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Two Winners: One In Windows 7, One in OS X

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

We're handing out two championship prizes: one for Windows and another for Mac OS X.

Your Windows Champion

Version 13 once again earns Google Chrome the Web Browser Grand Prix championship. Chrome's sheer number of wins nearly discounts its weaknesses.

With only one weakness and the highest number of non-winning strong scores, Mozilla Firefox is once again our runner-up. A bit of trouble in CSS performance, as well as a high number of merely acceptable scores, are all that hold back Firefox from taking the gold. Although the new rapid development cycle may be hurting Firefox in our reliability benchmarks, it also allows Mozilla to keep pace with Google Chrome on the performance front. Firefox 7 is supposed to bring improvements to both JavaScript and memory usage/management, which are two key areas that might allow Firefox to pull into a first-place finish.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 claims third place, though it is falling further behind the more quickly updated Chrome and Firefox builds. Its scores in Flash, HTML5, and memory management are keeping IE9 on the medal stand.

Opera takes fourth place, but is still very close to unseating IE9 for third. Poor memory management, plus a lack of HTML5 hardware acceleration and WebGL support put a hurt on the Norwegien Web browser. A large number of non-standout scores isn't helping, either.

Safari crawls into last place with the least number of wins and most losses. Like Opera, no HTML5 hardware acceleration and WebGL support make it hard for Safari to compete. But Safari for Windows is barely a shell of its OS X counterpart.

Mac OS X Champion

On its native platform, Safari is definitely no slouch. In fact, the performance of Safari 5.1 in OS X Lion matches that of Firefox 6 in Windows 7.

Chrome takes second place on Lion, though its performance isn't even close to what we saw in Windows 7. A lack of HTML5 hardware acceleration, hoggish memory usage, and poor reliability hold back Google's browser here.

Opera takes third place on OS X, and its cross-platform scores are really close, earning Opera the distinction of providing a steady experience across multiple platforms. This browser suffers the same issues on OS X as in Windows 7, with the added problems of lowered JavaScript and DOM performance, as well as slower page load times.

Firefox 6 is pretty close behind Opera. Like Chrome, though, its Windows 7 build far out-paces the OS X version. Firefox's problems in OS X mirror what it suffers in Windows, with the addition of memory problems found in OS X.

Operating System Comparison

Mac OS X Lion is a beauty to behold, and its benefits aren't just skin-deep. The score for Safari 5.1 on OS X is really close to Chrome 13 running on Windows 7, and it might even beat Firefox 6 for Windows. So, if you throw Safari 5.1 for OS X into the regular Windows 7 mix, Apple takes or shares second place! It appears that your Mac friends were right afterall, so stop hassling them.

Also, remember these tests were not conducted on an actual Apple-branded Mac system. Based on what we saw in the results of WBGP2: Linux, we really didn't expect the OS X scores to get so close to the best from Windows. With such a slim margin of victory favoring Chrome in Windows (versus Safari on OS X), it is entirely within the realm of possibility that running these tests on a genuine Apple rig could tip the scales in favor of Safari (or back the other way). A more in-depth Hackintosh versus Macintosh comparison would be needed to confirm one way or the other.

As it stands, a Mac-based browser matched or beat the best score from Windows-based browsers in 10 out of 29 scored tests. In fact, even on a Hackintosh, Mac OS X is capable of providing better results than Windows 7 in Flash, HTML5, WebGL, and the ever-important page load times. Better standards compliance in Safari and Chrome for Mac even tip conformance in favor of OS X.

On the flip side, that leaves 19 tests in which a Windows 7-based browser provides the best score. For now, Redmond can still claim Web browsing supremacy on the desktop. But that edge is eroding, and you can bet Cupertino won't quit trying to usurp its competition.

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  • 5 Hide
    ne0nguy , August 29, 2011 4:22 AM
    The first chart says "higher is better" for the load time
  • 2 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 4:29 AM
    ne0nguyThe first chart says "higher is better" for the load time

    thank you, workin' on it
  • 8 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , August 29, 2011 5:14 AM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    soccerdocks , August 29, 2011 5:14 AM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , August 29, 2011 5:21 AM
    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".
  • -5 Hide
    tofu2go , August 29, 2011 5:50 AM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 6:00 AM
    @soccerdocks

    Yeah? And exactly what principle would that be?
  • -7 Hide
    andy5174 , August 29, 2011 6:09 AM
    @Google:
    Bring back the Google Dictionary, otherwise I will use Bing Search, Firefox and Facebook instead of Google Search, Chrome and G+.
  • 0 Hide
    kartu , August 29, 2011 6:34 AM
    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.
  • 2 Hide
    LaloFG , August 29, 2011 6:37 AM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    noob2222 , August 29, 2011 6:53 AM
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 6:57 AM
    kartuAccording to the graphic on "Reliability Benchmarks: Proper Page Loads" on MacOS Firefox is actually second, not third.

    thank you, workin' on it
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 8:09 AM
    On OSX browser 'vendors' are denied access to certain os hooks that would make their browsers better than they are.
  • 1 Hide
    yankeeDDL , August 29, 2011 8:14 AM
    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.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 8:40 AM
    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.
  • 9 Hide
    cookoy , August 29, 2011 9:35 AM
    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...
  • 0 Hide
    damasvara , August 29, 2011 9:54 AM
    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...
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 10:34 AM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 10:51 AM
    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!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 10:58 AM
    I had to switch to Chrome, FF was crashing like crazy here, and i only have Firebug add-on installed.
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