gethan - 5:52 am on May 23, 2011 (gmt 0)
Similar situation; widgets, ajax loads, masses of images - analytics reports the home page as 9.7s, and gwt as around 7.
We're doing everything obvious to reduce load times - zipping, minifying, merging js files etc and some smarter techniques; ajax loading certain content, lazy loading images below the fold (speed up and bandwidth decrease)
The big question I have is; when google use load times as a factor in search quality (and therefore ranking) - do they do it in a dumb way (eg. adding fb widgets and adsense ads into the load time) or a smart way (eg. the time the page loads above the fold)?
If it is the former... it would certainly penalize content rich sites - (with the rise in above the fold ads and hotlinked image previews on the image search pages, I'm an unhappy webmaster with regards to google at the moment)