Tom’s Hardware’s Web browser shootout: Mac OS X vs. Windows 7

Adam Olivera reports for Tom’s Hardware, “Chrome 13, Firefox 6, Safari 5.1, and Mac OS X Lion (10.7) have all emerged since our last Web Browser Grand Prix. Today, we test the latest browsers on both major platforms. How do the Mac-based browsers stack up against their Windows 7 counterparts?”

“Version 13 once again earns Google Chrome the Web Browser Grand Prix championship. Chrome’s sheer number of wins nearly discounts its weaknesses,” Olivera reports. “With only one weakness and the highest number of non-winning strong scores, Mozilla Firefox is once again our runner-up.”

“On its native platform, Safari is definitely no slouch. In fact, the performance of Safari 5.1 in OS X Lion matches that of Firefox 6 in Windows 7,” Olivera reports. “Mac OS X Lion is a beauty to behold, and its benefits aren’t just skin-deep. The score for Safari 5.1 on OS X is really close to Chrome 13 running on Windows 7, and it might even beat Firefox 6 for Windows. So, if you throw Safari 5.1 for OS X into the regular Windows 7 mix, Apple takes or shares second place! It appears that your Mac friends were right afterall, so stop hassling them.”

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“Also, remember these tests were not conducted on an actual Apple-branded Mac system. Based on what we saw in the results of WBGP2: Linux, we really didn’t expect the OS X scores to get so close to the best from Windows,” Olivera reports. “With such a slim margin of victory favoring Chrome in Windows (versus Safari on OS X), it is entirely within the realm of possibility that running these tests on a genuine Apple rig could tip the scales in favor of Safari (or back the other way). A more in-depth Hackintosh versus Macintosh comparison would be needed to confirm one way or the other.

Olivera reports, “As it stands, a Mac-based browser matched or beat the best score from Windows-based browsers in 10 out of 29 scored tests. In fact, even on a Hackintosh, Mac OS X is capable of providing better results than Windows 7 in Flash, HTML5, WebGL, and the ever-important page load times. Better standards compliance in Safari and Chrome for Mac even tip conformance in favor of OS X.”

Much more in the full article, including individual benchmarks, here.

MacDailyNews Take: WebKit reigns supreme.


[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Buck” and “Carl H.” for the heads up.]


  1. I guess they were using a “Hackintosh” so that the same hardware could be used on all tests. But they should have just used a “real” Mac, since it can boot Windows or even Linux without using any “hacks.”

    1. Yeah, we tested both the Chevy and Ford engines, but we only had a Ford F150 pickup for a test vehicle so we jury rigged the Chevy engine into it. We surprised that it didn’t work very well.


  2. The funny thing is I run Safari and Firefox on my Mac and up until Firefox 5, Safari handily beat Firefox. But Firefox 6 puts Safari to shame in the speed (of loading webpages) and rendering (of images on websites and text) departments. Websites on Firefox, including Apple’s own, render prettier on Firefox than it does on Safari. I suppose in the never ending browser wars Safari might overtake Firefox but for now Firefox 6 beats Safari 5.1 quite handily.

    1. Odd… I tried Firefox 6 after a long period of not using Firefox (since 3.6 I think), and it quickly devoured as many resources as it could and still wanted more, slowing the machine to a crawl. Back to Safari!

      The folks at Mozilla keep saying they’re going to make memory management a priority, perhaps maybe someday they’ll finally mean that?

      1. I still use Safari as my default browser and use Firefox whenever I need to run Flash. I don’t know anything about Firefox being a memory hog as the first thing I did upon buying my MBP was to add RAM to the maximum possible 8GB. I have no problems running Firefox but Flash is an altogether entirely different nugget. My Mac sounds like a 747 taking off so I usually quit Flash as soon as I’m done.

      2. I only use safari for certain websites, always used firefox.
        Where is this memory problem you speak of?
        Mine runs as fast as safari… Runs smooth on all 3 macs and 1pc..

  3. I’m with Ken, why would they not install windows on a Mac to run the tests? Or if they wanted a real world test. Since it seems most Windows users are running $400 Pieces of $%##, run those against Safari on a Mac. 🙂

    1. Maybe they didn’t have a suitably fast Mac available? Perhaps they didn’t feel obligated to spend $599+ on a new computer, THEN spend $200+ to buy a retail license for Windows 7, JUST to appeal to people who get offended by the concept of a hacknitosh, when they could just use their existing PC and spend $30 on Lion?

      Why does every “just install Windows” advocate seem to forget how expensive Windows is, even for the basic version? Seems odd.

      And Tom’s Hardware doesn’t care about grandma’s $400 Celeron PC. They talk about higher end hardware, that’s why they didn’t grab some crummy Dell and use it for their tests. There are some Mac users who are blindingly ignorant to the fact that NOT EVERY PC is a slow, junky piece of shit simply because it isn’t a Mac.

