2009 Mac Web Browser Shootout!

It all began last fall when I observed that the web browser I was using hit 80% cpu utilization on a certain web site. That prompted last year’s Mac Web Browser Shootout!

Since then there have been improvements to both the Mozilla and Webkit codebases, and I thought it was time to revisit the test and see where the current batch of browsers stood.

Like last year, three rendering engines are represented. Opera uses it’s own proprietary engine, Presto. The rest fall into two categories: Mozilla and Webkit. For those of you coming to the party late, Mozilla is the codebase that traces it’s roots back to Netscape and is more commonly associated with Firefox these days. Webkit is Apple’s implementation of the khtml engine from the KDE desktop environment for X. Again, thankfully no Trident (IE) based web browsers exist for Mac.

The competitors:

The tests used are:

  • V8 Suite Suite of javascript benchmarks
  • Acid 3 Tests standards compliance
  • Crab Test Flash performance
  • Slickspeed Runs a gamut of javascript benchmarks
  • AVE CPU usage on MooTools slideshow
  • 15 Tab CPU usage with 15 tabs open
V8 Suite results

V8 Suite results

Immediately noticeable and striking are the V8 Suite results, which benchmark javascript performance. Apparently Apple wasn’t kidding about the improvements in the javascript engine in Safari, and the Webkit-based browsers absolutely crush the competition. Google’s Chrome has some additional javascript hocus pocus going on, because it tops the pack by a good margin. The Mozilla-based browsers come in a distant second, with Opera trailing the pack. Apparently OmniWeb isn’t using the latest Webkit, because it’s at the bottom with the Mozilla based offerings.

Acid3 Test

Acid3 Test

The acid3 test is a gauge of html standards compliance. This is why Internet Explorer has always sucked so bad. A developer can go to great lengths to make their web pages standards compliant so that every user sees the same page. Internet Explorer doesn’t care about standards, and that’s why we’ve always had to include special markup to give our IE surfers a page that looked ok. No excuse for it.

How do the latest batch of browsers fare with the Acid3 Test? Once again, the Webkit-based offerings come in first with 100% scores. Opera also gets a 100. Once again, OmniWeb lags behind it’s Webkit cousins. Firefox fares best of the Mozilla browsers, with the Mozilla derivatives coming in dead last.

Crab Flash Test

Crab Flash Test

Flash performance was mostly even across the board with the only notable deviations being a poor showing from Camino, and a fail for Chrome.

MooTools Javascript Benchmark

MooTools Javascript Benchmark

JQuery Javascript Benchmark

JQuery Javascript Benchmark

The last two javascript performance indicators, MooTools and JQuery, showed similar results. MooTools and JQuery are two commonly used javascript frameworks. Camino came in a distant last place, followed by the Mozilla derivatives, Opera, OmniWeb, Firefox, and then the rest of the Webkit-based browsers turning in the shortest times and coming in first place.

AV Enthusiast CPU Utilization

AV Enthusiast CPU Utilization

The test that started this whole mess. It’s a MooTools slideshow that functions excellently, despite machine specs. It’s the reason I used that snippet of code in the first place; it didn’t matter if the user was on a 1 GHz Athlon or a fast dual core machine, it behaved nicely despite user hardware. However, I was shocked when I noticed how much CPU utilization was occurring when the browser was running it, and it made it’s way into the first Shootout! as a javascript CPU utilization test.

This year it should be no surprise that the Webkit-based browsers are clear winners in this test, turning in numbers in the low 20s. The anomaly is Chrome, which scored well in the other javascript tests, turning in a 45. The Mozilla browsers turned in scores between 42-52, and Opera was the loser with a 57.

15 Tab Open Test

15 Tab Open Test

The 15 Tab Open test gauges browser CPU utilization with 15 tabs open. This is because many of us have a lot going on when we surf, and I used to get frustrated with pokey performance with too many open tabs. I used the same 15 sites for each browser test for consistency.

The latest Firefox does quite well on this test, with less than 10% CPU ultilization. The other Mozilla browsers don’t fare as well, using around 42-47% CPU and testing the worst of the group. Wyzo, another Mozilla based browser, did better at 25.

Two Webkit browsers fared worse than their cousins. iCab and Chrome both delivered 20-25% CPU utilization. Opera was next with 18%.

Firefox joined the remaining Webkit offerings in the winner’s circle, all delivering scores below 10%. The clear winner was Sunrise, which only used 4% CPU with 15 tabs open.

The winners of the 2009 Mac Web Browser Shootout!? This year Webkit soundly trounces Mozilla, and the browsers turning in the best scores across all tests are Safari, Cruz, Stainless, and Sunshine. I have a feeling that this time next year Chrome will be in that group, and if Stainless and Chrome both mature over the coming year, their accommodation of multiple processors may give them an advantage over the single threaded competition.

Going into last year’s Shootout! I had been a Camino user, but had switched to OmniWeb, which ended up being one of last year’s winners. I’m still using OmniWeb, but Cruz, Stainless and Sunrise have become objects of my interest.

Cruz Web Browser

Cruz Web Browser

Does performance tell the whole story? Not at all. Your web browser may provide a feature or behavior you wouldn’t want to give up. As attracted as I am to the new batch of Webkit-based browsers, I would miss per-site-preferences and the tab drawer if I left OmniWeb. Performance should be only part of the equation when choosing a browser.

Ultimately, web browsers across the board perform better than they did last fall, which is good news for all of us.

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8 Responses to 2009 Mac Web Browser Shootout!

  1. free internet games for kids July 29, 2009 at 2:39 am #

    Cool. Very well analyzed and nice diagrams. I hate IE, love Firefox. I still cant live without firefox plugins. Me too, often open up to 10 (sometimes 20) tab at 1 time in firefox, and I think I have no problems with it. Firefox rocks!!

  2. free internet games for kids July 29, 2009 at 3:39 am #

    Cool. Very well analyzed and nice diagrams. I hate IE, love Firefox. I still cant live without firefox plugins. Me too, often open up to 10 (sometimes 20) tab at 1 time in firefox, and I think I have no problems with it. Firefox rocks!!

  3. Ken Case August 12, 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    Yes, OmniWeb 5.9.2 isn’t using the latest WebKit; if you’d like a much faster (but not quite finished) OmniWeb, try the sneaky peek builds of OmniWeb 5.10.
    .-= Ken Case´s last blog ..OmniOutliner beta 6 now available =-.

  4. Ken Case August 12, 2009 at 6:10 pm #

    Yes, OmniWeb 5.9.2 isn’t using the latest WebKit; if you’d like a much faster (but not quite finished) OmniWeb, try the sneaky peek builds of OmniWeb 5.10.
    .-= Ken Case´s last blog ..OmniOutliner beta 6 now available =-.

  5. Name October 16, 2009 at 10:27 am #

    Speed isn't the only way to judge web browsers how about features and add-on,security and crash resistance…….

  6. marlin October 16, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    All you need is a web browser that works in a standard speeed with all the features you need there i recommend firefox, the media of mozilla is very large so lots of add on such as ad block,skip screen, Cooliris,status bar and more

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