Now, let's break down how the competitors did per category:
|Type of Test||Winner||Also Strong||Weak|
|Startup Time||Internet Explorer||Opera||Safari|
|Page Load Time||Safari||Chrome||Opera|
|HTML5 Hardware Acceleration||Internet Explorer||Firefox||Chrome, Opera, Safari|
|WebGL||Chrome||Firefox||Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari|
|Flash||Internet Explorer||Safari, Opera||Firefox, Chrome|
|Java||Opera||Firefox, Chrome||Safari, Internet Explorer|
|Memory Usage (Light Load)||Internet Explorer||Chrome|
|Memory Usage (Heavy Load)||Firefox|
|Memory Management||Chrome||Internet Explorer|
|DOM||Chrome, Opera, Safari||Firefox||Internet Explorer|
|CSS3||Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari||Chrome|
If we look at the results by category, Internet Explorer 9 still has the edge. This makes Microsoft's browser the winner by category, as well as by the performance and total placing. There's simply no getting around it, Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 is still the champion.
Once again, Google Chrome surprises us most. In WBGP3, we were interested in how far the browser had fallen in the rankings. This time, we're surprised at how far it surged ahead after just a “minor” update. Since Google has moved to a rapid release schedule with auto-updating and in-place upgrades, Chrome has essentially become a rolling release. This means that serious enhancements to any aspect of the browser, including performance, can be applied at anytime without notice or fanfare.
The performance of Firefox 4 didn't really catch us off-guard. After all, we looked at the “leaked” copy of Firefox 4 right after our last story, which actually ended up being some version of RC2 in the QA process. Using the WBGP3 benchmark line-up, that near-final build placed a shaky third. It was solidly behind Opera 11.01, and barely ahead of Chrome 10.0.648.134. Again, this is why we don't compare pre-release builds to final products. Firefox 4 actually did much better using the final code with updated benchmarks, which take its full capabilities into account.
With that said, Firefox hasn't been a speed demon in a very long time. It's the rock-solid browser. During the 40-tab memory testing, we get see how reliably pages load. Firefox is the only Web browser that consistently loads every single element on every single page all at once, correctly. Each of the other browsers require at least one reload to fix a broken ad or or some other element. Also notice how few times Mozilla's browser is listed in the weak column. With version 4, Firefox is still the rock-solid browser. Which is what it needs to be with that kind of market share - the name of the game is stability over speed when you've got that many users.
Also keep in mind that, with Firefox 4, Mozilla built a brand new platform that is going to carry the company at least into next year. A look at the roadmap for Firefox 5, 6, and 7 shows that Firefox 6 is going to focus on speed. If there is an upcoming Firefox release for speed freaks to look forward to, it's probably 6.
Opera is due to launch 11.1 soon, and I'd bet we see Safari 6, complete with Webkit 2.0, around the time OS X 10.7 "Lion" launches. With Chrome on a six-week release cycle and Firefox now on a similarly rapid schedule, there will be no shortage of challengers to Microsoft's two consecutive Web Browser Grand Prix championships. But until then, IE9 is still the fastest thing browsing.
Follow the author on Twitter @adamovera.