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Hands on: Microsoft's Project Spartan browser starts small in Windows 10 preview

Mark Hachman | April 1, 2015
Debuting in Windows 10 Build 10049, Spartan's in its early stages, but we can see hints of what's to come in the interface, as well as the engine.

You can, however, navigate to an article (like this one) click the little "book" icon in the top right (which is grayed-out when viewing our homepage, for example) and view the article in reading mode, with ads and other extraneous information vanished. It's nice to see that you can get rid of ads on sites that need them to pay their writers (*ahem*), but also on Microsoft's pages themselves.

Performance: Thanks for the memory

Spartan isn't impressive--yet--as far as performance is concerned. On Tuesday night, I put Spartan through its paces. IE11 starts fast, in about 0.8 seconds. Spartan's nearly as quick, at about 1.5 seconds, but still slower than IE. IE11 also generated higher scores in the FutureMark PeaceKeeper benchmark--2523 to 2425--than Spartan; IE11 also scored 8461 in the CanvasMark 2013 benchmark, versus 8204 for Spartan.

But based on what you'll use Spartan for--browsing the Web--it shines. Many of you remember the bad old days when earlier versions of Internet Explorer were incompatible with many Web standards, or Firefox leaked memory all over the place. Spartan may not be the fastest browser at present, but its memory use is impressive:  with just a single tab open, Google Chrome consumed 72.1 Mbytes, IE11 consumed 83 Mbytes, and Spartan consumed just 16.6 Mbytes. With seven tabs open, Chrome consumed 110.2 MB; with the same Web pages opened using Spartan, Microsoft's new browser consumed just 27.9 Mbytes.

It's true, however, that Google Chrome consumes gobs of memory because it "sandboxes" each tab, protecting the application as a whole in case one tab crashes. It's unclear whether Spartan will offer the same protection. 

Still, Spartan clearly is going for a minimalistic look. I'm not sure I like the aesthetics, but I sure can't argue with its memory consumption, at least out of the gate.


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