Zend vs Symfony: Which is the better PHP Framework?

Zend vs Symfony: Which is the better PHP Framework?

Zend and Symfony are two of the most commonly compared frameworks in the world. Which one would be the most preferred one in terms of usage and productivity? Which one has a better community of developers? A steeper learning curve? These are questions that will be answered in this article. But before getting into a deeper comparison, lets do a short review of both the frameworks.

The Zend Framework (ZF)

Licensed under the New BSD License, Zend is an open source web application framework based on PHP5. There is a standard library with a powerful but extensible framework and when combined with a robust, excellent performing MVC implementation delivers what the developers need. They can easily adapt to their needs, and use the framework as the building blocks in combination with other frameworks/applications.

Being a collection of classes, you can effortlessly load the components needed, and even make sure of adding them as individual libraries. You don’t even have to use the framework as a whole, a major help in cutting down project bloat.

The two major aspects that make this framework stand out are its accreditation and web-based training features. Other noted features of the framework include its easy and comfortable drag & drop editor, cryptographic coding tools, and its capacity to work with languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

And this is also probably the reason why many large scale businesses organisations go for ZF. Famous companies that already use PHP framework are Adobe, IBM, Microsoft and Google. Zend is also known for its following features:

  • Extended Classes
  • Test-Driven Development
  • Excellent Documentation for pros
  • Object-Oriented Goodness
  • Absence of Model Implementation
  • Universal Integration
  • Big Community and

Symfony Framework (SF)

As explained earlier, SF, licensed under MIT is also an excellent PHP framework that helps in building websites and web applications. As a huge community of developers backs it, you can expect the framework to go several paces forward in the forthcoming years.

Symfony has been the preferred choice for several real world applications and business websites. E-businesses are also focusing on the framework as it is the most preferred one for web development. The 3rd version of Symfony is very powerful, and offers excellent competition
for other frameworks. Main features of Symfony include:

  • Routing
  • Structured and maintainable codes
  • Authentication
  • Quick forum development
  • Use of templates
  • Configuration
  • Automating similar patterns

Now, where do they stand shoulder-to- shoulder?
There are a couple of points, where the frameworks show similarities:

  • 1. Both the frameworks assist in writing cleaner codes; you can reuse them later.
  • 2. They follow the MVC or the Model-View- Controller pattern

Starting up

Symfony is an easy tool for beginners. It contains a plethora of guides and you have excellent community backing with experienced authors. If you are working with SF, you can easily start new projects from scratch. But yes, it does take up more resource usage when compared to ZF, but the difference is only marginal.

Zend does have community support, but it is not as strong as Symfony. And though the documentation is good, it is more suitable for pros and not beginners.

The winner – Symfony

Templating capabilities

Symfony offers the best templating capabilities, and offers caching for immediate delivery of content.

Zend’s templating is not very mature enough.

The winner – Symfony

Unit testing

Symfony offers integrated support for unit testing.

Zend doesn’t have integrated support. Every single component in the framework needs unit testing.

The winner – Symfony


SF is much faster than ZF. In fact it was configured to be much faster right from the first version. Symfony is about 3 times faster than Symfony Version 1.4 and ZF version 1.10, and takes up 2 times less memory.

ZF could have a slow down and memory issues, and sometimes bad DB queries.

Winner: Symfony

Dedicated conferences

Symfony has quite a few dedicated yearly conferences and several user groups. Big companies like BBC, CBS, TED, Wettercom use this framework. The framework also powers several open source projects as well.

Zend also conducts several early conferences and user groups like the other framework. Several large companies and websites use the framework apart from the ones mentioned earlier, like Cisco, Discovery, Panasonic etc. ZF powers several open source projects and certain frameworks too (examples would be : Magento, Centurion, Webfolio, Tomato CMS, Digitalus CMS, etc.)

Winner: Both

Folder structure in the framework

Symfony allows you to do code snippets, but these snippets are known as bundles. And these bundles add functionality to the framework enabling you to use it for other projects as well. Businesses benefit from this because they can add as many features as they want.

ZF allows you to have a modular structure of your site. All you need to do it just plug and play the code snippets. It’s decent folder structure is also an added advantage.

Winner: Both

Zend is also famous for its cache system, and there support for different types of backends like memory or file system. You can create APIs, authentication of APIs, documentation of APIs, with the help of remote procedure call (RPC) and REST( Representational State Transfer) services.

If you ask developers which framework they would choose, you would get different answers. It is mostly a matter of choice, and sometimes client requirement.

For example, in cases, when you need a condition where jQuery usage is most easy, Zend helps by providing you with jQuery builtin Class as Helper. ZendX_jQuery class makes it easy for you to make use jQuery as well. Zend is also a good choice for writing your API for most of the common transactions all over the site. ZEND provides Using AjaxContext with Zend_Rest_Controller and Zend_Rest_Route classes.

Final thoughts

The quality of apps written on both are almost the same. Symfony is more expandable and practical in terms of features and functionalities while ZF lacks object-relational mapping (ORM) implemented out-of- the-box. However, if you want to save on system resources, then choose SF, as it is much more stabler and sustainable. In more ways than one, this framework wins the

Interesting Articles:
Comparison of Zend and Symfony by Grossum
Zend vs Symfony, Which one would you choose for your project?

Flickr.com/ Aurelijus/ Jeff

About the author: Reema works as Thought Leader at PHPBabu.

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