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Mac Browser Face-off: Safari vs Chrome vs Firefox

by: Karl Johnson | Oct 05, 2011

Update: See Best Alternative Browser for the iOS

The Mac platform has three major Internet browsers: Apple's Safari, Google's Chrome, and Mozilla's Firefox. All three are very capable browsers that can run the latest webpages and web applications. Previous reviews have given Safari the edge, but all three have been recently updated. In light of these new updates, it is time to take a look at all three again and see how they compare.

Given that each is more than capable of browsing today's Internet, we will look deeper into the strengths and weaknesses to find a winner. The following list gives our browser ranking and a short review why they placed where they did.

3. Mozilla's Firefox
Firefox came in last for three reasons. The first is the lack of overall Mac like feel to the application. Firefox is written for all platforms and it shows. The fullscreen view does not have the same "Lion" polish as other applications that have been updated for the latest Apple OS. In a tight race between browsers, it can be a big deal breaker. Multi-touch gestures are also not supported. Mac Apps will always win out over applications that are ported from other platforms given similar feature sets. The second reason is the overall clunky feel to the browser. For example, a user can view the browser history just like in Safari, but they have to bring it up in a different window, unlike Safari which can be done in the menu. Firefox still has a number of major bugs, which is the last reason it came in third. The biggest issue is with sites that use Flash. Firefox can sit and use twenty percent of the computer's resources on a static flash page. On a laptop, this is a deal breaker. Unless you need it for specific sites or a specific plug-in, there really is no reason to download and install Firefox.

2. Google's Chrome
Chrome has been updated for Apple OS 10.7 Lion and does not have as many bugs has Firefox. Chrome is much more polished than Firefox and feels like a Mac application. The single address bar / search bar is a nice feature that some like and others don't. Everything is in a tab: from browser history to preferences. One problem with the interface is how it handles downloads. It puts every download in a bar at the bottom of the screen, including saved pictures. There are no options to auto hide this or clear it upon a successful download. Without those options, saving pictures can get very annoying. Google's lack of even basic options for obtrusive features is odd at best. Chrome is a nice browser with lots of plug-ins, but it can't beat the number one browser with it's unique features. Chrome makes a great second browser when one wants to use different security settings.

1. Apple's Safari
Even if it was not on every Mac, Safari would still come out on top. It has the best Mac feel and the most polish of all the browsers. I have been using Safari 5.1 since Lion came out and I have not had an issue yet, which I could not say about Safari 5. The new download toolbar icon is the best way to show the download process to date, far above the rest. Shortcuts for the top nine sites in the toolbar is still yet to be copied by the other developers. Most of the bugs that were in Safari 5 have been fixed. Sites with javascript coding errors do not bring the browser to it's knees like it did in Safari 5, which is another great addition. The new multi-touch gestures found in Lion work well in Safari. Still, the biggest reason is that it is automatically installed on every Mac. There is no compelling reason to go and get another one.

Apple's Safari browser is still the king of the browsers on the Mac. It's "ease of use" and "Mac look and feel" make it a very comfortable browser that just gets out of the way. Safari also has a number of great features like the download toolbar, toolbar shortcuts, and direct "save image to download folder" menu options, making it very difficult to move to other browsers after one is used to it. Simply put, there is no strong reason to download and install another web browser.

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5 Comments

  1. haddy ~ October 05, 2011 11:35

    Well I find Camino 2.1b2 and Opera 11.51 the only browsers I use now. Tried the others but have settled on these...for what it's worth:-) #
  2. Jim Jeffers ~ October 05, 2011 15:24

    Karl, Thanks for your review of Mac browsers, which I read on Macsurfer.com. I live in Cork , Ireland. I have had to change my browsers, Safari and Firefox, and switched to Chrome, and have never looked back. My iMac intel 2.162 Duo 24 inch was grinding to a halt on Safari, the dreaded spinning wheel. I took to Apple authorised dealer, thought needed hard drive, they found nothing wrong. I allowed them to reformat hard drive. Emptied cache seemed to improve Safari. Switched to Firefox, seemed to be very slow. I switched to Chrome, but needed to upgrade to Snow Leopard, now have v 10.6.8, and have never looked back. If I change back to Safari, v 5.1, dreaded spinning wheel returns. I cannot pin down the reason. Chrome works for me. Regards. #
  3. Wm ~ October 08, 2011 13:14

    What about the problem of Cache highlighting of results in i.e. Google searches? I understand that Firefox addresses this - which is of concern to many internet users. Wm #
  4. RoTimi Waddy ~ December 21, 2012 20:04

    I highly enjoyed reading this brief article & whole heartily agree about the winner; Safari! I recently switched back to Safari as my go default browser after having a long-time stent with Chrome. I also always keep a copy of FIrefox & will utilize it as well from time to time, just depending on what I'm doing at the time. However, overall, pound for pound, as a Mac Mini user with a wireless keyboard, & trackpad & running Lion OS & 8 gigs of RAM, I LOVE SAFARI!!! It's been extremely stable, I no longer receive constant Flash crashes like I did during my last days of using Chrome, & it's very very fast! Same speed as Chrome as far as I can tell but less resource heavy which is a nice bonus for multi-taskers such as myself! Go Safari! :) #
  5. RoTimi Waddy ~ January 19, 2013 10:29

    I highly enjoyed reading this brief article & whole heartily agree about the winner; Safari! I recently switched back to Safari as my go default browser after having a long-time stent with Chrome. I also always keep a copy of FIrefox & will utilize it as well from time to time, just depending on what I'm doing at the time. However, overall, pound for pound, as a Mac Mini user with a wireless keyboard, & trackpad & running Lion OS & 8 gigs of RAM, I LOVE SAFARI Version 6!!! It's been extremely stable, I no longer receive constant Flash crashes like I did during my last days of using Chrome, & it's very very fast! Same speed as Chrome as far as I can tell but less resource heavy which is a nice bonus for multi-taskers such as myself & fully integrated for the Mac Trackpad (Which is to be expected but great, nonetheless). Go Safari! :) #

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