Cypress vs. Playwright for Node: A Head-to-Head Comparison

Antonello Zanini

Antonello Zanini on

Cypress vs. Playwright for Node: A Head-to-Head Comparison

It's essential to test web applications to ensure reliability, functionality, and a good user experience. That's why robust testing frameworks have become so important for web developers. Among the plethora of available tools, Cypress and Playwright have emerged as two of the most popular choices for automating end-to-end testing.

In this Cypress versus Playwright comparison guide, we'll explore the strengths and weaknesses of the two tools, their features, and their differences.

Cypress or Playwright? Find out which best suits your needs!

Introduction to Cypress and Playwright

Cypress and Playwright are both open-source, JavaScript-based, popular end-to-end testing frameworks for browser automation. While the two libraries have certain key differences, they share some features and most use cases.

Time to get a better understanding of the two web browser automation frameworks.

What Is Cypress?

Cypress is a modern, frontend, end-to-end testing framework built for web applications. It allows you to write and maintain efficient tests, and can run tests written in JavaScript directly in the browser. In other words, it can test and interact with anything running in a browser. The target audience for this technology is developers or QA engineers who build web apps using modern JavaScript frameworks.

The types of tests supported by Cypress are:

  • End-to-end tests: Validate the entire flow related to real-world user case scenarios.
  • Component tests: Verify the functionality of single UI components in isolation.
  • Integration tests: Ensure that different modules or components work together seamlessly.
  • Unit tests: Test the behavior of individual functions or methods in isolation.

These tests are nothing more than JavaScript files that follow the Mocha BDD syntax and use Chai as the assertion engine. Cypress comes with a local GUI tool built into Electron that makes it easier to set up, run, and debug tests. Alternatively, you can use Cypress CLI to launch tests headlessly. To write the test logic, you will need a JavaScript IDE.

Here are some stats on Cypress (up-to-date at the time of writing):

  • GitHub stars: 45k+
  • npm weekly downloads: 4.8m+
  • Contributors: 480+ individuals
  • First release: September 10, 2017

What Is Playwright?

Playwright is an end-to-end testing framework developed by Microsoft and available in multiple programming languages. Its focus is on cross-browser testing, using Chromium as the default browser. To perform the test logic on a Chromium-based browser, it controls and instructs a browser instance to perform desired actions via the DevTools Protocol.

Thanks to its intuitive API and many available features, Playwright has gained a lot of traction in the IT community, even though it has only been around since 2020. Web developers now use it for both testing and other browser automation tasks, such as web scraping.

Playwright supports end-to-end testing, integration testing, unit testing, and even visual regression testing. That involves automatically detecting and reporting any visual differences or discrepancies between two versions of the same web application. Playwright's default recommended programming language is TypeScript, which means that test scripts are usually .ts files.

As of writing, some key statistics for Playwright include:

  • GitHub stars: 62k+
  • npm weekly downloads: 4.6m+
  • Contributors: 500+
  • First release: January 31, 2020

What Playwright and Cypress Have to Offer

A Cypress versus Playwright comparison article wouldn't be complete without a list of features offered by the two tools.

Cypress: Main Features

These are the most important Cypress features:

  • Batteries included: The framework offers everything needed to write, run, and debug tests effectively without having to install external dependencies.
  • Cross-browser testing: You can run tests locally in Firefox and all Chrome-family browsers (including Chrome, Chromium, Brave, Edge, and Electron).
  • Simple debugging: Debug directly in Developer Tools thanks to the .debug() method. Cypress also provides readable errors and stack traces specifically designed to facilitate debugging.
  • Automatic waits: Cypress automatically waits for a fixed timeout for commands and assertions to be successful before moving on. That allows you to avoid adding explicit sleep instructions to your tests, which makes them flaky.
  • Time traveling: Cypress takes snapshots as your tests run, adding them to the command log so that you can understand what happens at each step.
  • Network traffic control: Stub local network traffic without changing your server's logic.
  • Screenshots and videos: Configure your tests to produce screenshots or video recordings when run from the CLI.
  • Clock, time, and date control: Modify your application's time or manipulate Date objects, and setTimeout(), clearTimeout(), setInterval(), and clearInterval() functions.
  • Function spies: Make sure that a function is called with the right arguments or a certain number of times. You can also verify that a function returns the expected value and is called in the right context.
  • Extensible via plugins: Cypress can be extended via plugins developed by the community.
  • Cypress Cloud: An online platform that enhances Cypress test automation capabilities by providing parallel test execution, smart orchestration, flake detection in CI pipelines, video replays, and more.

