Web Browser Grand Prix: The Top Five, Tested And Ranked

Analysis And Conclusion

This brings our Web Browser Grand Prix to an end. Some of our findings weren't that shocking, such as Internet Explorer's failure to adhere to Web standards (Acid3). But there were also a ton of interesting notes along the way, like Opera's gluttony for RAM and Safari's strong performance versus much newer versions of the other browsers. I already knew that Firefox was beginning to feel slow, but I didn't know how bad it had become. Safari didn't live up to its boast of being "the world's fastest web browser." Apple's product was beaten by Opera, and owned by Chrome. While Opera came close to living up to its claim of being "the fastest browser on Earth," close just isn't good enough. Google Chrome is the real speed king. The table below tallies the placing of each browser throughout testing.

Chrome was counted as the first-place finisher for the Acid3 test, while Opera and Safari were both tallied as second. Firefox was counted as third. Fourth place was skipped, and Internet Explorer was counted as fifth, due to it's utterly terrible score on that test. The SilverLight test was also a tie. This time, IE and Firefox were both counted as first place finishers. Second was given to Opera and third was skipped. Since Safari received a score almost half that of Opera, it was counted as a fourth-place finish. Chrome was given fifth. We also counted Opera's sketchy first-place finish in the Mozilla Dromaeo JavaScript Test, despite having experienced errors causing it to not complete a portion of the test. If we did not, Chrome would have had an even greater victory.

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Header Cell - Column 0 ChromeOperaSafariFirefoxInternet Explorer

As you can see, Google Chrome comes out on top. Although it tied with Opera for the most wins by racking up the highest number of second-place finishes, Chrome manages to take the win.

Considering that Safari has gone so long without a major new version, yet still placed so well, we cannot wait to see what's next from One Infinite Loop.

Mozilla, on the other hand, is a different story. Though I do believe that version 3.6 did bring a significant improvement over 3.5.x, it simply wasn't enough to compete. Since Mozilla's latest offering is only a little over one month old, its placing in our Grand Prix is disappointing, to say the least.

This brings us to Internet Explorer, Destroyer of Netscape Navigator. The browser from Redmond finished last no less than fourteen times (more than half of the tests). Internet Explorer's performance here is nothing less than sad.

Now, before someone cries foul about the over-saturation of JavaScript tests, I have also tallied the wins by category. The three startup time tests are counted as one. We've also counted the three memory usage tests as one category. Our five page load time tests, as well as the NonTroppo benchmark are counted just once, too. The table below shows the winners by category.

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Category / TestOverall Winner
Startup TimesOpera
Memory UsageFirefox
Page Load TimesFirefox
SilverLightFirefox / Internet Explorer

This table only displays the winners, rather than the previous table's full placing results. While it may appear that Opera had a better showing than Chrome, it does not reflect how many times that browser was edged out by Chrome when neither placed first. It also does not show that Safari remained smack in the middle throughout or that Firefox had a stranglehold on fourth.

Any way you want to analyze the data, Google's Chrome comes out on top. That's why we're not only calling Chrome the winner of our Web Browser Grand Prix, but we're also awarding it the Best of Tom's Hardware Award--the first time we've given such an honor to a software product. If you haven't yet downloaded Google Chrome, you just don't know what you're missing.

These benchmarks give us a pretty good picture of which browser is the fastest. What these benchmarks do not reveal is the usability (or overall end-user experience) of these browsers. The staggering number of customization options available for Firefox, or the almost constant (and insufferably bothersome) prompting in Internet Explorer are just two examples of what cannot be benchmarked. Security is also a major concern, and something that was not tested for this article. We focused purely on speed and performance, and in those fields, Google Chrome takes the gold...at least in this round of the raging browser wars.

  • Emperus
    Well i was beginning to feel the lack of many tests such as security and UI customizations but the last para covered it well.. I too felt that chrome has got the speed advantage over the competition.. Not only for a single tab but also with multiple tabs.. The slowest i feel is firefox (with multiple tabs).. So, may be a bit incomplete but nice article..
  • rbarone69
    Great article guys! Good to show the fanboys the real numbers behind the browsers...

    Although I bet the replies will soon be streaming in with posts saying how the tests aren't correct etc...

    In any case, great read.
  • welshmousepk
    well this makes me feel better. ive asserted that opera is the best web browser for a whil now.
    and give the inherent spyware nature of anything google, i think this justifies that.

    sure google chrome may have some nifty features, but have you READ the T&Cs?...
  • shubham1401
    Was using Chrome and Firefox for quite a while...
    I will try OPERA now!!
  • manwell999
    Chrome has a clumsy system to open bookmarks. Instead of a pull down menu you have to click a spanner then select bookmark manager which opens up a bookmark browser so you can then click the frequently used site.
  • chess
    Now all we need is a Google Operating System!
  • mitch074
    The benches are nothing new, however the runs are complete and the picture they draw is accurate. I myself would probably switch to Chrome too... if performance was the only consideration.

    Let's get things straight: although Firefox put the hurt on IE for performance reasons when it came out, Gecko is *by design* not made for speed - but versatility.