      1. Well with that logic they could have gotten a $599+ Mac and used a stolen copy of Windows 7. They stole their copy of Lion, why not Windows 7? Lion does not cost $30. $30 is basically an upgrade fee for the Mac you already own and are upgrading from the existing OS you bought with it. If you’re spending $30 to install Lion on a hackintosh, you’re basically stealing Lion since it’s not licensed to be on that hardware.

      2. They are a review site, apple and ms both send them a copy for free to write reviews with.

        As for the Mac itself, odds are they do have one of them also… Or access to one.

        But they decided to violate licences and show their readers that licensing means nothing.

        So go ahead and write some software.
        Release a windows version and a Mac version. Same price.
        So now when someone buys the windows version and pirates the Mac version… You won’t care right?

  4. While I understand they don’t want different hardware affecting the test outcome, the fact is Safari and OS X were designed to run on Apple hardware. That makes a big difference. Virtually no one in the real world is going to create a hackintosh.

    1. I have not seen the specs of the ‘hackintosh’ they used but you can pretty much match up a hackintosh darn near exactly with an Apple Mac in terms of hardware. There is nothing exclusive to apple in the hardware beyond the power supply, EFI and shape of the PCB in the machine.

      I have a friend who spent the time and matched his up so well he was able to install OS X using only an EFI emulator on a boot CD, everything worked out of the box from the retail SL DVD in terms of drivers with the exception of the nVidia card he chose. The thing flat out screams.

      Its an impressive machine I have to hand it to him.

      I am surprised that tom’s hardware does not have access to a real apple rig though.

      I do not think it would have changed the results one way or the other myself, at least not enough to point anything out.

      1. Haha. I’ve never been tempted to build myself a hackintosh because my PC-Fu is pretty shitty and at this point would rather pay the Apple tax and get something shiny. Does that make me a dumb fuck? Probably. But I just can’t be bothered with that shit if it’s going to save me a couple of hundred bucks, if that.

        1. I ran a Hackintosh for awhile, was running Leopard on an old Dell GX270 machine. It ran quite well.

          I was so impressed with OS X that I bought a Mac Mini and turned the GX270 into a NAS server.

          Now I’m thinking about either an iPad or getting a new mac mini (decisions, decisions)

    2. “Apple hardware”, in the sense that you are using it, does not exist. Macs use standard Intel processors, standard Intel chipsets, etc. The only hardware component difference is the use of EFI instead of BIOS, which has no bearing on application performance (it would be a moot point even if it DID affect performance, because hackintosh is possible via an EFI overlay that is read from your hard drive, which *essentially* converts your firmware from BIOS to EFI).

      Of course your assertion was true in the PowerPC days, when code had to be optimized for an entirely different architecture, but anymore, Intel is Intel, whether a self-built minitower or a slick 27″ iMac. Performance will be precisely the same on equivalent specs. (Of course, Apple’s top-notch industrial design is another story altogether, but it has nothing to do with performance).

      1. There are several differences that may exist between run-of-the-mill PC motherboards and Mac motherboards, though.
        Memory architecture, cache performance, bus structure may all be quite different. But they can all be emulated by a Turing Machine:). From the point of view of the instruction set PC and Mac motherboards may be indistinguishable, but the above mentioned hardware factors still can affect performance to a great extent.

  5. FTFA: “Also, remember these tests were not conducted on an actual Apple-branded Mac system. Based on what we saw in the results of WBGP2: Linux, we really didn’t expect the OS X scores to get so close to the best from Windows. With such a slim margin of victory favoring Chrome in Windows (versus Safari on OS X), it is entirely within the realm of possibility that running these tests on a genuine Apple rig could tip the scales in favor of Safari (or back the other way). A more in-depth Hackintosh versus Macintosh comparison would be needed to confirm one way or the other.”

    I don’t get it either. For $92 (Amazon), they could’ve purchased Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium and installed it on a Mac. Instead they chose to pirate OS X Lion, and publish that they did so.

    1. Thing is, they have free licences from ms. So paying for a copy just for the “test” is not even am argument.

      The big review sites get dev copies of all the ms stuff, they don’t have to pay for any of it.

  6. It’s nice that the Mac OS X browsers have the edge in this test and that they acknowledge the tests are limited by their Hackintosh.

    So how about testing on a REAL Mac and making these tests LEGITIMATE? Otherwise, what is the point here? A Mac is the marriage of hardware and software. It ain’t no glommed together PC box with some OS and software thrown on top, as was the case with these disembodied tests.

  7. The experiment was flawed from the start. They went into it assuming that the OS X browsers would be slower. For scientific experiments, you would never assume something like that without testing it first.

  8. The flawed part of the analysis is here: “the ever-important page load times.”

    The all important part of a web browser is how attractive the finished product is and how easy the type is to read. Safari on OS X leaves everything else in the dust on that score.

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