What's the best web browser for the Mac? The benchmarks are in

One Mac, four browsers, five benchmark tests. Which is the best web browser for the Mac?

Following on from the excellent work carried out by my colleague, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, where he benchmarked browsers running on Windows 7 and Windows 10, I've taken a look at how well browsers run on OS X 10.11 "El Capitan."

So, which is the best browser for your Mac?

The system

  • Mac mini (Late 2012)
  • 2.3GHz Intel Core i7 CPU
  • 16GB of 1600MHz DDR3 RAM
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • 1TB SATA hard drive
  • OS X 10.11.2

The browsers

  • Safari 9.0.2
  • Chrome 47
  • Firefox 43
  • Opera 34

The tests

  • JetStream 1.1: A JavaScript benchmark that includes benchmarks from the SunSpider 1.0.2 and Octane 2 JavaScript benchmark suites. Larger scores are better.
  • Kraken-1.1: An updated version of the SunSpider benchmark. Lower scores are better.
  • Octane 2.0: A JavaScript test that includes tests that focus on interactive scripting. Higher scores are better.
  • RoboHornet: This benchmark claims it "encompasses all aspects of browser performance and everything that matters to web developers, like performance of layout and localStorage." Higher scores are better.
  • HTML5 Test: A web standards compliance test. The maximum score is 550, and a higher score is better.

These tests were run multiple times to ensure consistency.

The results

I've added a checkmark next to the benchmarks won by each browser:

See also: 7 steps to speed up Google Chrome

Safari

  • JetStream 1.1: 152.10 ✔
  • Kraken-1.1: 2,583.82
  • Octane 2.0: 22,158
  • RoboHornet: 148.22 ✔
  • HTML 5 test: 400

Chrome

  • JetStream 1.1: 142.50
  • Kraken-1.1: 2,442.44 ✔
  • Octane 2.0: 23,928
  • RoboHornet: 126.12
  • HTML 5 test: 521 ✔

Firefox

  • JetStream 1.1: 135.66
  • Kraken-1.1: 2,882.82
  • Octane 2.0: 23,402
  • RoboHornet: 118.23
  • HTML 5 test: 468

Opera

  • JetStream 1.1: 147,68
  • Kraken-1.1: 2,931.11
  • Octane 2.0: 24,662 ✔
  • RoboHornet: 125.75
  • HTML 5 test: 520

The bottom line

If you want the fastest browser then the browser you should be using on your Mac is Safari. It won two of the benchmark speed tests, while Chrome only won the one. Pretty clear win for Safari.

If you want the browser displaying the best standards compliance, then go with Chrome since it was the winner in the HTML5 test.

Moving from the artificial world of benchmarks into the real world, I have to be honest and say I can't feel much of a speed difference no matter which browser I use. Even running something like Internet Explorer or Edge through on a virtual machine on the Mac doesn't feel all that bad to be honest.

No matter which browser you use, they're all pretty darn fast. But if you want to be running the fastest browser on your Mac, run Safari.

See also:

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