What's the fastest web browser for the Mac?

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 macOS 10.12 "Sierra."

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So, which is the fastest browser for your Mac?

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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
  • macOS 10.12.3

THE BROWSERS

  • Safari 10.0.3
  • Chrome 56
  • Firefox 51
  • Opera 43

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.
  • WebXPRT 2015: This benchmark contains six HTML5 and JavaScript-based workloads: Photo Enhancement, Organize Album, Stock Option Pricing, Local Notes, Sales Graphs, and Explore DNA Sequencing. 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

In previous years when I did these benchmark tests I've included the raw results, but I got a lot of feedback from readers asking for something easier on the eye, so this time I'll present the data in terms of the browser rankings for each of the tests.

JetStream 1.1

  • 1st: Safari
  • 2nd: Chrome
  • 3rd: Opera
  • 4th: Firefox

Kraken-1.1

  • 1st: Chrome
  • 2nd: Safari
  • 3rd: Firefox
  • 4th: Opera

Octane 2.0

  • 1st: Opera
  • 2nd: Chrome
  • 3rd: Firefox
  • 4th: Safari

WebXPRT 2015

  • 1st: Chrome
  • 2nd: Opera
  • 3rd: Safari
  • 4th: Firefox

HTML5 Test

  • 1st: Chrome
  • 2nd: Opera
  • 3rd: Firefox
  • 4th: Safari

Tally of wins

For those of you keeping score, here is the tally of wins for each browser across the five benchmark tests:

  • Chrome: 3/5
  • Opera: 1/5
  • Safari: 1/5
  • Firefox: 0/5

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you want the fastest browser then the browser you should be using on your Mac is Google Chrome. It won two of the benchmark speed tests.

If you want the browser displaying the best standards compliance, then go with Chrome since it also claimed first place 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 Chrome.

A word about power consumption and battery life

Speed is only one aspect of web browsing, and given that there isn't a huge difference in performance between the top web browsers, there may be better metrics that you can use in order to judge which is the best web browser for you.

For example, a lot of people prefer Google Chrome to the competition because of the power that extensions give them.

But anther thing that mobile workers using laptops should consider is power consumption. Power is no problem if you're sitting at a desktop system connected to the power outlet, but for laptop users who need to get as much done on in a day while on battery power, it can be a real problem.

While I didn't carry out specific battery tests this time around, I have noticed in day-to-day use that while Google Chrome is fast, it's also a massive power hog, while Safari is by far the most well behaved browser in terms of battery longevity. When I'm out and about and notice my battery is getting low I usually switch to Safari and find I get significantly better (by that I mean a noticeable) increase in battery life.

This is definitely something worth bearing in mind as you move away from thinking which is the "fastest" browser to which is the "best" browser.

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