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Firefox 3.6 tested: Quick as you like, ugly as you want

Firefox 3.6 has arrived, bringing with it a speed bump and a new feature to make your browser as butt-ugly as you want

If you've ever thought your Web-browsing experience didn't have enough leopard-print, Firefox 3.6 is here to sort your day right out. The latest version of Mozilla's free open-source browser includes personas, a feature that allows you to customise the look of the program. It also claims to be faster and more stable, so we ran some tests to find out.

You can choose to skin your browser with images from assorted films, sports, abstract patterns, solid colours and much more. We've had a look and we can reveal that they are all -- without exception -- horrible. There's also a whole raft of personas featuring Foxkeh, the cute-as-a-button Japanese Firefox mascot.

Should you feel the need to plaster your browser in pink leopard-print, you can do so at a dedicated site. Install the Personas add-on and a pop-up menu appears in your status bar, at the bottom left of the screen. While we're spectacularly unfussed about personas, we have to admit it's a slick implementation: hovering over a persona on the site or in the pop-out menu previews the skin on your browser, so you get to see straight away how awful it looks.

We put Firefox 3.6 through its paces with the SunSpider benchmark. This tests how fast a browser loads JavaScript, the programming language that powers the flashy stuff on sites such as Facebook and Gmail.

Firefox 3.6 clocked in at 1,128.8ms. That's faster than Opera 10.10 (4,014.2ms) and the arthritic Internet Explorer 8 (6,823.6ms), although it's still not as fast as super-speedy Chrome 3.0 (625.8ms). Bear in mind this is not a reflection of overall performance, just a look at how each browser deals with JavaScript.

Firefox's biggest advantage over other browsers remains its support for extensions. Firefox 3.6 only broke one of our add-ons, but nothing essential.

For more browser-based business, check out our most recent browser benchmark.

Update: There is now one persona in the persona gallery that isn't ugly as all heck. We know because we made it, just for a laugh. Add the CNET UK Firefox 3.6 persona here.