Speed Test: Safari 4 Beta

In amongst the noise surrounding Apple’s release of the Safari 4 Beta, and the spectacular visual inclusion of Cover Flow, Top Sites and a radical new departure for the menu bar, was Apple’s claim that Safari 4 remains the world’s fastest Web browser.

Powered by a new technology Apple refers to as the Nitro Engine, Safari 4 is - according to Apple - 30 times faster than Internet Explorer 7 and more than three times faster than Firefox 3.

Well you know how the saying around statistics goes, so we decided to put Safari 4 beta through a couple of tests. One to test out its Javascript performance, the other to test out its CSS rendering ability.

We used Celtic Kane online’s Javascript speed test, which can be found here.

We also used the CSS Test found on How To Create’s Web site, which can be found here. (You need to download this to a disk for it to work).

We’re not claiming that these tests are the be-all and end-all of Web testing, far from it. But they offer some quick insights into the current state of play for Web browser ability. We tested the Safari 4 beta against Safari 3.2.1, Firefox 3.06, Firefox 3.1beta2, Opera 9.63 and OmniWeb 9.3.

All scores are in ms (milliseconds); lower scores are better. The results are as follows:

Safari 4 Beta Speed Test

Safari 4 Beta Speed Test Chart

Safari 4
JavaScript: 151 ms
CSS: 48 ms

Safari 3.2.1
JavaScript: 295 ms
CSS: 46 ms

Firefox 3.06
JavaScript: 659 ms
CSS: 367 ms

Firefox 3.1b2
JavaScript: 654 ms
CSS: 376 ms

Opera 9.63
JavaScript: 577 ms
CSS: 54 ms

OmniWeb 5.9
JavaScript: 301 ms
CSS: 57 ms

So according to these initial tests it seems that Apple’s claim that Safari is the world’s fastest Web browser can be supported. Of particular note is its ability to render JavaScript, which now appears twice as fast as before and is substantially faster than other Mac-based browsers.

Safari 4's ability to render CSS pages seems fairly static though (technically it was 2ms slower than Safari 3.2.1 although such a small difference could be down to testing variation). Safari still renders pages slightly faster than the other browsers we tested though and it's substantially faster than Firefox; although seems fairly parallel with OmniWeb and Opera.

All of this will come as no real surprise to long-term users of Safari and Firefox. The faster speed of the browser has been felt in day-to-day use. Although that shouldn't prevent users from testing out FireFox as an alternative to Safari. Omni Group’s decision to give away OmniWeb away for free should be a good reason for many Mac owners to check out this browser as well.

Update: One of our sister titles, Computerworld, has tested Safari 4 on the PC and the results are much closer. Most notably because Google's Chrome Browser offers similar speed results to Safari. Click here to read the speed test results for Safari 4 Beta running on a Windows PC.

OUR VERDICT

It’s fair to note that sheer speed is by far the only factor when it comes to choosing a Web browser. Firefox’s extensibility and Web tools are often cited as reasons for running the browser; while OmniWeb has features that other browsers lack. We’re pleased with the speed of the Safari 4 Beta though and a faster browsing experience is always a better one. We are hoping Apple rolls it Safari 4 to the iPhone soon, where its fast page rendering will complement the relatively slower speeds of the 3G network. Note that Macworld does not typically rate beta software, a score will be assigned to Safari 4 when Apple releases the full version.

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