Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview. Finally a better browser?

image Few days back, Microsoft has released the first IE9 Preview Platform which focused on HTML5 (which Apple claimed that it can and it will beat Flash) and also hardware acceleration. No, it is not a fully functional web browser; all it can do is to demonstrate the improvements and new stuffs added into the future IE. 

In IE9, they have proudly present a new JavaScript engine, named ‘Chakra’ (Something that Naruto possessed a lot), that certainly work way better than their current IE8. If you would like to see the benchmark result, here you goes:

 

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The green bar in the chart representing the IE9 Platform Preview JavaScript performance, and you are right, IE8 seems to be very bad in JavaScript in the current standard set by the other browsers. Of course, not every web pages uses JavaScript, but the performance achieved by this new platform preview shows the effort from Microsoft to improve their own browser.

Not only developer will be happy with the performance of the platform preview, but one of the major processor company, AMD, is happy with IE9 as well. One of the reasons for their applause is that IE9 is able to take advantage of the hardware (GPU in specific) in the computer. Below is what they have mentioned in their blog about the improvements in IE9:

 

Specifically, IE9 will take advantage of the underlying hardware in different ways, both from a visual perspective as well as code execution perspective:

The MSHTML rendering layer has been enhanced to use Direct2D and DirectWrite instead of GDI.  Direct2D enables GPU accelerated 2D graphics and text, and allows sub-pixel positioning.  In addition, the GPU is used for scaling (bitmaps are mapped to textures), which is ideal for zooming and moving images around the screen.  This GPU support translates directly into improved readability of pages, more precise placement of text and images, and smooth scrolling and zooming.

JavaScript performance is greatly improved from older versions of Internet Explorer, and should be competitive if not better than competing browsers.  In the past, JavaScript in IE was interpreted and not compiled into native processor instructions.  The JavaScript engine now includes a JIT compiler which emits x86 instructions and compiles the code before it runs, resulting in a dramatic performance uplift.  Instruction generation can also be tailored to the underlying processor to take full advantage of the underlying platform.

IE9 is more standards compliant than previous versions, with new support for HTML5 elements such as <video> and <canvas>, CSS3 support, and SVG support.  The <canvas> element will be accelerated on the GPU via Direct2D and will enable hardware accelerated rendering contexts for application development, improving visual display, reducing CPU usage, and improving power usage.

 
To see is to believe. As I am always a big fans of Firefox and never be one for IE, I am curious to see what kind of improvements that Microsoft has poured into IE9 that is visible to normal users like me. So I headed to the test drive site with my trusted Firefox 3.6, and I am greeted with some demos that Microsoft would like us to try on (below screenshot).
 
 
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On the top right corner, there is a button “Install the Preview”. Once you clicked on it, you will be downloading the IE9 Platform Preview that will lead you to the same page as shown above. There are several interesting demos are available, and the first demo I went for is the Flying Images demo.
 
I first ran the demo in my Firefox 3.6, and by default the test started with ‘All Browser’ logo setting. It is actually a spinning images test. It doesn’t seems too bad at first glance, as it is still able to maintain at around 22-25 fps (Frame per Second) when I make the whole bunch of logos spin at the faster speed. However, when I selected the large IE logo for Image Size option, I am stunned. The fps has dropped to only 3-4 and it certainly seems to be lagging a lot. 
 
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Without hesitate, I started up the IE9 Platform Preview, and executed the same demo in it. And yes, the result below is in the IE9 Platform Preview. Besides this huge fps improvement for moving images, did I mention that it is so fun to see the images spin in the browser smoothly and without lags?

 

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I am sure that you are able to find some other fun stuffs within the IE9 Platform Preview, and for me, I am impressed by it. It does utilize hardware acceleration as it can be seen that my GPU has the temperature increased during the running of the Platform Preview. But it is great isn’t? Knowing that your hardware in your PC helps to improve your browsing experience (and now that’s a good reason to buy a new decent Graphic Card). 

In case you missed the IE9 test drive web page, here you go. You can download the IE9 Platform Preview, as well as running the demos in different browsers in the same site. Have fun!

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