Web Browser Grand Prix VI: Firefox 6, Chrome 13, Mac OS X Lion

Chrome 13, Firefox 6, Safari 5.1, and Mac OS X Lion (10.7) have all emerged since our last Web Browser Grand Prix. Today, we test the latest browsers on both major platforms. How do the Mac-based browsers stack up against their Windows 7 counterparts?

We have a whole lot of exciting geekery planned today. But first, let's get everyone up to speed. There have been a handful of developments in the world of Web browsing since Web Browser Grand Prix 5: Opera 11.50, Firefox 5, Chrome 12:

Recent Events

07/20/11: Apple Releases version 10.7 of Mac OS X, dubbed Lion, along with Safari 5.1
08/02/11: Google Releases Chrome 13
08/16/11: Mozilla Releases Firefox 6
08/25/11: Steve Jobs resigns as Apple's Chief Executive Officer. Contrary to what many speculated, Apple's stock remains strong.

Recent Drama

08/13/11: A Mozilla developer incites fear and chaos by suggesting the removal of version numbers altogether.
08/15/11: Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 is declared the Web browser most safe from phishing.
08/16/11: Google refutes the validity of that report.

Mac OS X

Back in July of last year, we threw Web Browser Grand Prix (WBGP) contenders Chrome, Firefox, and Opera onto an Ubuntu Linux track in Web Browser Grand Prix 2: Running The Linux Circuit. The results were compared to those of their Windows 7 counterparts from Web Browser Grand Prix 2: Top 5 Tested And Ranked. As the “Linux guy,” doing that article seemed perfectly natural to me. After all, how Web browsers perform in Windows really didn't matter to me, personally.

What we didn't see coming was the number of requests for a Mac-based Web Browser Grand Prix, and the calls for us to run Safari on OS X haven't stopped since.

In case you didn't notice, this is Web Browser Grand Prix VI, not Web Browser Grand Prix 6. That's because the twist this time is Mac OS X. We're running Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari on Mac OS X, along with the usual suspects on Windows 7.

Tom's Hardware is going Mac?

That's not it at all. We said we're running Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari, on Mac OS X. We did not say we're running them on a Mac. We're using the same Core i5-based desktop test system used for many of our other software-based stories. It just so happens we had OS X Snow Leopard testing in mind when it came to designing a reference cross-platform test system.

WBGP Test Suite v6.0

Once again, we tweaked our test suite for this story. The new composite page-load time tests are improved, expanded, and updated. There are all-new WebGL benchmarks, and Sputnik is replaced by Ecma test262. The methodology of the Maze Solver benchmark and memory management tests is improved to better reflect real-world usage scenarios. Enhanced placing tables and improved analysis round out the changes.

Which Web browser is best? Which operating system holds Web browsing supremacy? We'll answer that. But before we fire the starting pistol, let's take a deeper look at the contenders and course.

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  • ne0nguy
    The first chart says "higher is better" for the load time
  • adamovera
    ne0nguyThe first chart says "higher is better" for the load time

    thank you, workin' on it
  • SteelCity1981
    Chrome is the best browser out there right now. While FireFox maybe more popular then Chrome is, Chrome has shown why it is the best browser out today. If you haven't used Chrome yet it's def worth a look.
  • soccerdocks
    The reader function in safari actually looks really nice. Although I'd never use Safari on principle. I hope other browsers implement a similar function.
  • mayankleoboy1
    why does firefox(6/8/9) performa so horribly on the IE9 maze solover test?
    chrome13 completely obliterats it.

    and firefox 8/9 are still a memory hog.
    not really surprised by poor show of ie9. moat updates it gets are "security updates".
  • tofu2go
    Being on a Macbook with only 3GB of memory, memory is the most important factor for me. I open a LOT of tabs and I keep them open for long periods. For awhile I used Chrome, but recently switched to Firefox 6 and saw my memory utilization drop by well over 1GB. Granted with Firefox I was able to do something I am not able to do in any other browser, I could group my tabs into tab groups. I believe this allows for more efficient memory management, i.e. only the current group uses much memory. Not having done any tests, this is pure speculation. All I know is that I'm seeing MUCH lower memory usage with Firefox on OSX. Despite what this article would suggest.
  • @soccerdocks

    Yeah? And exactly what principle would that be?
  • andy5174
    @Google:
    Bring back the Google Dictionary, otherwise I will use Bing Search, Firefox and Facebook instead of Google Search, Chrome and G+.
  • kartu
    Quote:
    Firefox 6 comes in third for both OSes, representing a major drop from Firefox 5.

