SmartBear VisualTest vs Chromatic

Chromatic is a faster, easier to use, and more robust SmartBear VisualTest alternative. Updated May 2024.

Thinking of visual testing using Chromatic or one of the other SmartBear VisualTest competitors? It can be time-consuming to scan each feature of every tool, so we gathered some handy info that’ll make it easier to decide which visual regression testing tool is right for you.

Read on for an overview of Chromatic and SmartBear VisualTest, including features, workflows, and pricing. We hope this helps you figure out the best testing solution for your project.

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Can you set up SmartBear VisualTest by yourself?

Yes, you can setup SmartBear VisualTest by yourself but the plans are very limited compared to Chromatic. You’ll need to talk to an enterprise salesperson if you want to run meaningful workloads.

Chromatic is designed for developers to get started in 90 seconds. Best-practice defaults come out of the box to prevent misconfiguration. In as little as three lines of code, you’ll be up and running. You don’t need to talk to sales or be an expert to start visual testing.

Is SmartBear VisualTest flaky?

It depends. SmartBear’s visual tests are only as reliable as the code being tested. Your visual tests may be flaky if your UI renders inconsistently. For example, with randomized data, flashes of un-styled content, or slow loading resources.

Visual testing tools can mitigate flake in a number of ways.

With Chromatic, we prevent flake using a standardized browser environment that auto-detects UI loading, painting, and reflowing to determine the most reliable time to snapshot. We believe this prevents flake before it can affect your tests. Chromatic has run over 7.3 billion tests across thousands of companies.

Visual testing for frontend development

Is SmartBear VisualTest fast?

The faster your tests run, the faster you iterate. When comparing visual testing tools, parallelization is the key differentiator for speed. Running tests in sequence can be up to 30 minutes slower than running tests in parallel.

SmartBear VisualTest charges you $250/month for each parallel worker when used for automated testing. In practice, your development team can be blocked awaiting test results unless you pay extra fees.

Chromatic’s infrastructure is effectively able to run your entire test suite simultaneously and optimizes for fastest test times. Every plan we offer includes the fastest possible test speeds.

To give a benchmark for speed, Chromatic can render code, take a snapshot, and find visual differences for 2000 tests in less than 2 minutes. If you’re using Chromatic’s TurboSnap, you can further speed up your tests by 85% for the same coverage.

How does SmartBear handle branching and merging for baselines?

A baseline represents what a test is supposed to look like. How a visual testing tool manages baselines is important to consider because you may have to change the way you work in order to use the tool.

SmartBear VisualTest has a basic baseline algorithm. You may end up running into baseline issues when doing common branch-based development like merging a second branch into your feature branch (e.g., telescoping PRs) or updating your branch from main.

Chromatic tracks baselines using Git. It mirrors how developers track code changes. Your baselines persist through branches and merges without you having to change the way you work. This enables entire engineering organizations to work on features together without merge conflicts from visual tests.

Choose versions of your components

How do you debug tests in SmartBear VisualTest**?**

“But it works on my machine.” If you build UIs for a living like us, you've probably heard this countless times. The differences in UI rendering between environments is a common source of frustration for developers. What you want from a visual testing tool is a standardized environment and the ability to debug in your own browser.

SmartBear VisualTest only tests with static images. That limits your ability to understand why visual tests render the way they do and debug errors. You cannot inspect the rendered code under test from inside SmartBear. You have to run your test suite again locally to reproduce errors. This increases the time it takes to debug issues.

Chromatic prioritizes reproducibility. It doesn’t just capture an image snapshot, it archives the DOM, styling, and assets at the specific point in time of a test. You can inspect the code behind every change in your own browser via the Chromatic web app. This allows developers to debug exactly what your users and teammates would see.

How do you collaborate in SmartBear VisualTest?

SmartBear Visual Test has unlimited users but doesn’t allow you to assign reviewers or track who reviewed what. Chromatic has unlimited users by default with no per seat cost. It syncs permissions automatically, includes customizable roles, and commenting.