Playwright: Main Features

These are some of the most useful features offered by Playwright:

  • Cross-browser support: Playwright allows testing across multiple browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, WebKit, Edge, and all Chromium-based browsers.
  • Available in multiple programming languages: The default language supported by Playwright is TypeScript. It also supports Python, Java, C#, and JavaScript.
  • Parallel test execution: By default, Playwright runs tests in parallel to improve test suite performance and reduce overall execution time. For even greater parallelization, you can also scale test execution on multiple machines.
  • Visual Studio Code extension for debugging: A dedicated extension to debug your tests right in Visual Studio Code, see error messages, set breakpoints, and step through your test logic.
  • Videos, screenshots, and visual comparisons: Record videos of test execution, generate screenshots, and visually compare screenshots to conduct visual regression testing.
  • Automatic test generation: Let the tool generate tests for you as you perform actions in the browser.
  • Different result reporters: Set up the reporter that best suits your needs to produce test results as a list, in HTML, as an image, in JSON, and more.
  • Network interception: Stub and manipulate network requests to simulate different scenarios without having to modify your server.
  • Device emulation: Run testing without the need for physical devices thanks to emulated devices, including mobile devices.
  • Automatic waiting: Playwright automatically waits for UI elements to be ready, eliminating the need for manual wait commands and reducing flakiness.
  • Full browser interaction: Interact with the browser to open new tabs, navigate between pages, and handle context switches. Also, you can mock experimental browser APIs.

Cypress vs. Playwright: Similarities and Differences

Let's now analyze what the two tools have in common and where they differ.

Similar Aspects

Playwright and Cypress are both open-source frameworks designed for end-to-end testing through browser automation. Their goal is to validate the functionality of a web application on various browsers. To achieve that, the two tools offer rich APIs to simulate user interactions, including clicking buttons, filling out forms, and navigating between pages.

In addition, both tools focus on developer experience by providing an intuitive API for writing and maintaining test scripts. Quality-of-life features like automatic waiting improves test reliability by eliminating the need for boilerplate code. Plus, request stubs make it easier to mock and manipulate AJAX requests without having to touch the server. When it comes to setting up the test suite, both tools offer guided procedures to get you started in minutes. At the same time, configuring the frameworks and browsers to get the desired result can take a while.

The two libraries also offer extensive debugging capabilities, including inspection of test execution, screenshot capabilities, and video recording. To run tests on CI, they support launching browsers in headless mode, without the GUI.

Main Differences

An effective way to see the Playwright versus Cypress differences is to look at their syntax. Suppose you want to submit a login form with "myusername" and "mypassword" credentials and verify that it redirects users as expected. This is how you can do it in Cypress:

describe("Login form test", () => { it("should log in successfully", () => { // visit the login page cy.visit("/login"); // type the username into input field cy.get("#username").type("myusername"); // type the password into input field cy.get("#password").type("mypassword"); // submit the form cy.get("form").submit(); // verify that the app redirect you to the dashboard page cy.url().should("include", "/dashboard"); }); });

Here's how you can achieve that in Playwright:

import { test, expect } from "@playwright/test"; describe("Login form test", () => { it("should log in successfully", async () => { // visit the login page await page.goto(""); // type the username into input field await page.fill("#username", "myusername"); // type the password into input field await page.fill("#password", "mypassword"); // submit the form await'form [type="submit"]'); // verify the app redirect you to the dashboard page expect(page.url()).toContain("/dashboard"); }); });

Although both frameworks are based on Mocha's syntax for structuring tests, their APIs are quite different. This difference in syntax impacts readability and ease of test writing, depending on developer preference. Note that Playwright's API is richer because it also allows you to control browser tabs, which isn't supported by Cypress.

