Browsers are updated quite often, so it’s not unusual to reevaluate your browser choice. So, I updated the 4 most popular Mac browsers I had, and ran a few tests. I tested Google Chrome, Opera, Safari, and Firefox 4.
I also tested the amount of memory used by each browser. For this, I added up the real memory (your ram) and the virtual memory (stored on Hard Drive) to get a total amount. For this, I opened the same 5 tabs on each browser.
For those who don’t want to read much, here’s a rundown of the scores and memory usage.
PeaceKeeper benchmark score (higher is better):
- Google Chrome: 8358
- Opera: 7055
- Safari: 6779
- Firefox: 5006
- Firefox: 511.9
- Opera: 731.3
- Safari: 1133.3
- Google Chrome: 1370.1
- Safari: 100/100
- Google Chrome: 100/100
- Opera: 100/100
- Firefox: 97/100
Google Chrome wasn’t the first browser to use the WebKit rendering engine, but it certainly is the most popular. Chrome had the highest score, but that score comes with a few issues. First off, with Chrome, each tab is it’s own process on your computer. That means if one tab crashes, the rest are unaffected. It also means that it uses up more memory.
As for a breakdown of the score, you can see that most of the speed improvement came from an extraordinarily high data score. It also had a high Complex Graphics score, which measures the performance of the HTML5 Canvas element.
Now for the bad news. Chrome is a bit unstable. It would occasionally render pages incorrectly, and I needed to install a ClickToFlash-like add-on to even get Flash to appear on my pages. Speaking of add-ons, Chrome doesn’t need to be restarted when you install these extensions.
|Results are from an older test|
Safari was the first browser to use the now quite popular Webkit rendering engine. Safari has the 3rd highest score on the PeaceKeeper benchmark, however it did score the highest in the “Social Networking” category. In fact, the scores are all decently high on average. While one score doesn’t stand out, this means Safari is a consistent performer. Also, Safari uses slightly less memory than Chrome.
Safari also has extensions now. This means that you can add functionality to the browser easier. Apple has listed all the third party extensions on their page, which is quite easy to search through. While it has less extensions, I prefer the format of these. Safari, like Chrome, doesn’t need to be restarted when you install a new extension.
Both Safari and Chrome come with Webkit’s built in debugger, the web inspector. It’s a great tool, and easily surpasses the tools Opera and Firefox come with. I even like it more than the popular Firebug add-on for Firefox.
As for the stats, Firefox uses the least amount of memory, which is good for older computers. It also happened to be the slowest, which can make your older computer look even older. It performed quite well in Data and Text parsing, and outperformed Safari in complex graphics, but it’s stats for Rendering and Social Networking were very low. Firefox has the oldest and largest list of add ons, which is vital for some. While the built in developer tools are lackluster, you can install Firebug, which is great for web development.
For users of the new MacBook Pros with graphics switching, I should note that Firefox causes the discrete graphics card to activate. This means it’s going to lower your battery life, without boosting performance much.
Also, these stats come from the beta version of Firefox, which is a lot faster than the current version. This makes these low stats even more dramatic. Currently, Firefox’s only chance is that it uses the least amount of memory. However, Opera only uses slightly more, and is a lot faster. I wish I could say more that’s good about Firefox, (really, I do) but time hasn’t been as kind to my old favorite.
And there you have it. Is there one “best browser”? No. Each browser has it’s pros and cons, and only you can make the right choice. I do hope this has helped you narrow things down though. Personally? I use every browser for web development. However, my favorite is Safari. Why? It’s consistent, fast, has useful development tools, top sites lets me see the updates on news sites, and it has some good extensions. That’s why I like the browser. That’s my opinion, and I could start using another browser in a heartbeat. They’re all great, so you’ll have to make a decision for yourself.