Web Browser Grand Prix: The Top Five, Tested And Ranked

"The fastest browser on Earth."

That's what the Opera homepage has said since Tuesday. After five release candidates and two betas, the boys from Oslo just recently launched the final build of Opera 10.50. That's a pretty heavy claim to make, though, especially with well-establish competition already in the field demonstrating impressive performance at an unbeatably-low price. Does it hold up?

And although you might have missed it due to iPad hysteria, both Mozilla and Google recently released new versions of their browsers as well. Opera isn't the only one making bold statements on performance, either. In the days leading up to the unveiling of Apple's impossibly over-hyped slate, Mozilla dropped Firefox 3.6 and claimed a whopping 20% speed gain over version 3.5. Three days later, Google quietly unveiled Chrome 4.0 stable, though the actual version number is 4.0.249.78.

Let us not forget that Cupertino also offers a Web browser. In fact, Apple claims Safari is "the world's fastest Web browser." Sounds strangely familiar, doesn't it? Even Internet Explorer, which hasn't had a release since last year, is in the headlines lately. But it's the charges being leveled against IE that are drawing the most attention.

We've seen mounting pressure to abandon Microsoft's browser by everyone from Homeland Security to McAfee and Google--even some foreign governments. If it's so horrible, than why is anyone still using it? Is there a performance justification for why almost 60% of Internet users still cling to IE?

We decided that somebody needed to look at these browsers. So, we put all five major Web browsers through a gauntlet of benchmarks and time trials. We did this to conclusively answer the question: which is the fastest browser on Earth (at least until one of these companies launches another major update)?