Safari 4 — really the fastest browser on the planet?

The beta of Safari 4 has just been released, and at first sparkle it seems a worthy upgrade. It makes a good opening splash, too, taking Chrome's idea of having a mosaic of favourite pages as the starting point - only this being Apple, they're all curved into a Cinemascope-style 3D screen.

The beta of Safari 4 has just been released, and at first sparkle it seems a worthy upgrade. It makes a good opening splash, too, taking Chrome's idea of having a mosaic of favourite pages as the starting point - only this being Apple, they're all curved into a Cinemascope-style 3D screen. Which is nice, but not really revolutionary.

Apple does make some strong claims, though, saying that it's "the world’s fastest and most innovative web browser for Mac® and Windows PCs" with its Nitro Javascript engine going 4.2 times faster than Safari 3.

Yeah, but who cares about Safari 3? We ran the beta against Chrome on the PC and Firefox 3 on the Mac, using the SunSpider suite of Javascript tests.

And it is faster than either. On the PC, which was a rather tired old HP workstation running XP, Chrome clocked in at 1340ms as the headline rate for the SunSpider tests; Safari 4 managed 1082, twenty percent faster.

On the much spiffier 24" office iMac, Safari 4 (after three reboots; it was fussy about the latest security updates to Leopard) managed 653ms: Firefox 3 could only crawl past the finishing line after 2555ms - making Safari some 75 percent swifter.

We'll be having a harder, longer look at Safari later - Apple goes on to make great claims about HTML 5 and CSS 3 - and we rather hope that such audacity will help focus the minds of those who may be bringing Chromium to Mac OS.