It's notable, though, that where HTML5-specific tests are concerned, IE still falls flat. Both Chrome and Firefox exhibit great results in Peacekeeper and HTML5test. Hopefully this would be an area Microsoft plans to tackle before final launch, because with HTML5 so important to the future of the Web. It would be great to see IE/Spartan deliver scores on par with Google's and Mozilla's browser.

It goes without saying, though, that Microsoft appears to be seriously working some magic here. The new EdgeHTML engine is far better than the old IE engine. It's as if Spartan will finally bring Microsoft out of the browser dark ages. It will be interesting to see how the performance evolves over the next couple of builds.