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Ember vs. Angular for Rails

Nisha Gopinath Menon
March 16, 2020

We talk about this generation of users and their rising intolerance towards a five-second delay in loading a page or towards a few too many notifications and ads. You see, but the changes haven’t only been on your user’s end, your developer’s too, expect a lot more out of the tools they choose to embrace. Instant gratification is making our generation perpetually impatient. Back in the day, the client- side of your application would’ve been a wafer-thin layer of HTML, cookies, query parameters, and request headers. Your server would have ended up shouldering all the heavyweight. This meant a single request of the website would be responded to, by displaying the entire web page.

Today, websites boast of front-end’s powerful enough to create sleek, single page applications (SPAs) delivering a desktop-like user experience. It’s important to put in the right amount of homework before deciding on which JavaScript tool will make this possible for you. This job is turning into a challenge with the increasing amount of options out there. Your choice of which tool to go with will affect your project’s deadlines, code maintainability, and scalability. AngularJS and Ember.js are open- sourced JavaScript frameworks based on the model view controller (MVC) design pattern, known for helping create scalable, high-performing and flexible applications by bringing structure to your code and keeping it organized. Both use notably different design philosophies to achieve their goals. Below, we put them head-to-head and compare their merits and demerits while interacting with a Rails-powered backend.


AngularJS and Ember.js are designed to be backend agnostic. It’s a good rule to keep the back-end independent since the front-end is seeing a lot more growth. This decision will save you some trouble in the future when you want to modify your front-end a year or two down the line. Try to keep your back-end RESTful and follow a standard for building APIs in JSON, then you’ll be free to choose whichever framework suits your context best.


AngularJS allows you to develop single page application (SPAs) by extending the functionality of HTML with directives. In simpler words, it’s your HTML designed for building web apps.

  • AngularJS is a great choice if you don’t have much time in your hands and you need to build an elegant, small to medium sized application. Chances are these applications won’t run into the “dirty checking” bottleneck. This means you can leverage all the benefits which come with using vanilla JavaScript objects as models, like simplicity and coding speed.
  • AngularJS is also a good choice since it’s likely to see a lot of growth in the future due to its large community backing.
  • AngularJS is way faster and loose with its conventions. You see AngularJS places emphasis on getting your app up and running quickly, so it tends to take a lot of leeways. Its use of JavaScript objects for models comes with a tradeoff of using on “dirty checking,” which affects your app performance. This isn’t a very sophisticated process, slows you down considerably and could prove a maintenance nightmare.
  • Nevertheless, with the release of Angular 2.0 it’s now possible to take advantage of server-side rendering and avoid the pitfalls of “dirty checking”.

Having said all of it, there’s a reason AngularJS is so popular, it is simple. With simple requirements, you will have a clean codebase which delivers a good performance, and since there’s a lot less to the framework, it’s easier to learn. This framework simplicity is good if your application is meant to be simple. Now if your application is ambitious and you care about maintaining it for a long time, you should be cautious while choosing simplicity.


Ember embraces the concepts of native frameworks like Apple’s Cocoa and marries them to the lightweight sensibilities which come with open-source frameworks like Rails to create dynamic, beautifully rendered SPAs which scale well. The framework provides a URL-driven approach for structuring different applications and universal data binding.

  • Ember.js is a great front-end framework which is easy to maintain and extremely stable. Ember.js will guide your developers to code in accordance with best practices to avoid coding themselves into bottlenecks like “dirty checking.”
  • Ember embraces a lot of the Rails' ideology, like "convention over configuration." Ember CLI (Command Line Structure) makes development feel like writing Rails: strong conventions, excellent asset pipeline and great deployment support.
  • Ember is a great choice for apps that want to scale into much bigger projects.
  • Consider Ember, even if your application is to remain smaller because it comes with faster boot times and inherent stability.

The drawback is, the core team is very slow in their feature development, and last few versions of Ember were mostly minor releases which brought nothing new.

Less space for customization of everything.

Ember has a much steeper learning curve than AngularJS.

Now, before you write off Ember due to its complexity, consider why the developers added all that extra stuff. Ember is like a toolbox with enough concepts to make it useful enough to build a maintainable and large application. The tradeoffs it has made in its API are there to help your developers sanely structure your code.


 Both AngularJS and Ember do the same job, develop dynamic SPAs with engaging UI/UX. But, their design philosophies differ.

Angular is currently the more popular of these two. You can use it as one-stop-shop and is a framework of choice for many large enterprises. It’s also backed by Google, known to be a step ahead of the competition. If you are dealing with a simpler SPA which should bring an enhanced user experience, it might not make sense to integrate Ember, since an Angular application would do the job well. Ember is the best solution if you’re looking for all-tools-included framework approach. Ember makes a lot of decisions for you, so you don’t have to spend your time on researching and gluing together libraries. Evidently enough, there is no clear winner. Once you are clear about your objectives, you’ll be able to see which framework fits your project requirements better than the others do.

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Nisha Gopinath Menon