In this experiment, we are doing a test comparison of 2 of the most popular WordPress cache and speed plugins: WP-Rocket vs HummingBird PRO by WPMU Dev.
The testing was done on this same website – TechWithCare.com – and the only difference in these two test runs are the caching plugins themselves.
I’ve made the initial backup of the site, and have restored it before each plugin installation and setup to ensure fair testing conditions for both of them. In different words, the testing environment was identical before installing, setting up and running WP-Rocket or HummingBird PRO, individually.
At the time of this test, the TechWithCare.com site is hosted at Siteground, on the “GrowBig” shared hosting. Even though I have access to the Siteground “Supper Cacher” with this hosting plan, for the testing purposes I’ve disabled it when we tested WP Rocket vs HummingBird PRO.
Disclaimer: Please note that what have worked well for my website may not always work well for your website, in the exact way. Each website is different, and add into that different hosting configurations. But, if you’re looking for a test comparison of these specific alternatives on a live and a ‘real-life’ website, with all the pros and cons for each alternative listed, then this article is for you.
To see all the details of the test, read on below.
The initial performance test: before running WP Rocket vs HummingBird PRO tests
So, Techwithcare.com, starting with this initial performance:
The initial performance test: GTMetrix score
The initial performance test: Page Speed Insights Score:
Testing HummingBird PRO by WPMU Dev: the basic settings
So, first I’ve tested HummingBird PRO. I’ve installed the plugin and did the initial setup which included enabling the following:
- page caching for all page types
- preload caching
- GZip for all file types
- asset optimization and storing files on the WPMU DEV CDN
There is a free version of Hummingbird, but if you want some of the advanced features, you can go for HummingBird PRO which is used in this test and which comes with WPMU DEV membership.
And as you can see, HummingBird PRO pros are:
- The WPMU DEV CDN for your files (static assets);
- Easy to set up and follow their guide;
- Improves performance significantly.
HummingBird PRO Basic Settings – GTMetrix Score
HummingBird PRO Basic Settings – Page Speed Insights Score
Testing HummingBird Pro by WPMU Dev: both the basic and advanced settings
This MAY give you a more serious speed boost if your server doesn’t utilize HTTP/2 protocol, or in general, depending on your server configuration. However, I definitely don’t recommend changing anything within the advanced settings if you don’t have WordPress development experience or if you don’t know what you’re doing. On another hand, if you absolutely know what you’re doing, just make sure to make a full backup of your website files and database before making any changes here – always better to be on the safe side.
Also, when you make changes here, it’s most recommended to make one change at a time, and check the site thoroughly on the front end, so that you can easily identify and revert any issues that may happen, since any of these changes can easily break your site if configured incorrectly.
So, after a couple of right tweaks here, the results are:
HummingBird PRO Basic and Advanced Settings – GTMetrix Score
HummingBird PRO Basic and Advanced Settings – Page Speed Insights Score
Note that, even if all stylesheets and scripts were compressed, moved to footer, and/or forced loading after the page loads, the result may not be a better Page Speed score than if choosing only some files, or even none, to be compressed, moved to footer, and/or loaded after the page.
HummingBird PRO Conclusions
This plugin is very easy and intuitive to use. You are guided through the setup within the plugin and with a couple of clicks, your site will be cached, your static files served through WPMU Dev CDN, and performance would be noticeably improved.
HummingBird PRO comes with a WPMU Dev membership which should currently cost $49/month and represents an all-in-one solution for your WordPress stack, which includes: Defender Pro for security, Smush Pro for image compression, hosting, great 24/7 support team and more.
With HummingBird PRO, this website’s performance went from initial 49% to up to 66% score for mobile devices, and from 81% to 94% for desktop devices (Page Speed) and from 5.7 seconds to 3.5 seconds on GTMetrix.
Testing WP-Rocket: the default settings
Now, we’re testing WP-Rocket on the exact same environment used for testing HummingBird Pro.
So, after restoring the site to the same environment for testing, I’ve installed WP-Rocket, and I must say that their process of validating your license during the simple installation, as well as placing their guide videos within the plugin dashboard, is extremely helpful and user-friendly, especially if you’re a non-techie!
Just by installing and activating WP-Rocket, the Page Speed score went to 52% for mobile devices, and 85% for desktop devices, while fully loaded page time went from 5.7 seconds to 3.4 seconds! Pretty nice, right?
The big PRO for WP-Rocket is that, just as soon as you install and activate it, the most commonly recommended performance optimizations are immediately and automatically applied by the plugin.
