Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" - Mobile IE 9 Browser Exploredby Brian Klug on May 26, 2011 5:06 AM EST
Yesterday we spent a considerable amount of time poking around inside the Mango emulator included in the windows phone developer tools 7.1 beta. The emulator is pretty locked down, just like we saw with the original WP7 emulator after MIX10, only internet explorer and a few settings are exposed. A number of people at XDA are already hard at work unlocking any hidden components in the emulator so we can see everything there is to see inside Mango, but until then we toured the browser and settings pages comprehensively.
Microsoft made a big deal about the browser in Mango being entirely based on Internet Explorer 9. It turns out they weren’t lying. The user agent on Mango reports itself as “Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 9.0; Windows NT 6.1; Trident/5.0; XBLWP7; ZuneWP7)” in desktop mode, and “Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 9.0; Windows Phone OS 7.5; Trident/5.0; IEMobile/9.0; Microsoft; XDeviceEmulator)” in mobile mode.
I’ve already referred to Mango as Windows Phone 7.5 a few times, and there’s the reason - it’s right there in the user agent. Trident 5.0 also is the layout engine used in Internet Explorer 9, and it’s a far cry from Trident 3.1 bundled in the original Windows Phone 7.
Before we go into standards compliance, let’s talk about UI. The entire browser application is redesigned. The URL bar has been relocated from the top to the very bottom of the phone, and the three icons that previously were there for favorites, tabs, and the like have been removed. The result is that there’s now more screen area dedicated to actual browsing, something I think other mobile browser still need to pay attention to. You can see these differences in the first set of screenshots at the top of the page. It's an even more minimalist layout that arguably fits well with the Metro UI "less is more" philosophy.
Landscape view also now keeps the URL bar at the bottom and visible, and one can enter URLs in landscape as well. The result is that landscape viewing is now completely supported for more than just viewing pages - previously the URL bar and bottom navigation would disappear in landscape. This is a definite improvement. What’s been interestingly removed is the ability to create a custom tile for an individual page - previously pages could be pinned to the launch screen as tiles.
Another notable improvement is that text no longer appears extremely jaggy when zooming in quickly. Previously, we noted that this was an aberration resulting from how pages were rendered into a texture, it appears this behavior has been dramatically improved for the better, and as a result text has much more smoothing and quickly changes to proper size when zoomed in on. Further, when zoomed out, text previously didn’t utilize any subpixel font smoothing, resulting in body size fonts looking like they had a bitmapped appearance when zoomed all the way out. This is now dramatically improved as well. It's difficult to illustrate, so I'd encourage you to check out the video further down on this page.
I also always got the impression that WP7 had a very limited subset of fonts supported, only one or two for each primary style class, and as a result pages often rendered faithfully but with horribly wrong fonts. This now also appears to be much, much improved, from the pages I’ve browsed the difference is dramatic.
I’ve put together side by side comparisons of a few popular pages to illustrate how things are different by using both the WP7 “NoDo” emulator and the new Mango WP7.5 emulator released yesterday. I was loading live sites on both emulators (which required an uninstall and install), so there are some subtle differences in content, but the major things to pay attention to are layout, font, and the like. Like the rest, these are 100% resolution captures that I'd encourage you to inspect at native resolution. The Mango WP7.5 browser is on the left, the old WP7 browser is on the right.
With the layout differences out of the way, on to standards compliance tests. The first test is the popular HTML5test designed by Niels Leenheer. It gives an overall score and nice breakdown of what HTML5-esque browser features test and appear to be supported. It also includes a test for whether SVG graphics are supported. I’m not a huge fan of synthetic web tests, but HTML5test does do a nice job at breaking down support in an easy to follow manner.
IE 9 on WP7.5 performs almost identical to the desktop version of IE 9. Both score 130 and 5 bonus points, though the WP7.5 version of IE 9 doesn’t fully support @font-face as shown by the lack of custom font on the score report.
This is a huge improvement from how WP7 did previously in HTML5 test, where it scored 12 and no bonus points.
One of the other important HTML5 features is new form field types, something that generally gets overlooked when side by side with other shiny features.
I used a test put together by my good friend Jesse Gunsch and ran through it in the emulator, unfortunately WP7.5 still lacks support for many of the new form types, but no doubt making many of these work will require considerable UI work to match the Metro theme elsewhere. This is also reflected in the HTML5 test results, where it shows virtually all the form fields lacking support.
Next up are some things from HTML5demos.com which illustrate a number of new HTML5 features. You can see for yourself which ones are supported by the green circle to the left of the objects, and for the most part it’s exactly what IE 9 supports, with a few exceptions.
Unfortunately the WP7.5 browser doesn't play back video tag elements that are H.264, though this could be because the emulator lacks the ability to emulate hardware decode blocks that would be present on WP7 devices SoCs. There are individual results in the gallery at the end from these tests.
Next up are the two ACID tests. Previously, WP7 catastrophically failed both tests. Before and after are a dramatic difference.
WP7.5 now comes very very close to passing the ACID 2 test, failing only because the top of the smiley face is missing. It also comes close to passing the ACID 3 test. It’s a dramatic improvement for both synthetic tests. The IE 9 team has made it clear on a number of occasions that it doesn’t see fit to build browsers around synthetic tests, but that said it’s clear that regardless the Trident 5.0 engine is considerably improved over 3.1.
SVG support is also important, and as shown in the HTML5 test there’s compliance flagged, but it’s still important to test how it behaves in practice. Animation for SVG doesn’t work, but image tag SVGs work absolutely fine, which is likewise a considerable improvement.
There's a full (locked, current) emulator tour in the gallery, including a number of more tests and pages taken from the emulator, all from the Mango beta.
There’s only so much one can communicate about how a browser looks and performs with still images and test results - things like smoothness, how zoom levels behave, and how both overscroll and fast scrolling look can only be illustrated with video. I’ve put together a video showing the WP7.5 browser being used to go through a number of tests and load pages on AnandTech, DailyTech, and NYT. The new browser still appears to render the page in successive chunks, and there’s a visible grey line at the edge of the current render progress when scrolling beyond the render state. Still, it’s pretty speedy.
|CPU:||Intel Core i7-920 @ 2.80 GHz|
|Motherboard:||EVGA Tri-SLI (X58)|
|Hard Disk:||OCZ Vertex 2 (120GB)|
|Memory:||DDR3-1600 three x 2GB (8-8-8-24)|
|Video Card:||2x Crossfire AMD Radeon HD 5870|
|OS:||Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit|
|WP7 (NoDo)||WP7.5 (Mango)|
|SunSpider 0.9 (ms - lower is better)||133419.8 ms||3974.4 ms|
|Browsermark (higher is better)||7675||31125|
|Load Time - AnandTech.com (s - lower is better)||9.4||13.2|
|Load Time - NYT.com (s - lower is better)||14.2||20.3|
|Load Time - DailyTech.com (s - lower is better)||16.3||13.3|
|Load Time - Engadget.com (s - lower is better)||21.2||22.2|
The final part of the puzzle is actual page loading speeds, where we measured the time taken to fully load each page three times, threw out any outliers, and averaged. Between each page load, the cache was also cleared fully and every tab was closed. The desktop version of these websites (when appropriate) is loaded. Here results are a bit surprising, with the WP7 browser besting the WP7.5 browser in three of the four websites.