The Test

For our objective testing, we'll take a look at memory usage, rendering performance, and website compatibility among the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. For rendering performance in particular we will be using the tried & true stopwatch method, recording the amount of time it takes for each browser to load each of the following sites: AnandTech, Slashdot, CNN, and The White House.gov. Due to the greater variability of this method of testing because of network conditions and human response lag, the results are the average of 5 runs of each test. All temporary files are deleted between runs to prevent any caching issues.

For our subjective testing, we'll be looking at feature comparisons, look & feel, flow, and more. In the interest of fairness we'll be excluding Opera from these comparisons as we do not regularly use it and as such can not properly comment on its abilities.

It's important to note that Safari 3.0 is still in beta and as such things are subject to change. Apple's public betas tend to be far more stable and usable than most other beta software we look at, and as such this beta version will closely reflect the final version, but none the less things can change.

The test setup was the following:

Software Test Bed
Processor AMD Athlon 64 4600+
(2x2.4GHz/512KB Cache, S939)
RAM OCZ EL Platinum DDR-400 (4x512GB)
Motherboard ASUS A8N-SLI Premium (nForce 4 SLI)
System Platform Drivers NV 15.00
Hard Drive Maxtor MaXLine Pro 500GB SATA
Video Cards 1 x GeForce 8800GTX
Video Drivers NV ForceWare 158.45
Power Supply OCZ GameXStream 700W
Desktop Resolution 1600x1200
Software

Internet Explorer 7
FireFox 2.0.0.4
Opera 9.2.1
Safari 3.0.1

Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate 32-Bit
.
Index Objective Testing
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  • Griswold - Saturday, July 7, 2007 - link

    As for the RAM, you're right to a certain point. There are far too many people out there who like to stare at their unused RAM and feel proud that their system is so slim, sleek and... slow, because everything has to be loaded from the slow disk. RAM is here to be used, not to be left unused. End of story.

    But reality often isnt that simple. When software starts to unnecessarily hog RAM, resulting in disk trashing when its needed elsewhere, then its time to have a closer look and criticise.

    Some older FF builds in the 1.5 days were like that. Have FF run for a full day and it would start to bloat up to several hundred megabytes thanks to caching too many previous visited sites in RAM. Manually reducing that number to a reasonable value trimmed down the RAM usage. Personally, I dont see that behavior in FF 2.x anymore.
    Reply
  • Justin Case - Sunday, July 8, 2007 - link

    Like I said, simply checking how much RAM a program is using tells you nothing about its _efficiency_. Most browsers let you choose how much RAM they can use for cache. If it doesn't respect that value, it's not "bloated"; it's buggy.

    For example, something that Opera has done for a long time and other browsers have only recently copied is this: cache the _rendered_ pages in the browser history. That way when you press the "back" or "forward" button, the page is there _instantly_, regardless of complexity. This makes a huge difference in the user experience and is a good use of 4 MB of RAM. The latest versions of Firefox do this, too. Not sure about MSIE.

    Reply
  • crimson117 - Thursday, July 12, 2007 - link

    "This makes a huge difference in the user experience and is a good use of 4 MB of RAM."

    I agree, as long as it releases ram it's not likely to use anytime soon.

    If I've been browsing for a while and then load up a game to play, but keep the browser open, then I definitely don't need 400 MB of cached renderings.

    Hopefully it would cache the rendered pages for the past few sites, but write to disk the render cache for older sites in my session to free up the ram.
    Reply
  • Fede777 - Friday, July 6, 2007 - link

    In the Subjective Testing page it says
    quote:

    Buttons: iTunes(left) vs. Safari(right)
    but it should say
    quote:

    Buttons: IE(left) (on vista) vs. Safari(right)
    Reply
  • Fede777 - Friday, July 6, 2007 - link

    My mistake, it's just that iTunes looks like safari on XP Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Friday, July 6, 2007 - link

    The most interesting thing to me out of the whole article is the mrmory footprint chart. I never realized IE used so much memory as I don't check the usage.

    I downloaded Safari and it works quite nicely for me. I don't see one browser being vastly superior to another under normal usage though. I'm not so picky.
    Reply
  • Nemokrad - Friday, July 6, 2007 - link

    Safari 3.0.2 was released two weeks ago today. How come you didn't use it? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, July 6, 2007 - link

    This article has been complete for longer than two weeks. We had some unusual circumstances that kept us from publishing it on time. Reply
  • solipsism - Friday, July 6, 2007 - link

    I saw that and was able to read the first page before it was removed.

    What were the "unusual circumstances" for not posting it?


    PS: AnandTech is a favorite read for me because of the detail that is usually spent on a topic/item but I found this review to be rudimentary. I would have like to see other speed tests done with heavy JS and Flash pages, a comprehensive overview of how WebKit differs from IE and Firefox engines, a detailed report of how Safari imported frameworks for OS X and not just a mention of the visual differences, and a comparison of HTML5 and CSS3 Open Standards used between the browsers. One in particular that Safari has is the ability to resize text boxes.
    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Sunday, July 8, 2007 - link

    I don't need that kind of detailed analysis. Since the interface sucks and the window behavior is like a stubborn Mac window, the deal is off. Reply

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