Coding Horror

programming and human factors

A need for speed-- and silence

Wondering which browser is fastest? These guys ran browser speed tests across an impressive array of operating systems. The hardware used is mildly obsolete by today's standards-- an 800mhz P3 with 256mb of RAM-- but there's no reason to think the benchmark results wouldn't scale to faster machines:

So overall, Opera seems to be the fastest browser for windows. Firefox is not faster than Internet Explorer, except for scripting, but for standards support, security and features, it is a better choice. However, it is still not as fast as Opera, and Opera also offers a high level of standards support, security and features.

On Linux, Konqueror is the fastest for starting and viewing basic pages on KDE, but as soon as script or images are involved, or you want to use the back or forward buttons, or if you use Gnome, Opera is a faster choice, even though on KDE it will take a few seconds longer to start. Mozilla and Firefox give an overall good performance, but their script, cache handling and image-based page speed still cannot compare with Opera.

On Mac OS X, Opera and Safari are both very fast, with Safari 2 being faster at starting and rendering CSS, but with Opera still being distinguishably faster for rendering tables, scripting and history (especially compared with the much slower Safari 1.2). Camino is fast to start, but then it joins its sisters Mozilla and Firefox further down the list. Neither Mozilla, Firefox nor IE perform very well on Mac, being generally slower than on other operating systems.

Too bad Google Maps doesn't work on Opera, eh? Maybe the chief technical officer of Opera should spend less time dissing Microsoft, and more time wondering why Google can't write cross-browser compatible code.

I also noticed that there are finally wireless routers on the market that include gigabit switches. I like gigabit, but I don't want another box in the house. It's much more convenient to get it all in one place, and now I can with the D-Link DGL-4300. The one review I found at ExtremeTech was positive. Standard 100baseT rates about 10 megabytes/sec in real world throughput; gigabit should only be limited by hard disk read/write speed and OS overhead.

When it comes to CPUs, unless you're doing a lot of video encoding, you probably already have more performance than you need. With all the emphasis on quiet computing these days, the more interesting question is: how quiet can you make your PC? The CPU is the #1 power consumer in your PC, by far-- on the order of 50 to 100+ watts all by itself-- and power consumption directly equates to heat production. If you want a quiet computer, it's best to start with a CPU that won't undermine your efforts (eg, the Prescott P4). The most interesting processors are the ones with the best balance of performance and energy consumption. Right now that's the Athlon 64 (Winchester core) and the desktop Pentium-M. I highly recommend reading GamePC's Battle at 90nm: Power Consumption and Performance Compared, as well as Silent PC Review's Pentium M desktop platform review. Both of these processors support dynamic speed and voltage reduction, a technology inherited from laptops but quickly becoming standard on the desktop.

Per SPCR's tests, it is relatively easy to build a near-passively cooled performance desktop with the Pentium-M. And that's an amazing achievement. For an idea of how difficult passive cooling is to achieve with a Pentium 4, check out this massive Zalman passively cooled case that sells for $1,200!

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Overflow and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: