Synthetic monitoring – when to choose real browser or emulated monitoring?

Date: 28th March 2017
Author: Louise Arnold

Ensuring that web performance meets customers’ escalating expectations is a full-time job for many tech teams. In order to pinpoint problems that may adversely impact customer experience, it’s crucial that your performance monitoring strategy gets as close as possible to the real user experience.

And getting closer to the user experience requires true ‘real browser’ monitoring but there are cases when clients benefit from an emulated approach to monitoring. So what are the differences and which approach best meets your needs?

A two-pronged approach provides the most comprehensive monitoring solution

At SciVisum we offer clients two highly effective synthetic monitoring tools via the same portal interface – Real Browser and Emulated to make sure no stone is left unturned during any monitoring project. For many, the ideal scenario is to have a mix of journeys on both engines to provide a comprehensive monitoring solution for all eventualities.

Real Browser will return the most realistic data and is closer to the real UX. It is ideal for marketing or design teams who need to know how changes might impact users in terms of final rendering and script execution time. Because metrics such as server response time tend to get diluted with Real Browser journeys, it’s not the optimal choice for operations-level monitoring, though.

Emulated is often better for operations and technical staff – those focused on the performance of servers and networks – as it is much more sensitive to server effects and slowdowns, making it easier and quicker to diagnose problems as and when they arise. If you suspect server or network issues, emulated journeys are your first port of call.

Hone in on your customers’ experience for accurate, actionable data

Our Real Browser approach offers a unique insight into the customer experience, whether they’re accessing your site via mobile, laptop or desktop. It uses real browsers (including iPhone and Android for mobile) throughout the monitoring process to replicate your customer’s real experience so you can discover any and all issues impacting the CX and make informed business decisions based on authentic data.

Real browser monitoring will quickly root out errors that might otherwise be missed, freeing tech teams to focus on the issues that are preventing customers from progressing through the website and potentially undermining conversion targets.

Play it again, Sam

Real Browser also incorporates a Video Replayer function that enables tech teams to replay the moments leading up to a failure. This feature provides a super-quick analysis tool, enabling the swift identification and resolution of any performance issues.

Video Replayer makes troubleshooting a breeze, offering a revealing insight into how your customer experienced their problem and enabling the effective prioritisation of resources according to the severity of the failure.

Real Browser versus Emulated in a nutshell

Real Browser:

  • Accesses the site in the same way as a real customer
  • Measures rendering times, making it a more reliable indicator of page delivery times for real users
  • Is viewed as an extra waterfall graph on the portal which shows all components and timings for each
  • Includes Video Replayer function


  • Downloads JavaScript components but does not execute them
  • Pins down server issues
  • Offers quicker response times than Real Browser and is quicker to alert

Real data delivers real results

SciVisum’s synthetic monitoring solution takes a ‘mystery shopper’ approach to web performance monitoring, embarking on realistic journeys through your site and making intelligent choices from page content that mirror the actions of regular visitors.  The closer you get to your customer experience, the more likely you are to deliver the performance that users demand. Real Browser offers a unique opportunity to see your site as customers do – and, therefore, to remove the potential barriers to business.

For more in-depth information, check out SciVisum’s synthetic monitoring pages or request a demo.

Further Reading

Video replay errors to get to the root of website performance problems