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IE8 RC1 tested: the good, the bad, and how it stacks up

While it's not likely to win back power users that have moved on to browsers like Chrome or Firefox, IE8 RC1 is a definite improvement. To the average user, features like accelerators, slices, and visual search, along with the built-in privacy and safety features, will likely make RC1 an appealing option.

To see how RC1 compares to the competition, I ran it through Sunspider and Acid3. There's been plenty of debate before about how useful these tests are. At the very least, they provide a little insight about what's going on under the hood.

As expected, the Acid test was abyssmal. RC1 failed to render the page correctly and only managed a 20 (compared to a 71 in Firefox 3.0.5 and a 77 in Chrome).

Again, RC1 failed to impress - unless you're impressed by slowness. Its test time was nearly one-and-a-half that of Firefox and more than four times that of Chrome. Keep in mind that these times will be very different based upon the hardware you use - but the "standings" should be the same.

  • IE8 RC1: 10311.8ms
  • Opera 9.63: 8647.0ms
  • Firefox 3.0.5: 6930.6ms
  • Chrome 1.2: 2134.0ms
Startup Times
Somewhat surprisingly, IE8 performed well here, besting both Firefox and Opera.
  • Firefox: 1.4s
  • Opera: 0.529s
  • IE8 RC1: 0.3589s
  • Chrome: 0.2883s
Memory Usage
IE is better than it has been in the past, but still lags behind the others.
  • IE8 RC1: 130,004
  • Opera: 107,528
  • Firefox: 106,560
  • Chrome: 93,620

A few good things...

  • Accelerators are cool - they provide a ton of additional functionality with just a few clicks.
  • Web slices are a great idea. Now if only there were more than two or three worth installing...
  • Smart Screen is like Linus' grubby old blanket - not overly useful, but reassuring nonetheless.
  • Visual Search previews work very well for sites like Amazon and eBay.
  • The zoom tool is still very handy, especially on smaller displays.
  • Developer tools are very solid - kind of like Firebug, but they're baked right in.
  • Memory usage has been improved over IE7.

A few bad things...

  • The RC1 download weighs in at just over 16mb, more than twice the size of Firefox or Opera.
  • Installation takes quite some time. Have-a-shower-and-put-your-jammies-on long.
  • Redndering needs improvement. GMail looked terrible, as did a few other sites I use frequently.
  • Page load times were slower than Firefox and Chrome across the board.
  • What can I block with InPrivate? I like the idea, but after a full browsing session it has yet to suggest anything to block on any site.
  • Still no download manager. Really? Come on now, not even a basic one?
  • Suggested sites need work. Example: Twitter. Suggested: Yahoo, Friendster, Wikipedia: Twitter.
  • Cpu usage was sometimes out of hand on Flash-heavy sites (Firefox: 21% versus IE: 54%). Whether this is IE's fault or the Flash plugin, it's a problem.

If you haven't tried RC1 yet, you can see it in action in the gallery.

When you're ready, you can find the correct IE8 RC1 download link for your Windows version in this post.

Already tried it out? Share your two cents in the comments!

Tags: ie8, internet-explorer