    According to the graphic on "Reliability Benchmarks: Proper Page Loads" on MacOS Firefox is actually second, not third.
  • LaloFG
    I keep Opera, more memory used and time to load pages is nothing when it load pages correctly; and the feeling in its interface is the greater.
  • noob2222
    while these articles are entertaining, giving straight points skews the results a bit IMO. I think it would give more insight to give percentages in the analysis tables rather than just ranking them. After all, giving 1 pt for 5% better result out of the 5 is 20%, kinda throws off actual performance.
  • adamovera
    kartuAccording to the graphic on "Reliability Benchmarks: Proper Page Loads" on MacOS Firefox is actually second, not third.

    thank you, workin' on it
  • On OSX browser 'vendors' are denied access to certain os hooks that would make their browsers better than they are.
  • yankeeDDL
    Nice overview: thank you.
    These "browser" GP are getting more and more complete and the're always very interesting.
    I have to say, I am a bit surprised to see FF being so close to Chrome now: kudos to Mozilla.
    I have been using FF since 1.0 and only recently coupled it with Chrome (it is just convenient for me to have 2 completely different setups).
    FF 7.0 should have a significant boost in memory efficiency: if everything else stays the same, we´ll have a new champion ...
    But if anythin is clear from these reviews, is that nothing stays the same for very long in the browser´s domain (well, except IE).
    Looking forward to GP7, whenever that will be.
  • Adam, you should have mentioned in the end that even if Safari won on OSX, the victory is a pyrrhic one as OSX lacks in Java and Silverlight plugin performance; OSX Lion is also very poor at system memory management and reliability.

    You should've put more emphasis on the actual scores and performances in tests rather than count the times when certain browsers placed 1st. Thus a browser that had a small advantage in more and minor tests and at the same time severe handicaps in more important but fewer tests would seem better, when technically it is not. Suggestion: tie all the candidates when the differences between them in a certain test are less than a single digit percent. Good article anyway.
  • cookoy
    Quote:
    Mac OS X is capable of providing better results than Windows 7 in Flash, HTML5, WebGL, and the ever-important page load times.


    And to think Apple hates Flash...
  • damasvara
    Tried Chrome, but somehow it doesn't behave the way I wanted. Browsing pages is faster with Firefox on 384 kbps internet. Makes me wonder...
  • adamovera
    noob2222while these articles are entertaining, giving straight points skews the results a bit IMO. I think it would give more insight to give percentages in the analysis tables rather than just ranking them. After all, giving 1 pt for 5% better result out of the 5 is 20%, kinda throws off actual performance.

    There are no points in the analysis tables. They simply list how each browser rates per category of testing. The 'Strong' part of the table was added a long time ago and it basically means that it's right up there with the winner in terms of performance. When we get a solid point-based scoring system figured out 'Winner' will only receive a minor boost above 'Strong', whereas 'Strong' will receive a significant boost above 'Acceptable', and 'Acceptable' above 'Weak'. We're not there yet, but we're getting closer with every WBGP. The composite tests are a BIG step in that direction, and the new benchmark rankings further lay the groundwork for a fair scoring system which accurately reflects scale.
  • adamovera
    tgreaderAdam, you should have mentioned in the end that even if Safari won on OSX, the victory is a pyrrhic one as OSX lacks in Java and Silverlight plugin performance; OSX Lion is also very poor at system memory management and reliability.You should've put more emphasis on the actual scores and performances in tests rather than count the times when certain browsers placed 1st. Thus a browser that had a small advantage in more and minor tests and at the same time severe handicaps in more important but fewer tests would seem better, when technically it is not. Suggestion: tie all the candidates when the differences between them in a certain test are less than a single digit percent. Good article anyway.

