(image courtesy : Kexzey, Deviantart)
Firefox 14.0.1 has been released for PC, after Mozilla’s decision to refocus more resources on the browser and the upcoming Mobile OS Boot 2 Gecko, providing only maintenance updates to its standalone email client Thunderbird. The new release packs in as usual, a number of performance and security fixes, although this time, there was more focus on security enhancements and fixes rather than UI changes of the previous release.
We decided to pit it against the latest stable incarnations of Chrome, Opera (which promised some significant improvements) ,and the Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8. The results were pretty interesting to say the least.
Download: Firefox 14.0.1 [16.0 MB]
Key Changes in Firefox 14
Awesome Bar auto completion.
A very handy new addition is the auto completion of URLs in the awesome bar, as you type. A speed booster for sure.
Click to Play Plugins
This new feature lets you allow plugins to work only on demand. As you might be guessing, the best use of this feature would be using Adobe Flash only on YouTube and disabling it by default for all other sites, until you want to see the pesky flash content which are (still) displayed on many sites.
This features is disabled by default. To enable it head over to about:config and set plugins.click_to_play flag to True.
Mac OS X improvements
After a long wait, full screen support has been finally implemented for Lion users. Mozilla should have implemented this feature long back on the OS X platform where it is trailing behind Safari and Chrome in usability.
Changed Site Identity
Starting from this release, Mozilla has changed site identity scheming for Firefox for more consistency and increasing security by removing the ability for Websites to spoof the favicon. It can be detected at a glance if the site uses an SSL encryption as well as EV certificate (Extended Validation).
The benchmarks were ran on a HP G42-478TX notebook with Core i3 370M 2.4Ghz, 6 GB DDR3 1066Mhz RAM, Western Digital 500 GB Hard Drive churning 5400 RPM, ATI Radeon 6370M with the latest Catalyst 12.7 Beta drivers running Windows 7 64 Bit. Internet Explorer 10 Benchmark was run on Windows 8 Release Preview 64 bit on a dual boot.
This time all addons were disabled as requested by some of our readers. Each test was ran twice successively and the best score was taken.
Chrome does not face any real competition when it comes to Google v8 as Firefox 14 comes at a distant second. Though we can not help thinking sometimes that Chrome has been heavily optimized for the v8 benchmark. IE 10 RC and Opera 12 are better not spoken about.
A real surprise, IE 10 RC superseded all other browsers in this benchmark. While Chrome and Firefox were neck to neck with Chrome taking a minor lead, Opera 12 remained slightly behind. Sadly this is the only benchmark where Explorer delivers.
The time around Firefox 14 has managed to narrow the margin with Chrome; Opera and Explorer on the other hand were trailing by biblical proportions. Opera 12 was particularly disappointing.
WebGL Hardware Acceleration
We decided to replace Mozilla’s Hardware stress test with WebGL Fish tank demo as with the former every modern browser clocked 60 FPS. Chrome performed brilliantly clocking 60 FPS straight. Firefox struggled a tad bit, but delivered a respectable 45 FPS. Opera 12 was a welcome addition as it is the first major release shipping support for WebGL and hardware acceleration. The lack of any support for WebGL in IE 10 is disappointing.
We opened 10 Tabs without any flash video to make sure that the notorious Adobe plugin doesn’t mess with browser scores. All the memory consumptions were noted with Process Explorer. As in the past, Firefox literally blew every other browser with its insanely tight memory consumption : just 260 MB churning 10 tabs. All thanks to the past improvements and memory recycling , Firefox does an excellent job of marshaling the memory available at its disposal. Any old school rant that Firefox leaks memory would be sheer display of ignorance. A special mention must go to Opera 12 for remarkable progress reducing memory consumption.
We ignored CPU consumption this time around, as the pages we loaded were largely static and all the modern browsers automatically scale down to near zero CPU usage after page loading
So the best browser?
Well it would be hard to say! Though none of them are picture perfect, Firefox and Chrome are just the browsers you need. Each of them has its own fair share of grievances. For Firefox, the interface lags at times, lack of good web extensions like Chrome has, and flash issues (Thank you, Adobe) continue to annoy users. Still with its competitive performance, terrific memory management,and unparalleled security features Firefox is the a great browser for everyday use, especially if you use more than a handful tabs in your browser.
Chrome is a great browser, but given the flack it has been receiving over privacy issues ( Remember : Chrome still does not have a do not track feature which every other browser has), shoddy memory management, and ever increasing bloat, it is hard to recommend it as a main browser, but it is definitely not disposable. Chrome stands out when it comes to sites which demand good hardware acceleration, and offers some decent web extensions . Also Chrome supports HTML5 videos with H264 and webm format where Firefox is stuck due to its philosophical stand.
For Opera though, we feel the devs should focus more on performance and stability rather than piling on more features. There are still page loading issues and the hardware acceleration is just beginning to mature. The next release though, should stabilize a lot of things. Internet Explorer 10 looks promising, but given the terribly slow release cycle, it simply can not match the other browsers.