The Great Browser Test 2008 (part 1)

Posted by beakersoft | Posted in Applications | Posted on 01-04-2008


Over the last few days I have read quite a few posts about Safari for Windows coming out of beta. Lots of people seem to be having a go at Apple for the way they are distributing it via the Apple software update (the CEO of Mozilla for one, see here), but i’m more bothered about how the different browsers perform up against each other.

So I decided to put them to the test. I installed Internet Explorer (7), Firefox (, Safari (3.1) and Opera (9.26) onto a Windows Vista SP1 PC (dell 755, 1gig ram 2ghz proc) and came up with a few of simple tests:

  • How the perform at the ACID3 test
  • How much memory they take up when first loaded
  • How long it takes to render the main page of a bunch of site (, etc.)
  • Of those sites, did they all look and act as they should

The object of these tests is’nt to find the best browser, it is just to see how they stack up against each other. Everyone’s taste is always different and the ‘best’ performing browser might not be for everyone.

Up First… The ACID3 Test

The ACID3 ( test tries to render a page to test different web standards of the browser. The previous ACID test was more about CSS compliance, where as this once tests for more things that would effect the rendering of web2 kind of site. The ACID2 test also did not have a score to rate the compliance, so its hard to express the results. You can run the ACID2 test here

Browser Acid3 Test Result
Internet Explorer 12/100
Firefox 52/100
Safari 75/100
Opera 36/100 (then crashed)

So, as you can see from the results, the most compliant browser of the lot was Safari, but i suppose that’s to be expected as it is the most (feature wise) recently updated browser.

Next… Memory Usage on Start

Next up, how much memory does each browser use on start up. For this test Firefox is running as a new install so there are no extensions in there to slow it down.

Browser Memory On Startup
Internet Explorer 6176 k
Firefox 13312 k
Safari 14876 k
Opera 35744 k

Here Internet Explorer is the clear winner, but i think that is to be expected as it is tried into other windows components (like explorer.exe) so much. Opera was the last performer in this test, but if you start to load Firefox with some extensions over time that will probably end up the worst memory hog. In the new version of Firefox they have done a lot of work to plug all of the memory leaks.

Last… Page Loading times

Next up we will time how long it takes to render pages in each of the browsers. I will clear the cashe and history of each browser before going onto the site. To time the load times of the pages I will use the stopwatch service at You can just enter a url and it will re-direct you to it, and time how long it takes the page to load. Hopefully these are a good cross section of sites.

  microsoft apple digg facebook bbc lep
Internet Explorer 7.64 9.27 6.39 4.48 1.44 3.22
Firefox 14.83 2.66 11.43 5.12 2.25 4.25
Safari 2.52 2.23 4.2 5.96 0.94 1.61
Opera 3.26 2.41 5.99 4.98 1.94 3.27

Note: the pages tested where the front page of the site, apart from facebook, in that case it was the home page you see after logging in

Again, the results show that Safari comes top again. I must admit I haven’t used it in the past, but the page load times are very impressive. On the bottom end of the scale Firefox seemed to perform the worst of the bunch, that came as quite a surprise to me.

So, what have we learnt?

Personally, quite a bit. I use Firefox day in day out, and I didn’t release the other browsers were that much faster than it, especially Safari. I was quite unimpressed with Opera, it looked and felt to me like Internet Explorer with a more cluttered interface. That said I still prefer Firefox over the others. Its easy to use, and its plugin system means it will always have the functions I want (even if some do come with a performance penalty)

I can understand why Apple are making a dig deal out of safari though, its speed alone makes it worth while, and it also has a couple of features (such as snapback) that the others don’t possess. That said I don’t know how it stable it is, but some things I have read online say that this version is fine.


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