    The analysis tables were created to balance the raw placing tables. The problem with what you're saying is that you would have to decide which categories are more important than others. Is JavaScript more important than CSS? Is HTML5 more important than Flash? This is going to depend on who you ask. People who only watch Netflix with an HTPC will put mega emphasis on Silverlight perf, whereas the chronic YouTuber will be more concerned with Flash, and devs are going to gravitate towards standards conformance. Ranking benchmarks based on the importance of what they test isn't a one-size-fits-all type of thing with Web browsers. As far as your other suggestion, dealing with practical ties, this is something we definitely want to look into moving forward. Thanks!
  • I had to switch to Chrome, FF was crashing like crazy here, and i only have Firebug add-on installed.
  • damasvara
    The person who thumbed me down must be a genuine Chrome fanboy... Don't get me wrong here, I'm a Chrome fan myself... I even got a t-shirt and sticker from Google for my help at their Facebook fan page. Maybe, if my internet is 1 mbps I won't know the difference between the two browsers. But the fact is, Chrome loads pages slower than FF on my laptop. Can't put my finger on the cause though. Not by much, but for a fast reader like me, a few seconds on multiple pages means something.
  • shqtth
    I find opera does the best job at recovering my tabs after a crash or when opera is reloaded.


    Chrome has the tendancy to forget my tabs after a crash. IE9, closes my tabs off when i close the web browser (unless I terminate IE9 from memory). IE9 does doa good job to recovery failing tabs instead of crashing the web browser, but I find IE9 to be a process/memory hot.
    Both Opera and Chrome work good with many tabs open, but when it comes to a system crash opera will not forget my tabs.


    On the other hand, sometimes I wish to open the web browser with no tabs, and not have the system forget about my tabs. Also if a pop up happens (click link on desktop), I think it retarded for the web browser to reload all tabs just to view that link. I think when a link is clicked on desktop, it should ask to open all tabs again or only the link, and have the option to reopen those tabs later (as well as remember any new ones not closed off).


    Safari is the woarse broser for tabs, one crash or when closed, all the tabs are gone.

    IE9 is really good for tabs, but it will be quick to have memory leaks and poor performance. If this happens to open, I can simply close open and reopen it again when ever I want, where this is not the option with IE, so I choose not to use IE for tabs.
  • shqtth
    Overall I like Opera best for features and speed.


    I only use internet explorer for temporary browsing.


    I so not use firefox, as I will not be push into firefox becuase everything is pushing it on me (sick of that, it is woarse then the upgrade your IE days etc)

    Safari, Opera, and safari and not being pushed on me, so I used them willingly.


    Opera is best for remembering password, extras and add ons, integrated email, on ya works best on the netbook (tested it on an Asus EEE PC 701, as well as a newer Atom netbook). On a netboo Opera has less memory usage and cpu usage then IE. Opera doea a good job at cashing tabs for future use, Chrome after a while of reloading tabs forgets the cache so Opera doea a better job.


    Also for windows 2000, Opera works best but Opera 8 or 9, as Safari cant install properly as well as Firefox, oviously IE cant be updated.

    So I find myself liking Opera a lot, even though I don't mind Chrome (except for its tabs handling)


    I would use safari more but it lacks features, so I just use it for temporary broswing.


    IF you use Safari, do not install the Safari 5.1 update, it will stop internet access on a lot of installs. I had to remove Apple Support software as well as Safari, and reinstall Safari 5.05 just to get it working again. Becuase of the bead Apple Support Software, internet access was blocked for Safari, Inunes, as well as AppleDevice for the iphone (very high cpu usage)
  • For a fair performance benchmark, you should run the tests on a computer that actually has limited performance to more accurately show the limits of each browser.

    And in such a scenario - From my testing in Windows environment on a 300 Mhz Celeron with 128 MB ram, Opera is the clear winner.