That means, you can just plug and play, and your site will become immediately and quite noticeably faster.
So, the default configuration is:
- Page caching is automatically enabled.
- Automated caching of pages for mobile visitors as well as desktop visitors.
- Enabled browser caching and cache policy warnings for better cache control. WP-Rocket adds these rules to your website’s .htaccess file.
- Automatically enabled GZip compression which reduces the size of the files hosted on your domain and makes them faster to download. WP-Rocket adds the code to your website’s .htaccess file to control this.
Also, even if you don’t have permission to modify the .htaccess file or if your site runs on an NGINX server or another configuration where you don’t have an .htaccess file, WP-Rocket caching and all the other features would still be working correctly.
WP Rocket Default Settings – GTMetrix Score
WP Rocket Default Settings – Page Speed Insights Score
Testing WP-Rocket: with advanced settings
These are the advanced settings that improved performance the most:
- Enabled lazy-load for images.
- Enabled iFrames for videos.
- Minified HTML.
- Combined Google Font files.
As we can see on the screenshots below, tweaking these advanced settings may not always bring better results, especially in this case, tested with WP-Rocket.
WP Rocket (with Advanced Settings) – GTMetrix Score
WP Rocket (with Advanced Settings) – Page Speed Insights Score
WP-Rocket is extremely user-friendly, with its extremely fast setup, loaded with best performance options already enabled by default.
Just by installing and activating the plugin, your Page Speed Insights score will be significantly improved, immediately.
Another great feature is that it has the “undo” option for all the advanced settings. So, if you notice the site looks or behaves differently in any way, you can easily undo the change you recently made which caused the issue. (on another side, undoing such advanced changes in HummingBird is not quite easy and you would have to rely on back ups and on the ability to restore the site quickly if anything goes wrong)
No hassle, and industry standard plugin, although it doesn’t have a free version, and it starts from $49/year for 1 website.
With WP-Rocket, this website’s performance went from initial 49% to up to 61% score for mobile devices, and from 81% to 91% for desktop devices (Page Speed) and from 5.7 seconds to 6.2 seconds on GTMetrix.
HummingBird vs WP Rocket – Comparison results & Conclusion
Starts from $49/year for 1 site
Has a free tier?
Easy to set up and user-friendliness:
Automated cache preloading after setup changes (i.e. after minifying CSS):
For many features, the process is in queue until someone visits the site homepage
Flexibility and more control with compressing, combining, moving to footer and deferring:
(you need some developer knowledge and to manually exclude files from bulk minifying, combining or deferring of files by listing the paths to specific files)
Included free CDN:
Yes, it comes with built in WPMU Dev CDN, no paying extra for the CDN
No, you need to connect your CloudFlare or Sucuri CDN to it
Page-level caching/performance settings:
Possibility to undo advanced settings if anything goes wrong:
Not easy to undo
Easy to undo by toggling the advanced setting back to on/off
GTMetrix page load speed (basic settings only):
GTMetrix page load speed (both basic and advanced settings):
GTMetrix score improvement comparing to initial test (with the better optimization settings):
Page Speed Score (for mobile devices):
Page Speed Score (for mobile devices):
Page Speed Score improvement comparing to initial test (with the better optimization settings):
As we could see and as you already know it, in general, and currently, the perfect caching and performance plugin doesn’t exist currently on the market, however here we are talking about 2 top rated industry standard premium caching and performance plugins.
WP-Rocket is right for you if:
- If you’re not a huge fan of tech;
- you’d like to just get up and running with your caching and performance improvement plugin in literally no time, with the best recommended settings already enabled for you automatically;
- you want a more affordable PRO caching and performance plugin;
- you already have other plugins/tools/systems for CDN and security (like CloudFlare or Sucuri) and the caching/performance plugin is the only missing piece in your website stack.
HummingBird is right for you if:
- you fancy more control
- you’re more into the tech,
- you are looking for an all-in-one WordPress stack like the membership WPMU Dev offers, to cover your security, CDN, image optimization, performance (and even hosting!), then HummingBird Pro may be a better option for you.
So, whether you choose HummingBird or WP Rocket, you won’t make a mistake, it may just depend on what you are looking for, so I hope this article was helpful for that purpose.
If you ask me for my personal opinion, I am switching between HummingBird PRO and WP-Rocket, but am also slightly more into HummingBird Pro, specifically because it gives more control, with slightly advanced tweaks I could make it reach higher score on Page Speed Insights, it comes with a CDN for static resources and it’s included in the WPMU Dev membership I’m already using.