Is Microsoft's Spartan browser really becoming a contender?
Project Spartan is the codename of the new web browser that ships with Microsoft's upcoming Windows 10 operating system.
It is one of the major changes of the system, considering that it will replace Internet Explorer as the default browser on the system.
Still, for compatibility's sake, Internet Explorer ships with Windows 10 as well but won't be default.
The browser, just like the underlying operating system, is a work in progress which means that features may still be missing or change before release.
Neowin compared Spartan's performance to that of Google Chrome on Windows 10 recently and came to the conclusion that Spartan is beating Chrome at its own game.
What author Vlad Dudau means by this is performance, as this is generally seen as one of Chrome's stronger features.
According to his tests on Google's own Octane 2.0 benchmark, Spartan is beating Chrome and almost doubling Internet Explorer's 11 performance on Windows 8.1.
A quick test on a machine running the latest version of Windows 10 shows closer results as both browsers got a performance score of about 28,000 in the test whereas Dudau's test resulted in a comfortable 2000 point lead for Spartan.
Spartan gets an additional boost if performance related features such as asm.js are enabled on the browser's about:flags page. Regardless of that, it is matching Chrome and Firefox performance wise on Windows 10.
Improvements are also made when it comes to HTML5 support where the browser's score jumped to 390 points (402 if you enable all experimental features) surpassing Internet Explorer on Windows 8.1 by more than 60 points.
Spartan shares similarities with Chrome's launch. Google back then put a focus on performance and minimalism which benefited all browsers in the end as Mozilla, Opera and others noticed then that the performance of their browser's had to improve significantly which they did in the end.
While Spartan is doing very well when it comes to performance, it is lacking behind in other areas. This ranges from smaller bugs and issues such as the bug that stops audio playing on YouTube when the browser is minimized to major features like no right-click context menu or a lack of general browser settings. Some features are there, like restoring closed tabs but only in form of keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl-Shift-T) and not as menus.
Spartan is as minimalistic as it can get in some areas. That does not necessarily have to be a bad thing, especially if you don't care about customizations or extensive configuration options. If you just want to browse, it may very well work as good as other browsers or maybe even better.
If you require more however, if you want more control over the browser, then Spartan at its current state won't appeal to you as it lacks these customization options.
Again, this does not necessarily have to mean that Spartan won't ship with these features or improvements when it comes out, but since Microsoft has not revealed anything yet in this regard, it can very well be the case.
If you are interested in what users suggest Microsoft should add, head over to the Uservoice site where you find 238 ideas listed for the browser currently.
The top suggestions right now?
- Moving the address bar to the bottom on mobile devices.
- Adding background downloads.
- Incorporation extensions.
- Metro IE feature integration.
- Mute Tab option.
- Saving files directly to OneDrive.
- Adding Silverlight support.
- Fixing YouTube bugs.
- Adding option to pin website as tiles.
- Adding save as PDF option.
Spartan is not there yet. While it certainly shows impressive improvements in regards to HTML5 support and performance when compared to Internet Explorer, it lacks major features such as support for extensions or more options that would make it a real contender.
If you don't need those however, then it may very well deliver all you require of a browser already.
Now You: Have you tried Spartan? What's your take?
Good article and very interesting read. You did miss one thing though in your conclusion. Spartan (in the final version) will support extensions. I also read that it has similar architecture to Chrome enabling Chrome’s extensions to be very easily brought over to Spartan. Check it out…
Is that confirmed or still just a rumor?
I heard that too, from Thurrott. There may be something in it.
Okay that’s is great, thanks!
Let’s hope Spartan stays lean and mean and doesn’t become a bloated pig like Chrome has become. Chrome’s biggest appeal was it speed and light footprint. Lately, it has turned itself into a virus and consumes all your memory and resources. Such a shame.
Well problem is that chrome extensions aren’t that good compared to FF because they are limited by API.
Good example would be, that mousegestures do not work on chrome tabs (about:newtab, about:xy).
To be a contender, I think folks need a solid reason to dig into this browser. For example, the big feature when Firefox came onto the scene was tabbed browsing. Rockmelt and Flock were supposed to be “social” browsers. With Chrome it was speed and simplicity. Browsers like Qupzilla and QtWeb (and until recently Opera) were aiming for the lightweight crown. I’m not really sure what Spartan is doing aside from playing catch-up with Chrome. If Microsoft can differentiate itself with this release in some way other than “slightly faster” and “more standards compliant than the last release”, that might make it more viable.
Also not just being on one operating system (Win 10 … two if you include Win 10 Mobile) might make it a bit more appealing. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spartan_%28browser%29).
I like it. Very fast. It needs some core features though.
My first suggestion would be to thin down the UI. That thing is…thick…takes up a lot more screen real estate than most other Browsers.
Still, would like to eventually move away from the increasingly bloated Chrome.
I’m Using it on my Lumia 1520 and also on my AIO msi windows 10 TP… it is amazing fast and 100% better than chrome… fast smart and secure it is Project Spartan! use it and you will not try anything else very clean design and also Cortana help is amazing
Microsoft Browser was never bad as most people think, there are two or five people saying this in the old times and everyone just respelled such bullshit. I admit there was generally a security problem with “plugins” such ActiveX, but nobody force anyone to use it (like Flash, …) So if you not use this, it’s the same secure/insecure like other browsers. Microsoft now worked a lot on the Browser and there problems, starting with more updates and fixes and now it’s almost the same good as all others.
I think IE11/Spartan seems not bad at all, there was a lot of work behind it.
This is a non-story. Any browser under ongoing development will have it’s month or few at the top of the benchmarks at certain phases of development. Does anybody really care? I don’t know anybody who has changed their browser because another browser has improved a few points on the benchmarks above the others.
So Microsoft is improving their browser. Great. Good news. Painting this as a significant newsworthy story in the context of a browser war is seemingly irrelevant though. I’d rather see stories on emerging web standards and which companies are supporting them vs which are objecting and for what reasons. Maybe that’s out of scope of this blog though?
No matter what bells and whistles they add to Spartan it will be useless until you can use bookmarklets and has a proper bookmark manager like other browsers have. :(
The center mouse wheel won’t scroll yet. But auto scroll works good.
Spartan doesn’t use the same Favorites folder IE uses. I found it here
There isn’t anything you can’t find quickly with everything.exe :)
I’m using Spartan to write this post. They can keep it. :(
I’m laughing at the guy above that said it is better than Chrome. :)
I forgot something. Until they make a link to the printer panel use this old trick. Paste this into the address bar.
Spartan wil be the greatest contendor for IE no doubt there.
it will be better then IE too, but then again not at all.
Reason, Spartan will take away the main reason why lot’s of site don’t work well out of the box, a lot of site still test if you’re working on IE and if so they give some IE specific code. but that code is still based on IE not on IE9 or even 10.
as result the site doesn’t render correct.
So Spartan will start with a clean sheet. This gives also the opportunity for MS to get rid of all legacy code.
But rest assured that all the functionality now in IE will come to spartan, as long as it is not a legacy feature.
I’m not sure if it will be a real contender, but as a web designer I’m very happy to see IE becoming “non default” browser for windows!