The Fastest Browsers for Mac

Mac Web Browser Showdown

There are a number of free alternatives to Apple’s bundled Safari web browser, and to get a better idea of which of these are worth your time, we have put together a brief comparison.
We took 5 popular browsers and tested them for loading speeds, memory usage and interface. Without further ado, the contenders are:

Mozilla Firefox 3 (RC3)
Camino 1.6
Opera 9.5
Safari 3
Shiira 2

We tested using a clean install of OSX 10.5.3 Leopard with all updates installed on an Intel Macbook Pro 2.4ghz with 4gb RAM and a 200gb 5400rpm hard drive (current base-end model with an additional 2 gigabytes of RAM).

If you would prefer to cut to the chase, we have cliffs notes: Shiira was the fastest browser we tested, but also the quirkiest. It would not be recommended to someone who was only familiar with Internet Explorer or Safari. We also determined that the Apple-supplied Safari browser held its own against the third parties and is not a bad choice if you are already comfortable with it.

We downloaded the latest available version of the browsers from their respective websites and placed each application on the desktop. Each was run to set homepages, disable prompts for “Default Browser” and finished the initial configuration/setup stages for each. Then, the test computer was restarted and had its permissions/pram cleared for the cleanest testing with the least variables.
Our first test was raw speed, from click to page loaded. We set each browser to load Google.com as their homepage (though one was unable to do so), cleared all preferences.

One problem we encountered right off the bat was the Shiira, no mater how hard we tried, would not allow a home page. Even when it was entered in the home page field, when the browser was re-opened, it defaults to a blank page. This may be part of the reason that Shiira’s speed was faster then others, so please take that result with a grain of salt.

Initial Boot Speed

Fastest Mac Browser

In this test, lower is better. As we mentioned, Shiira (the current fastest) did not account for page load times. Google was cached by each browser so the impact is not tremendous but it is a factor.
The Winner: Shiira (with an asterisk by its record)

Javascript Test Speed

Mac Browser Javascript Speed

In this test, lower is better. Safari came out the champion of the Javascript test, blowing away the competition. Camino was far behind the rest, with Shiira placing a respectable second.
The Winner: Safari

Idle Memory Usage

Mac Browser Idle Memory Usage

In this test, lower is better. We conducted the memory usage test by opening each browser to Google.com and leaving it alone. Safari was by far the worst offender here, with Camino taking the prize for lowest idle memory usage.
The Winner: Camino

Load Memory Usage

Mac Browser Load Usage
In this test, lower is better. We conducted the load memory usage test by opening each browser to a Youtube video and played halfway through before testing. Safari made up for its poor idle memory with a very low load usage and won by a large margin.
The Winner: Safari

Shiira was the fastest browser we tested, but also the quirkiest. It would not be recommended to someone who was only familiar with Internet Explorer or Safari. We also determined that the Apple-supplied Safari browser held its own against the third parties and is not a bad choice if you are already comfortable with it. Often touted alt-browser Opera failed to impress in any categories, and fan-favorite Firefox was not exceptional, but its immense community support and extensive plugin library make it a very viable option.

I personally use Firefox, but after this testing, I’ve begun to use Shiira for daily browsing and found it to be a very comfortable interface. Any of these browsers are an excellent choice, hopefully we’ve helped provide some options!

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