Another significant difference is in their parallelization capabilities. Playwright natively supports parallel test execution out of the box. On the contrary, Cypress doesn't support parallelization by default. In this case, developers need to rely on plugins like cypress-parallel.

While Cypress can be expanded with plugins, Playwright comes with more built-in features. At the same time, Cypress Cloud rounds out the offerings with interesting additional functionality. Unfortunately, not all of them are free.

Which to Choose — Playwright or Cypress?

Whether you use Playwright and Cypress depends on a project's specific requirements and context. There's no one-size-fits-all answer, as each framework has strengths and weaknesses.

For use cases where simplicity is paramount, Cypress may be the best choice. Its focus on developer experience and ease of debugging makes it well-suited for teams with limited experience in test automation or small projects with simpler testing requirements.

In contrast, Playwright shines in scenarios that require cross-browser testing or complex automation. Similarly, it's great if you are unsure which language to write your tests in. Its flexibility makes it preferable for larger projects or those with specific requirements not fully covered by Cypress's capabilities, such as visual regression testing. However, Cypress is better for other scenarios, such as component testing.

Let's summarize some of the pros and cons of each tool.

Cypress: Pros and Cons

👍 Pros

  • Automatic waits for commands and assertions.
  • Captures snapshots during test execution.
  • Plugin support.

👎 Cons

  • Available only in JavaScript.
  • No support for multi-tabs.
  • Can't control two browsers at the same time.

Playwright: Pros and Cons

👍 Pros

  • Cross-browser and cross-language support.
  • A lot of features, such as reporting, automatic test generation, and VS Code debugging.
  • Out-of-the-box parallel execution.

👎 Cons

  • Can't be extended via plugins.
  • Still relatively new.
  • No support for function spies.

Playwright vs. Cypress Comparison Table

LanguagesTypeScript, JavaScript, Java, Python, and C#JavaScript
Browser supportChrome, Firefox, WebKit, Edge, and all other Chromium-based browsersChrome, Firefox, Electron, and other Chromium-based browsers such as Edge
GitHub repositorymicrosoft/playwrightcypress-io/cypress
First releaseJanuary 31, 2020September 10, 2017
GitHub starsOver 62kOver 45k
Open source
E2E testing
Integration testing
Unit testing
Component testingExperimental support
Visual regression testingNot natively, but possible via a plugin
Assertion enginePlaywright custom assertion engineChai
High-level text syntaxMocha-like BDD syntaxMocha-like BDD syntax
ArchitectureControls browsers via the DevTools protocol and similar protocolsExecutes tests directly inside the browser
Tab supportYesLimited
ParallelizationSupported nativelyVia paid Cypress Cloud plans or external plugins
Automatic waitingYesYes
Screenshots supportScreenshots and videosScreenshots on all browsers and videos only on Chromium-based browsers
CI/CD integrationYesYes
FreeYesYes, but some features are only available with a Cypress Cloud paid plan

Wrapping Up

In this Playwright versus Cypress blog post, we took a look at what Cypress and Playwright have to offer and weighed their pros and cons.

You now know:

  • Why Cypress and Playwright are two of the most popular end-to-end testing tools
  • The features offered by both frameworks
  • Where and how the two tools differ
  • Which one you should choose to test your web application

Thanks for reading!

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Antonello Zanini

Antonello Zanini

Guest author Antonello is a software engineer, but prefers to call himself a Technology Bishop. Spreading knowledge through writing is his mission.

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