Benchmarking DartBox2d

Joel Webber wrote this excellent blog post in which he tests native versions of Box2D against Javascript implementations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he discovered that native code is around 20 times faster than JavaScript.

Having just released DartBox2d, I was curious to see how Dart stacks up against these results. It should be noted that the Dart version has diverged a little from the original port to make it more Dart-like. My measurements didn’t show any significant performance change between the current version and the initial port.

I’m using the same test as Joel, taken from his github repo, and have committed the Dart source used back into the tree, so you can check it out here. The JavaScript there, and used below, was generated using frog rather than dartc as it generates smaller, more readable output. The Dart VM does not currently support any references to dart:dom or dart:html so running those required some massaging of the code. Specifically, commenting out all of dartbox2d/callbacks/CanvasDraw.dart and removing all references to Canvas from Bench2d.dart.

All of the data and the graphs can be seen here.


First, JavaScript generated from Dart using frog vs hand-written Box2D-web JavaScript:



This is on a linear scale, unlike Joel’s graphs, as the difference between the traces is much smaller. However, the raw frame times are higher, which is probably due to the different machines we’re running on. The results, though, are still clear: Box2D-web runs at an average 104 ms/frame while the JS generated by frog from Dart is running at 135 ms/frame. There’s significant variation in both implementations (standard deviation is ~18 – 19 ms in both cases) which is either inherent in the simulation or indicates garbage collection running.


Given the difference Joel saw between the Java VM and Javascript, with the Java VM running 10 times faster than JavaScript, it is tempting to compare Dart compiled to JavaScript with Dart running natively in a VM in Dartium.

There’s a massive 4800 ms frame that I had to cut off to see detail across all the samples. I think this is some part of the VM being initialized and blocking the process, but it’s hard to tell.



There’s some other really interesting things to note here. Firstly, the VM performance improves over time, which is not something that I’ve seen in other tests. It’s also faster than the generated JavaScript and the hand-written Box2D-Web JavaScript at it’s fastest, however there is massive variance due to a periodic slowdown. It’s running at an average 119 ms per frame but the standard deviation is a massive 300 ms. I haven’t looked into the Dart VM but I’m going to throw out a guess that this is some garbage collection kicking in every few frames.


Here are all three results together for comparison:


With a little optimization work in DartBox2d, and maybe a little work on the code generation in Dart, I think it’s possible to get Dart-generated-JavaScript to get close to the performance of hand-written JavaScript. However, it’s also clear that the Dart VM, even in its current state, has the potential to outperform both.


Getting started with DartBox2d

This post is deprecated. Please see this post for the latest version.

The latest Dart library to be released is one that might see a fair bit of use, if the Java and JavaScript versions are anything to go by. DartBox2d is the latest port of the immensely popular 2d physics engine seen in games across the web. It has a very similar interface to the Java version, so getting started shouldn’t be too hard for anyone familiar with that version.

That being said, here’s how to put together a simple application.

Getting the library

Go here and follow the instructions to get a local copy of the code.

The HTML page

Next, you need an HTML page to host the application. A simple boilerplate would look something like:

    <script type="text/javascript" src="tutorial.dart.js"></script>

The Dart code

At the top of the dart file, you need to name your application and import any libraries you want to use:


Now create a class for your application and a simple main method:

class Tutorial {

void main() {

This simple main method is what will be called when your application starts. It is calling a static method on your class that should now look something like:

class Tutorial {
  static void main() {
    final app = new Tutorial();;

  Tutorial() {

All we have left to do is to define the two initialization methods and the run method. First, let’s initialize the world:

class Tutorial {

  static final int BALL_RADIUS = 1;

  World world;

  void initializeWorld() {
    // Create a world with gravity and allow it to sleep.
    world = new World(new Vector(0, -10), true, new DefaultWorldPool());

    // Create the ground.
    PolygonShape sd = new PolygonShape();
    sd.setAsBox(50.0, 0.4);
    BodyDef bd = new BodyDef();
    bd.position.setCoords(0.0, 0.0);
    Body ground = world.createBody(bd);

    // Create a bouncing ball.
    final bouncingBall = new CircleShape();
    bouncingBall.radius = BALL_RADIUS;

    final ballFixtureDef = new FixtureDef();
    ballFixtureDef.restitution = 0.7;
    ballFixtureDef.density = 0.05;
    ballFixtureDef.shape = bouncingBall;

    final ballBodyDef = new BodyDef();
    ballBodyDef.linearVelocity = new Vector(-2, -20);
    ballBodyDef.position = new Vector(15, 15);
    ballBodyDef.type = BodyType.DYNAMIC;
    ballBodyDef.bullet = true;

    final ballBody = world.createBody(ballBodyDef);

And now we’re ready to initialize the canvas:

class Tutorial {
  static final int CANVAS_WIDTH = 900;
  static final int CANVAS_HEIGHT = 600;
  static final int VIEWPORT_SCALE = 10;

  HTMLCanvasElement canvas;
  CanvasRenderingContext2D ctx;
  IViewportTransform viewport;
  DebugDraw debugDraw;

  void initializeCanvas() {
    // Create a canvas and get the 2d context.
    canvas = document.createElement('canvas');
    canvas.width = CANVAS_WIDTH;
    canvas.height = CANVAS_HEIGHT;
    ctx = canvas.getContext("2d");

    // Create the viewport transform with the center at extents.
    final extents = new Vector(CANVAS_WIDTH / 2, CANVAS_HEIGHT / 2);
    viewport = new CanvasViewportTransform(extents, extents);
    viewport.scale = VIEWPORT_SCALE;

    // Create our canvas drawing tool to give to the world.
    debugDraw = new CanvasDraw(viewport, ctx);

    // Have the world draw itself for debugging purposes.
    world.debugDraw = debugDraw;

Now, all that’s left is to start the world running:

class Tutorial {
  static final num TIME_STEP = 1/60;
  static final int VELOCITY_ITERATIONS = 10;
  static final int POSITION_ITERATIONS = 10;

  void run() {
    window.webkitRequestAnimationFrame((num time) {
    }, canvas);

  void step(num time) {
    // Advance the world.

    // Clear the canvas and draw the frame.
    ctx.clearRect(0, 0, CANVAS_WIDTH, CANVAS_HEIGHT);

    // Request another animation frame.
    window.webkitRequestAnimationFrame((num t) {
    }, canvas);

Once you’ve put all this together, you’re ready to compile it to JavaScript.

I prefer the command-line frog compiler, but DartBox2d also compiles cleanly with dartc with warnings as errors and fatal type errors enabled, so feel free to use either. You can also use the Dart Editor to build your application, and that’s almost certainly the best route to take. Refer to the Dart language site for more details.

Once you’ve compiled to JavaScript, make sure that your html file is referencing the generated file correctly and load it up in a browser. If all went well, you should see a green box with a peach ball bouncing on it.

It’s the little things

Today, Google announced a new Beta release of Chrome. This is not unusual; it happens every six weeks or so, but in this case the announcement blog post was authored by me.

That really isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, I know; there’s stuff all over the web with my name on. But this is the first time I get to be a part of the public face of Google, and I’m so proud to be working here that it’s a really big deal to me.

I could have written this as part of my Google+/Twitter post pointing to the Chrome blog, but that felt too much like bragging. Hopefully by posting it to my obviously personal site I can retain some appearance of humility. Only an appearance, mind you, because I’m an author on the Chrome blog and you’re not, nyer, nyer. Ahem.