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Startup time is tested under two different stress levels: a single tab and eight tabs (the current home tab limit imposed by Internet Explorer 8). In order to get a look at both laboratory and real-world numbers, we use live Web sites for the both the startup times and memory usage benchmarks. How often do you open your browser up to a file on your hard drive? Our Page Load Times benchmarks remain locally stored to provide a laboratory theoretical max speed.
When Mozilla released Firefox 3.6.6 it said the release was a minor version change, bringing only bug fixes and a slightly tweaked startup time. It did a great job achieving that latter point. Firefox now starts up faster with a single tab than any of the other browsers, barely edging out Opera 10.60. IE8 grabs third, followed by Google Chrome and Apple Safari.
But keep in mind all of the browsers perform well in this test; startup times are all down to around five seconds on our test platform.
The placing changes when eight tabs are opened. Opera's six seconds is the lowest by far, only two seconds longer than opening a single tab! Chrome, Firefox, and Safari come in second, third, and fourth, respectively, all taking around fifteen seconds to start up with just a tenth of a second between them. Internet Explorer finishes last at nearly eighteen seconds.