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

System Specs And Testing Methodology

Test System Specs

Operating System
Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit)
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ @ 2.0 GHz (dual core)
Biostar NF61S-M2 TE
4GB DDR2 @ 800 MHz (2 x 2GB)
Evga Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 (896 MB GDDR3), PCI-E 1.0
Western Digital Caviar WD400, 40GB EIDE, 7,200 RPM
Power Supply
Corsair TX750W (750W Max)

Web Browser Specs

Apple Safari
Google Chrome
Microsoft Internet Explorer
Mozilla FireFox

Why Windows?

Anyone who has been following my articles knows I usually work on Linux coverage. I chose Windows as the operating system for this article for three major reasons. First, it's what most of our readers use. Second, it supports native versions of all five major Web browsers. And third, Opera's claim that version 10.50 is "the fastest browser on Earth" was made when they released 10.50 for Windows only (the Mac and Linux clients have yet to be released at time of writing). I chose Windows 7 simply because it is the latest version. I chose the Ultimate edition because it should cover all sub-licenses. And finally, I chose the 64-bit edition because most of our readers probably have newer hardware (and plenty of RAM), thus requiring a 64-bit operating system. If you want a Linux-based browser battle, or a comparison of browser performance across operating systems, speak up in the comments below.


Once Windows was installed, it was updated before installing the browsers. After the browsers, we installed SilverLight, Flash, and Java. Most of the benchmarks were run for five iterations per browser per test, unless specifically mentioned otherwise.


The OS was allowed to “warm-up” before running a new test. Each time we finished a benchmark, the cache was cleared on all browsers and the system reset before beginning a new benchmark.

Editorial Leaning

In the interest of full disclosure, I should go over the history of my own browser usage. I've been running Chrome as my primary browser for several months now. Before that, I was a Firefox user since it's very first release. I'm reluctant to admit that I switched to Internet Explorer for version 3.0, and I suppose it must have been Netscape Navigator before that. I personally haven't used Internet Explorer in ages, and truth be told, I have never actually used Safari before this. I check out Opera just about every time they come out with a new release, but two weeks is probably the longest uninterrupted duration that I have ever seriously used that browser. At Bestofmedia, we use Firefox to interact with our content management system.

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  • 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.
  • jsowoc
    manwell999Google "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.

    I found that extension not to block most of the ads. Google makes a lot of money off ads, so I can't see their adblock being functional anytime soon.
  • Sihastru
    When it comes to actual page rendering and actual browsing, Opera is the worst piece of s...browser I've had the "pleasure" of using. A lot of pages look different, a lot of scripts will not run correctly, many XHTML/CSS/JS "designer" sites (many portfolios) will just not work like they were intended to. They have made some improvements lately, but they still have a long way to go.

    I will use FF for web development and Chrome for "just browsing". Speed is a relative thing. As you can see from the benchmarks above, it depends on the website how fast it loads. There is no clear winner when you consider page loading times, even IE will come on top many times.

    Sometimes I think they made Opera just to win benchmarks...
  • ecka84
    I am with Opera for a long time and I don't need a benchmark to see that it is the best (for me ;))
  • linaaslt
    I love Chrome, it the best browser for me, simple browser, works quick, had no problems with it for ages :)
  • "If you want a Linux-based browser battle, or a comparison of browser performance across operating systems, speak up in the comments below."

    Linux (Ubuntu) please ;) Comparing the speed of (the same) web browser(s) between different OS'es (Windows Vista, 7, Linux -KDE & Gnome, if this could lead to a difference of speed) would be awesome BTW!
  • randomizer
    Speaking of cross-platform testing, Firefox in Ubuntu does seem to render this site substantially faster than in Win 7. Other sites not so much, but they aren't taking 2.5-5 seconds already, so the difference would be less noticeable anyway.
  • IE and Chrome don't even support color management. More and more displays come with wide-gamut panel and reading Tom's hardware without CM hurts!
  • mitch074
    @randomizer: Firefox may work better on some platforms than on others. It also heavily depends on what optimizations were used to compile it: For example, my Firefox 3.5 64-bit Mandriva build is slow as heck - but the 64-bit Mozilla build for Linux is very, VERY fast.
  • helms
    Please add a 20 tab startup so we can see what happens in kinda worse case scenario
  • so no one cares about antialiasing? the one that safari does? because for me... reading with it is precious. other way in any other brouser my eyes would hurt....
  • Tomtompiper
    manwell999Google "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.

    Having an adblock addon and allowing that addon to work properly is two different things.

    Why do you think Google Chrome goes to great lengths to record all of your surfing activity? It is to supply sites with information on you so that they can tailor adverts to your profile. Googles revenue depends on Adverts, it will make sure via code changes that Adblock software is never effictive.

    Tomshardware relies on advertising too, it is in there interest for people to surf the site without adblocking software, a fact that is missing from the disclaimer "Editorial Leanings" and a indicator as to why they have given a Hardware award to a piece of Software(Spyware).
  • killerclick
    How do create custom search shortcuts through the address bar using Chrome?
  • climber
    How about a test on the same pages for zooming in and out, say zooming in (+3), resetting to default and zooming out (-3). I myself love Chromes ability to zoom and the way it performs the anti-aliasing to scale images very well. This browser seems very useful for people who are visually impaired. I like the Chrome extensions, this is clearly set up to be a Chrome Apps like linkage for their Chrome OS, having so many tools for things other than just web browsing built into the browser via buttons.
  • Tomtompiper
    If you are going to do a cross platform test, I would be interested, however I suggest you do so on a variety of setups from Netbooks up. Not everybody surfs on the same system and I think some of these browsers might give diffrent results on low end systems. Allowance would have to be made for IE8 due to its lack of a native Linux app, but it's scores using wine would still make for interesting reading.