Review: Website load times on portable gadgets

Ajaxloader A common complaint about web browsing on handheld devices and other portable gadgets is the speed (or lack thereof). Usually described as either "slow" or "sluggish," load times—even over a strong wi-fi connection—can often be more unpleasant than another typical gripe, the lack of Flash or Java support.

But how slow is "slow" really? An extra three seconds? Ten seconds? Twenty? It’s all relative, of course, but I decided to find out anyway. I rounded up a handful of devices that could access the real web (not the stripped down, text-only version), lined them up, and grabbed my stopwatch.

I chose ten websites that varied in complexity and visited each one on the following gadgets: Pepper Pad 3, Archos 704 WiFi, Sony mylo, Apple iPhone, Nokia N800, and Archos 604 WiFi.

Webload_gadgets

This was not a scientific study or professional lab test, but I tried to eliminate as many variables as possible to make the results a bit more meaningful.

  • Load times were measured in one sitting (this afternoon) from the click of the "Go" button in the browser’s address bar to the complete page load according to the progress bar and/or loading icon.
  • Each page was loaded five times and the results were averaged.
  • All devices were connected to the Internet through the same 802.11g wireless router from the same location (about 12 feet away, unobstructed).
  • Browser rendering was set to desktop mode in all cases; that is, content was not optimized for the small screen.

Times are in minute:second format.


Sony
mylo
Archos
604 WiFi
Archos
704 WiFi
Apple
iPhone
Pepper
Pad 3
Nokia
N800
Amazon 0:19 0:18 0:16 0:19 0:22 0:16
CNET 0:35 0:46 0:43 0:32 0:23 0:27
Digg 0:22 0:24 0:18 0:22 0:11 0:16
Engadget 0:40 0:43 0:32 0:36 0:25 0:23
Google News 0:10 0:10 0:11 0:09 0:04 0:08
Micro PC Talk 0:16 0:12 0:17 0:11 0:10 0:15
MySpace 0:16 0:15 0:16 0:16 0:07 0:12
NY Times 0:32 0:24 0:25 0:27 0:15 0:26
Pocketables 0:16 0:13 0:16 0:15 0:11 0:18
YouTube 0:11 0:12 0:13 0:10 0:09 0:15

Note: Flash content is not supported on the mylo, Archos players, and iPhone.

Each device has a different processor:

The Pepper Pad 3 is the only x86-based device of the bunch, which is why it performed the best, so it’s technically out of place. Regardless, although there was the occasional oddball variation in loading time, the processors actually made less of a difference than I expected.

Webload_umpcs

To put these numbers into context, here are the results from the same tests on two UMPCs running full-blown Windows XP on (comparatively) powerful Intel processors.

Sony Vaio
UX180P
Samsung Q1P

Firefox 2.0 IE7 Firefox 2.0 IE7
Amazon
0:11 0:13 0:10 0:10
CNET
0:16 0:10 0:16 0:14
Digg
0:12 0:18 0:08 0:10
Engadget
0: 22 0:20 0:24 0:17
Google News
0:05 0:03 0:06 0:03
Micro PC Talk
0:08 0:12 0:11 0:10
MySpace
0:04 0:05 0:07 0:05
NY Times
0:14 0:10 0:14 0:11
Pocketables
0:11 0:10 0:10 0:09
YouTube
0:04 0:04 0:05 0:05

As you can see (and as you probably already expected), website load times are generally much faster on "real" computers. In some cases, however, the differences are somewhat negligible.

Loading icon above from Ajaxload.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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