    Firefox uses Gecko for everything: the UI, page rendering, running add-ons, etc. It is actually a complete, highly versatile, and highly complex piece of software, indeed a programming environment that can run on pretty much anything (Firefox 3.6 can still run comfortably on a computer with 128 Mb of RAM, due to its memory manager) - and it shows: everything you see is actually interpreted code. If there's RAM to spare, Firefox will cache precompiled elements for fast reuse later on. If not, it'll recompute at need - including the UI. And since it's not exactly slow either, performance on memory-limited scenarii is best in Firefox than in many other browsers. It's also rather small to download (8 Mb for the 32-bit Windows version). Mozilla knows very well what's wrong with Firefox: Gecko, as it currently stands, is more than 10 years old (and actually predates most of the Web Standards) - and some design decisions no longer make any sense. Gecko 2 (which is in the planning stage) should solve most of these problems, but it's not there yet. So, for now, we get a patched and streamlined Gecko 1.9.x.

    What about the competition?

    Safari (based on Webkit) has a plain C++ interface, and is a 45 Mb download. What they put in this, I have no idea: not developer tools, that's for sure. I don't know how it can be that fast in your benches, but I know one thing for sure: on my XP box, it's slow - even slower than IE. And it's for Mac and Windows (XP and up, not 2k) only. Moreover, its interface is frozen: no way to customize your experience, not even skins. You get Safari, you get Apple's way. Some enjoy that, I sure don't.

    Chrome is FAST. No question about that. Also built upon Webkit (which is no slouch at HTML and CSS rendering), its V8 engine is just damn fast. While it uses process separation and sandboxing, it is also very light (no bigger than Firefox to download). The Chromium project (the open source version, that retains most of Chrome's advantages apart from phoning Google home and h.264 decoding) also makes it free software. While Google didn't go as far as Apple to freeze the interface (on the Linux build of Chromium, for example, you may have the browser using the system's theme and window decorations), it is also quite frozen in its design. For no-nonsense browsing, I recommend it. But it doesn't sit well with me: too frozen for my tastes (but I don't mind using it, contrary to Safari).

    Opera is a case appart: it's the only completely closed browser that is also found on any platform you may want. Mobile builds, 32- and 64-bit builds, Mac, Windows, Linux, BSD, Solaris ports... The only browser with more versions is Firefox, and even then, that's debatable. It also packs many features, is very light (the Windows version is smaller than Firefox's) and rather quick. It is also the only browser apart from Firefox that will do 'proper' XML parsing. It is, however, so unlike the competition that using it is an acquired taste: you either can't stand it for long, or you swear by it. I fall in the former, but I perfectly understand those in the latter category.

    Internet Explorer. Why is it still used by 60% of the net denizens? Performance ain't the reason. The interface? Let's not go there. Packed features? A joke. Security? Chrome has it for lunch. Extensions? Firefox is so far above IE can't see it any more with a telescope. Interface? Yeah, right. Portability? It's Windows only. Developer tools? They are basically a rewrite of an older version of Firebug.
    Could it be "bundling"? As in, forced installs? Maybe the EC has something here.

    So, why do I remain in Firefox? Extensions first. I use a few, that don't all have equivalent tools in other browsers, but that's not exactly the reason. Portability? Not that either, as Chrome(ium) and Opera run on the same OSes I use. Speed? Obviously not (I find it rather slow sometimes myself). Habit? There's definitely some of that, but if that were the case, I'd merely try to break a 'bad' habit. Compatible? Actually no, since it probably boasts the least compatible support for Web technologies apart from IE: Mozilla implemented standards with very few proprietary extensions, whether their own or their competitors', and they are late in implementing modifications in said standards (thus the 'low' Acid3 score).

    No, what I enjoy most about Firefox is that I can truly make it my own. It is the most versatile browser out there, bar none. I can make websites with it, I can make it 'pretty', I can load extensions for meaningful features (NoScript and Adblock are GREAT), I can run it on any system I have (even the 10 year old box I keep in my kitchen), I can take it with me (mobile versions), it works on any website I use it on... Something no other browser can do yet.

    And I like robots.
  • Tomtompiper
    What about the "Privacy" test? Chrome records everything you type in the search bar and sends it back to Google. If you want big brother get Chrome. If you want control and customization FF or Opera. FF wins for me the addons alone make up for the relative lack of speed. Adblock and Cooliris are invaluable, can you imagine Google ever allowing an Adblock addon for Chrome?
  • manwell999
    Google "Adblock for chrome" the first result is a link to the Adblock for Chrome extension download. Which is hosted at chrome.google.com. So I can imagine an Adblock addon for Chrome.
  • ephemeraldeception
    A good set of tests that has generated some intriguing results. Especially this comparison:
    Chrome and Safari really do well on the raw javascript/html/css etc execution tests. Yet Firefox manages to take top on overall page load times.

    Overall page load times is a big part of the user experience. What I cannot understand is WHY Firefox wins the page load times, so there must be other factors involved. One aspect is maybe the efficient memory usage. Another aspect may be in parallel processing and for online usage perhaps Firefox has better pipelining, sockets usage etc.