Is it worth paying for the cache plugin like WP Rocket, with so many free plugins available? We test WP Rocket against the free plugins WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache.

Test Setup

All plugins are tested on the https://www.smartplugins.info/ website, running on the SiteGround Cloud server with PHP 7.1 First set of tests is performed on the website with no cache plugins active, no optimizations plugins or other things that might affect performance. The test is done on 4 pages: home page, custom post type archive, contact form page (powered by the Gravity Forms plugin) and single post. Here are the results:

PageGradeFirst LoadAverageLowestPage SizeRequests
Home934.88s2.83s2.31s5.4MB105
Archive931.68s1.72s1.57s5.2MB96
Contact921.83s1.89s1.81s1.4MB80
Single893.01s2.96s2.88s2.8MB74

All tests are done using Pingdom Speed Test with the location set to Stockholm (SiteGround server is in the US). Page speed load tests are done 10 times. The table shows First Load time, and we also have Average from all 10 tests and the Fastest value. All plugins are tested the same way, and all plugins were tested without the minify feature. For all 3 plugins, we used CDN powered by Amazon CloudFront. CDN was cleared after each plugin test. Grade column is Performance Grade, based on the Google PageSpeed.

WP Super Cache

This plugin is used on over 2 million websites (according to the WordPress.org stats), and this plugin is very easy to get started with. It is not feature-rich as some other plugins, it lacks minify features, and it mainly relies on page cache and CDN support. But, it can be enabled with one checkbox to get started, with few more options to configure if you need to, and one more page to configure CDN.

And, for the plugin with very little work needed to set up, it did fairly well in terms of page load speed. I expected to see smaller page size, and better overall Performance Grade, and I am puzzled by the lower Grade then in the tests with no cache. This Grade is not very important in terms of website performance, but it is usually something to look into when trying to optimize the website. Here are the results:

PageGradeFirst LoadAverageLowestPage SizeRequests
Home803.28s1.41s0.89s5.3MB105
Archive921.12s1.17s0.87s5.2MB96
Contact811.52s1.12s0.93s1.4MB80
Single902.84s2.75s2.67s2.8MB74

You have decent documentation for the plugin in WordPress.org description, but when it comes to support, it is very slow, with hundreds of unsolved bug reports and problems over the past 3-4 month. For a plugin maintained by Automattic, this is very surprising. If you run into any problems, you are essentially stuck. Some of the features I tried have not worked, and a lot of users had same issues with no solutions from the support.

W3 Total Cache

With over million websites using it (according to the WordPress.org stats), this is a very popular plugin, but one that is very complicated and confusing to configure. It has a lot of features, including support for various PHP cache systems (APC, Memchase…), various minify methods, database and object cache, and CDN support for many different CDN providers.

Before I was able to properly test it, I spend over an hour just trying to understand the plugin settings. Most of the features need to be set on different panels: enable the feature on one panel, go to another to configure, go back to the first one to change something, go to settings panel again. It was very frustrating and slow. When it comes to CDN, the plugin has options for different providers. But, for the most purposes, you need only the Mirror mode, and this will work with all providers, no need to complicate things with usernames and passwords for the services you use.

After many hours of trying, there was no way to make the minify working for CSS or JS. I tried all combinations for both, tried to exclude some files, but even basic CSS combine was not working. So, I have abandoned the minify tests, and here are the results:

PageGradeFirst LoadAverageLowestPage SizeRequests
Home980.98s0.84s0.69s5.3MB105
Archive980.96s0.99s0.94s5.2MB96
Contact931.19s1.05s0.97s1.4MB80
Single902.34s2.17s1.99s2.8MB74

This plugin offers a lot more in terms of Performance Grade and Page load speed over the WP Super Cache, and it will bring the page load times under 1 second for most pages. But, again, no options for optimization of page size, or for minification were not working at all.

Similar to WP Super Cache, support for this plugin is almost non-existent, and there are hundreds of unsolved issues on the WordPress.org forum. This plugin doesn’t have Pro version, but they are selling support access for quite a steep prices, premium support or plugin configuration cost the US $200.00 and more. That is just crazy expensive for a plugin that is very hard to configure and use. If anything breaks down the road, any help you need without waiting for months in the forums will cost you a lot of money.

WP Rocket

This is the only plugin in this test that only has the premium version, starting from $39.00 for one website per year, to $199.00 for unlimited websites per year, with discounted renewals after that. The plugin requires no configuration for the basic performance improvements, and as soon as you activate it, it will improve the website speed. If you spend a half hour going through all the options you will be able to gain a lot more. Unlike W3 Total Cache, CSS minification works right away, without the need to exclude files, just enable it, and it works. For JS minification, some files had to be excluded, and it worked very well.

