If you followed the Apple-dominated tech headlines over the past week, then you know that Apple’s Safari browser is the fastest web browser you can use at this time. That is, of course, if you believe Apple and its claims about its “incredible” browser. But is it really the fastest? We ran the software and its rivals through several benchmarks to find out.
Before you read on, let me remind you that these benchmarks have to be taken with a grain of salt, since we know that, with the exception of Acid 3, they are typically skewed to one or the other browser, while, in aggregate, they should deliver a good idea which browser has advantages in certain disciplines.
Also, don’t expect to achieve the same benchmark numbers on your computer as I did, since these benchmarks heavily depend on the performance of a computer overall. The results are relative and almost certainly will change from time to time you run them. Because of this circumstance, I have run each test ten times on each browser and took the average number for this ranking.
In previous benchmark runs we have found that that the scores and the direct relationship of benchmark are also affected by the number of processing cores. That said, we learned that the overall benchmark score is usually a good indication of the performance provided by each browser in general. So let’s see how the new Safari ranks.
I chose the most recent versions of the three major browsers on the market today, as well as Google’s Chrome, which is generally considered to be the benchmark in browser speed today. Here are the browser versions used in this brief test:
Firefox 3.5 RC1 build June 12, 2009
Internet Explorer 8.0.6001.18783
All tests were run with only the browser being active as well as only one open tab. The computer used was an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600-based system with 4 GB of memory.
Round 1: Acid 3
1. Safari: 100/100
2. Chrome: 100/100, Linktest failed
3. Firefox: 93/100
4. IE: 20/100
No surprises here. Safari and Chrome are ahead of the pack, Firefox is improving and Microsoft is trailing with a significant distance.
Round 2: Google V8
1. Chrome: 2709
2. Safari: 2503
3. Firefox: 356
4. IE: 81
Chrome and Safari are both Webkit-based and are close in performance. Safari outruns Chrome in two out of six disciplines in this benchmark. Subjectively, in everyday browsing the performance difference between the browsers does not seem to be as dramatic as indicated by this benchmark.
Round 3: SunSpider
1. Chrome: 628.4
2. Safari: 683.8
3. Firefox: 1162.8
4. IE: 5069.4
Another close race between Chrome and Safari. Since it is a Webkit benchmark, the result should not be a surprise.
Round 4: Celtic Kane
1. Safari: 84
2. Chrome: 183
3. Firefox: 233
4. IE: 512
Read on the next page: Peacekeeper, Le Crabe, Slick Speed, Conclusion
Round 5: Peacekeeper
1. Safari: 3671
2. Firefox: 1964
3. IE: 804
4. Chrome: Not supported
Unfortunately, the benchmark does not yet support Chrome, which I found to be a rather strange circumstance. However, the overall picture shows Safari as an impressive browser yet again.
Round 6: Crab test
The Le Crabe test is a flash rendering test, during which animated crabs are added to a screen. The test stops when the frame rate drops below 25 fps. Higher numbers are better.
1. Firefox: 356
1. IE: 356
2. Safari: 256
3. Chrome: 241
IE may not be all that bad and it is clear that Safari and Chrome in fact have weaknesses.
Round 7: Slick Speed
1. Safari: 38, 31, 149, 124,1
2. Chrome: 42, 23, 209, 144, 44
3. Firefox: 71, 71, 187, 177, 38
4. IE: 205, 183, 739, 497, 193
Speed is not everything, but it is the discipline that gets the most attention these days. If we believe the results provided by the most common benchmarks these days, then Safari is the fastest browsers among the top four today. Subjectively, the difference is much less than indicated by these results. The actual browsing performance not only depends on the actual capability of each browser, but also by your PC, your Internet connection and ways a certain destination is accessed. But it is clear that Apple has put a lot of work into Safari and that the browser race has become a lot more interesting.