The Test

For our objective testing, we'll take a look at memory usage, rendering performance, and website compatibility among the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. For rendering performance in particular we will be using the tried & true stopwatch method, recording the amount of time it takes for each browser to load each of the following sites: AnandTech, Slashdot, CNN, and The White Due to the greater variability of this method of testing because of network conditions and human response lag, the results are the average of 5 runs of each test. All temporary files are deleted between runs to prevent any caching issues.

For our subjective testing, we'll be looking at feature comparisons, look & feel, flow, and more. In the interest of fairness we'll be excluding Opera from these comparisons as we do not regularly use it and as such can not properly comment on its abilities.

It's important to note that Safari 3.0 is still in beta and as such things are subject to change. Apple's public betas tend to be far more stable and usable than most other beta software we look at, and as such this beta version will closely reflect the final version, but none the less things can change.

The test setup was the following:

Software Test Bed
Processor AMD Athlon 64 4600+
(2x2.4GHz/512KB Cache, S939)
RAM OCZ EL Platinum DDR-400 (4x512GB)
Motherboard ASUS A8N-SLI Premium (nForce 4 SLI)
System Platform Drivers NV 15.00
Hard Drive Maxtor MaXLine Pro 500GB SATA
Video Cards 1 x GeForce 8800GTX
Video Drivers NV ForceWare 158.45
Power Supply OCZ GameXStream 700W
Desktop Resolution 1600x1200

Internet Explorer 7
Opera 9.2.1
Safari 3.0.1

Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate 32-Bit
Index Objective Testing
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  • crimson117 - Thursday, July 12, 2007 - link

    <quote>For all of the positive aspects we've mentioned above, what good are they if we go mad trying to use the application?</quote>
    As a long-time windows user (haven't had an Apple computer since the IIe), I was put-off enough by the font smoothing and other oddities in Safari to uninstall it right away and stick with Firefox.

    But I can see Apple's intentions here... if they're trying to get people to switch to Macintosh for their next computer, perhaps those people will prefer the look and thus be happy to get a Mac - not surprised when Safari renders significantly differently on Windows vs Mac.
  • zshift - Sunday, July 8, 2007 - link

    I'm having a little trouble with the values you guys are getting on how much each app is using for ram. Under windows xp pro, safari on average uses about twice as much ram as firefox when multiple windows were open. In cases where firefox was using about 45MB of ram, I noticed that safari was edging onto 100MB. You guys should redo that test, and do it while having several tabs open. Also, it was never mentioned how much flash/java/etc. the test site used, so theres no way of knowing how effecient the browsers really are in real life settings.
  • Ryan Smith - Sunday, July 8, 2007 - link

    The test was each of our test pages(AT, ./, CNN, and the WH) open in separate tabs; this gives a good mix of flash-rich pages(AT and CNN) and simpler text-rich pages(./, WH).
  • jay401 - Saturday, July 7, 2007 - link

    Between Extensions and its more correct CSS rendering compared to IE, FireFox still brings the best browser experience to Windows.
  • PrinceGaz - Sunday, July 8, 2007 - link

    I'll stick with Opera as it is not only more standards-compliant than Firefox or IE (it passes the ACID2 test perfectly), but also much less prone to security breaches thanks in part to using proprietary code (rather than IE and Mozilla-related projects which re-use many modules), and also because Opera has such a small userbase (~2.5% I believe) that it just isn't worth the effort of writing totally new code to attack its users.

    Opera is fast, functional and safe. I do have Firefox as well as IE7 installed as well, but I prefer Opera for day-to-day browsing.
  • LTG - Saturday, July 7, 2007 - link

    It seems the most basic Java applet does not work:">

    I'm running Vista and Safari 3.0.2.

    Does this work for anyone else?
  • BikeDude - Sunday, July 8, 2007 - link

    FWIW: I have problems with IE and Java under Vista as well... The JRE isn't too happy when DEP mode is enabled. :( (I have no clue if it will help to disable DEP for Safari, but give it a spin if you have the time)

    Oh, I forgot to add: Java sucks. (I have to admit reinstalling JRE many, many times before I discovered the DEP issue -- I just couldn't imagine a modern piece of software not supporting DEP, the API has been there since before 1993 for Pete's sake!)

  • Griswold - Saturday, July 7, 2007 - link

    This is problematic for Apple. Although we have other theories on Safari that we'll get to in a moment, we're not ready to be so bold as to proclaim that Apple doesn't intend for this browser to be used on Windows by the masses - if that was the case they wouldn't have made it WWDC's "one more thing" or have giving it such prominent billing on their website.

    That WWDC was rather dull and boring, they needed some flashy announcement and had this in the drawer - call it plan B for rainy days. It created alot of hoopla but in the end, its nothing to call home about. On the useful side are the points you mentioned.
  • Donkeyshins - Saturday, July 7, 2007 - link

    ...the nine zero-day exploits against Safari. Not an auspicious beginning.
  • Justin Case - Friday, July 6, 2007 - link

    Why is using 44 MB "better" than using 50 or 200?

    What exactly is the advantage of having several GB of RAM not being used by any application? A well designed program will use RAM as cache (for pages, interface elements, bookmarks, history, etc.), to speed up its operation.

    One thing is checking how much RAM needs to be available for a program to run (or how well it runs when very little RAM is available), but simply checking how much RAM a program is using (when there's still a lot of free memory) tells you nothing about its efficiency.

    I'd much rather use a program that's smart enough to load things I might want to use in the background (if enough RAM is available) than one that loads things only when I specifically ask for them, making it slower in exchange for not using RAM that's just sitting there.

    Also, site "loading" times depend a lot more on the network conditions than on the browser, and the same browser will "load" the same site in different times, if you test it multiple times. What you might want to measure is how long it takes each browser to _render_ a complex page. Make sure everything is cached, hit "refresh" and time it. Or use the "back" and "forward" buttons. That way you take network delays out of the equation, and check how responsive the browser actually is.

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