All 5 of the most popular Mac browsers were able to complete all tests without any problems. That's a far cry from the first time we benchmarked web browsers, when it wasn't unusual to see a browser fail to complete one or more of the tests.
That's a good indication that modern browsers are adhering to web standards as opposed to striking out on their own, as was the case in the bygone era of browser wars.
That means our browser benchmark results are an indication of overall performance, not compliance to standards. So, how did we pick a winner from all of these different tests? We decided to use the same method we've used in past browser face-offs. We assigned a rank from 1 to 5 for each of the benchmark tests. The overall winner in a test received a score of 1, second place received a score of 2, and so on. If a tie occurred, we looked at the number of first place wins in the individual tests that make up a complete benchmark. That means we rated the browsers on a scale of 6 to 30, with 6 being the best possible rating and 30 being the worst.
Best Mac Browser Overall
- SunSpider: 2
- RoboHornet: 2
- Peacekeeper: 1
- Acid3: 1
- HTML5: 1
- Octane: 2
- SunSpider: 1
- RoboHornet: 3
- Peacekeeper: 2
- Acid3: 1
- HTML5: 5
- Octane: 3
- SunSpider: 3
- RoboHornet: 1
- Peacekeeper: 3
- Acid3: 1
- HTML5: 4
- Octane: 4
- SunSpider: 4
- RoboHornet: 4
- Peacekeeper: 5
- Acid3: 1
- HTML5: 4
- Octane: 5
- SunSpider: 5
- RoboHornet: 5
- Peacekeeper: 4
- Acid3: 1
- HTML5: 2
Best Mac Browser Recommendations
Now that we've sorted out the browsers and ranked them in order of performance, it's time to make some recommendations.
Our first recommendation may seem a bit unusual, given that this entire article is about browser performance. Don't let browser performance be the only factor in selecting a day-to-day browser for your Mac. There are so many other aspects to consider, including user interface, features, and how well the browser integrates with the type of work or browsing you do.
Our second recommendation is that there's no need to limit yourself to one browser. I have all five of these browsers installed on my Mac, although only three of them are in my Dock for quick access. And that's one of the things we hope this browser face-off will help you with: selecting your go-to browser(s).
On to our suggestions for each browser; only you can decide which ones belong in your mix of applications.
Chrome: The performance standout is Google's Chrome browser, a position that Chrome has held since we first started bench testing Mac browsers in 2010. Chrome retains its grip on the performance title for a few reasons; one is that speed is one of the main features that Google wants to see in its browser. And that's a fine goal.
Chrome's speed is ideal for use with web-based applications and services, especially many of Google's own offerings in this area.
Chrome easily gains a place in my Dock, and I suspect it's a great choice to be in yours as well.
iCab: Coming in at the number two slot was iCab, which edged out Safari by a single point. iCab and Safari are so close in performance that it's difficult to discern any real difference. But iCab does have a few features that set it apart, including a link manager that lets you see all the links on a page in a sidebar, an ad filter, and much more. It's worth the time to download and test drive iCab, but in the end, it wasn't good enough to be one of my preferred browsers. That's doesn't mean it couldn't be one of yours.
Safari: With a third-place finish, Safari needs a bit of performance tuning from Apple. We certainly hope it will get a lift with its next version, and that is one of the problems with Safari. It has a slow update cycle compared to Chrome. When Apple releases a new major version of Safari, it usually performs quite well compared to other browsers, but then because of its long major update cycle, it always falls behind for a bit.
Still, Safari performs well enough for my needs. It retains its place in my Dock and it remains my default browser. But I'd be happier if Apple would improve Safari's performance, as well as shorten its update cycle.
There's one good reason to keep Firefox in your Dock: it has the largest list of available plug-ins and extensions, allowing you to customize it to meet almost any need. It also has a large enough user base that most new web services are tested against Firefox, ensuring compatibility.
Opera: Opera's tie with Firefox was unexpected. It appears to be the slowest browser, so we were more than a little surprised to finish our tests and find Opera tied for last place, rather than owning it outright.
Opera (the company) has already decided to move to a different rendering engine in the next release of Opera (the browser). We think that will make Opera one of the better performing browsers in the near future. It doesn't have a place in my Dock today, but I look forward to testing it again soon.
Is Performance That Important?
The dirty little secret is that for many of us, the difference in performance between browsers isn't that noticeable in real-world use. If you mainly use a browser to keep up with the news, do a little online shopping, or entertain yourself with the latest funny animal photos, then your primary reasons for selecting a browser should be its user interface and how well you like its feature set.