Chromatic was built for collaboration from the start. Product teams can review UI changes together in one place. Engineers, designers, and product managers can browse the test library online without needing to pull code, migrate, or maintain a dev environment.

Review with your team

What browsers does SmartBear VisualTest support?

SmartBear VisualTest supports many browsers, but this can be a double-edged sword. The more browsers you enable, the slower your tests, the higher the maintenance effort, and the higher the costs.

Chromatic supports the latest stable versions of the world's most common browsers, which cover 95.93% of users. To ensure the best performance, Chromatic also runs all browsers with unlimited parallelization.

Why? Browser rendering engines used to be quite different. Each browser implemented CSS differently, which meant developers had to check that the UI rendered right in every browser.

Modern browsers interpret CSS and JavaScript similarly and update themselves automatically. This negates the value of having browser farms with myriad versions. Testing with the latest stable version of the most popular browsers gives you high coverage at a pragmatic price.

Browser share

What does SmartBear VisualTest cost vs Chromatic?

SmartBear VisualTest $750/mo when billed monthly for less usage than Chromatic. That amounts to $7,212 a year more than Chromatic for 76% fewer snapshots¹.

Chromatic also provides unlimited parallelization for much faster tests, no-hassle branching, painless merging, and intuitive collaboration.

What’s more, TurboSnap can provide up to 85% faster test runs and on average 41% cost savings for the same coverage. It works by tracking code to test only what's changed. SmartBear VisualTest doesn’t have any feature that delivers this level of value.

ChromaticSmartBear VisualTest
Price✅ $149/mo$750/mo
Included Snapshots✅ 35,00010,000
Additional snapshots✅ $0.006Your account is frozen
Users✅ UnlimitedUnlimited
Parallel test runs✅ Unlimited²$250/mo per process
Inspectable code✅ YesNo
Test history✅ Yes30 days
Design tool integrations✅ FigmaNo
TurboSnap for speed & cost savings✅ YesNo
Storybook integration✅ YesNo
Storybook addon for 1-click testing✅ YesNo
Playwright integration✅ YesYes
Cypress integration✅ YesYes
SOC 2 Type 2✅ YesYes

¹ Calculated using SmartBear's monthly cost plus the difference in additional snapshots.

² Chromatic is optimized for speed. Your tests run on as many machines as needed to get you results in the least time by default.

Is SmartBear VisualTest free?

SmartBear VisualTest has a free plan with a 100 snapshot limit and no parallelization. It’s underpowered for production workloads where you’ll exhaust the snapshots in a single test run. Chromatic has a free plan with 5000 snapshots and unlimited parallelization.

How does Chromatic visual testing integrate with my tech stack?

Adding visual testing to the software development lifecycle requires integrations with existing developer tools, git providers, and collaboration tools. In a nutshell, below are the most important integrations to consider.

Frontend toolsGit ProvidersCollaboration
📕 Storybook🌌 GitHub💬 Slack & webhooks
🎭 Playwright🔬 GitLab💌 Email
🌲 Cypress🪣 BitBucket🎨 Figma

Chromatic integrates with all of the above. Our integrations are as native as possible. We map 1-to-1 concepts like Storybook stories and Playwright tests with visual tests. For example, every story is transformed into a visual test automatically. And every Playwright test for a user flow gets visually tested in its end state (and optionally along the way). All of this reduces test maintenance for you.

Chromatic is perfect for Storybook

We maintain Storybook, the industry-standard open source tool for frontend developers. With Chromatic, we created a way to automatically visual test everything you develop in Storybook.

Chromatic tests map 1-to-1 with your stories. Whenever you update a story your tests are synced. This means visual tests are painless to keep up to date. Storybook's own visual tests feature is powered by Chromatic.

Stories are tests

Ready to try Chromatic?

Finding the right visual testing tool can be hard. We hope this guide makes it a bit clearer. Trying Chromatic is easy, setup your project in less than 90 seconds. No credit card required.