The Marginalian
The Marginalian

Google Chrome Speed Tests

For their latest release of Chrome, which purports to be the fastest browser around, the good folks at Google and BBH decided to test just how fast “fast” was. So they pitted Chrome’s 2700 frames per second against the speeds of more familiar things, things people would expect to be fast — a bullet, a potato, sound waves, lighting.

To test that, the team constructed a series of what closely resembles Rube Goldberg machines, each setting off a series of simultaneous reactions triggering both Chrome and the object it’s being benchmarked against. The results — and the effort that went into them — are beyond impressive.

The potato gun test took 51 takes to get the equipment and the rendering working precisely right — 51 new potatoes, reloads and clean graters. There was a moment when the whole team went quiet as the Tesla Coil was removed from the box for the first time; no one was quite sure exactly what we’d bitten off with that one, and — even with ear defenders — the sound of the Coil as it made it’s first 4.2m volt arcs was extraordinary. For a few seconds no one said a word, then we got to work and set up the experiment. ” ~ Ben Malbon, BBH

What makes the effort interesting, beyond the pure stunt value, is that it demonstrates two increasingly important things: In “measuring” something from computer science through physics, mechanical engineering and photography, the effort epitomizes the fertile cross-pollination of displines; it also illustrates the need for creating a new language for the data age and translating these parameters of digital culture into terms more relevant to and thus comprehensible by humans — something we’ve also seen in the flourishing field of data visualization, which translates alienating, incomprehensible algorithms and numbers into visual representations that humanize the information and make it more digestible.

As recent Chrome converts, we can attest to the browser’s speediness and commend the creative team for contextualizing it so brilliantly. But we must point out that when it comes to your web-browsing experience, browser speed is still a negligible factor compared to actual internet speed — and, we’re sorry to say, using Chrome’s speed-potato on Verizon “high speed internet” is like pouring mashed potatoes through a cocktail straw.

Published May 6, 2010




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