All plugin options come with additional helpful information that will warn you about configuration problems and to offer suggestions how to get maximum from all features. CDN is only available in mirror mode, and it is easy to set up. Here are the results (no minification used):

PageGradeFirst LoadAverageLowestPage SizeRequests
Home991.01s0.82s0.7s4.5MB103
Archive991.07s0.86s0.8s4.5MB94
Contact991.12s0.92s0.85s0.75MB78
Single962.12s1.91s1.86s2.1MB72

This is the only plugin that managed to get the Performance Grade to nearly 100 for all page types, and it has a clear speed advantage over other plugins. And, it is the only plugin that managed to make pages smaller for delivery, in some cases up to 50%. As for the minification test, I managed to get both CSS and JS working (I had to exclude two JS files), and the final result is this:

PageGradeFirst LoadAverageLowestPage SizeRequests
Home990.89s0.87s0.82s4.4MB62
Archive991.01s0.85s0.71s4.3MB59
Contact990.97s0.89s0.69s0.7MB44
Single971.81s1.61s1.35s1.9MB38

If you spend some time to configure everything, this plugin blows all other cache plugins out of the water. It is 20% faster than W3 Total Cache, it generates smaller pages and fewer requests, so it will save on the bandwidth, and it is easy to set up. When it comes to support, it is fast and very helpful, usually answering any question within few hours. For two years now, I had zero problems with this plugin. I had few suggestions for the plugin, and some of them were implemented. This plugin is worth every dollar you spend on it, and you will not get frustrated by waiting for months to get the help like with the other plugins, and your website will be faster than ever.

Multisite support

All three plugins work with the WordPress multisite. But, WP Rocket allows you to set up each subdomain individually. This is a good solution for most, but if you install the plugin on a multisite with a lot of subdomains, it can take a while to set up each one. W3 Total Cache doesn’t allow different settings for subdomains, and it has to be set for the whole network at once. This is a big issue with the CDN setup, and when you take everything in the account, WP Rocket is better for multisite.

Performance Comparison

To compare plugins performance and speed, check out these charts. First one is for the performance grade:

WP Super Cache vs W3 Total Cache vs WP Rocket: Performance Grade
WP Super Cache vs W3 Total Cache vs WP Rocket: Performance Grade

And, the second one is page speed:

WP Super Cache vs W3 Total Cache vs WP Rocket: Page Speed
WP Super Cache vs W3 Total Cache vs WP Rocket: Page Speed

Conclusion

When choosing the best plugin for a job, especially when dealing with the website performance, you need to look into many elements that go beyond the price. You need to evaluate plugin features, ease of use, performance, support and last thing should be the price.

WP Super Cache is a free plugin that is easy to configure and it will bring mediocre performance improvements, but it is very much lacking in the terms of support, making it a viable solution for casual WordPress users. W3 Total Cache will bring very good performance improvements, but it is very complicated to use, with pretty bad support and outrageous prices for premium support. For the price of one W3 Total Cache support ticket, you can purchase WP Rocket for unlimited websites for a year, or get it for almost 7-8 years a or single website (with renewal discounts counted in).

And, on the other side, you have excellent performance, excellent support and ease of use that WP Rocket brings for a very fair price. When you evaluate WP Rocket, it is easily better than other plugins tested here in all categories, and the price you need to pay for it more then makes up for that, it will bring you peace of mind that your website will work great, and that if you need help, you will get it almost instantly, compared to other tested plugins that offer practically no support, or ask a lot of money for it.

WP Rocket is the only plugin I personally use for all my websites for years now, and this is the only plugin I can recommend here. If you are not sure about all this, evaluate it for 2 weeks, and if you don’t like it, you can get your money back. But, trust me, you will like it.

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WP Rocket

Make your WordPress powered website load fast in just a few clicks
WP Rocket - Superior WordPress Performance

The most powerful and full featured caching plugin for WordPress, with very simple setup. Plugin supports page cache, CDN, CloudFlare, Preloading, Lazyload, minification, prefetch and much more.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link.

About the author

MillaN
MillaN
Dev4Press owner and lead developer

Programmer since the age of 12 and now WordPress developer with more than 8 years of WordPress experience, author of more than 100 plugins and more than 20 themes.

WP Rocket - Make WordPress Load Fast in a Few Clicks

2 Comments

  1. Alex Morco says:

    Apart from different cache plugins for WordPress. W3 total cache is more important than others because it performs multiple tasks to speed up your WordPress website. I have configured this issue with help of your article and also this one: https://www.cloudways.com/blog/how-to-use-w3-total-cache-wordpress/ , Thanks for resolving version 0.9.5 with this guide.

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    1. MillaN says:

      Thanks for the comment! W3 Total Cache is way too complicated, impossible to set up with any consistency, bad support (or no support at all), very rarely updated, and full with bugs. And, on top of that, if you need decent help from plugin author, it will cost you arm and a leg (ticket is 250 USD and up). It is just not worth the hassle, just get the WP Rocket, spend 2 minutes to set it up and leave it running. Whenever I used W3TC, I had to tinker with it every week to get consistent results, it is just not worth using with a much better solution like WP Rocket.

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