Three Guys and a Podcast: Apple News & Analysis
The two leading browsers on the Mac are Apple's own Safari and the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox browser. There are other browsers available for the Mac, including Google's own Chrome, but this test will be between the two market leaders.
During the testing period, Firefox 4 beta 11 and Safari 5.0.3 were used. Although Firefox 4 is still in beta, it is already better than Firefox 3, which Safari clearly beat in past competitions. This test examined eight key areas for browser performance and usability. Now it is time to compare these two browsers.
Cookie Handling: Firefox is and always has been a clear winner here with more cookie control. Firefox can be setup to delete all cookies, except those you want, when the browser quits. This gives the user more control over how sites store data in the browser. There are also several plug-ins that add more functionality for controlling cookies, even flash cookies. Winner: Firefox
Flash Player: As was shown in a previous post, Firefox has really poor performance when it is combined with the Flash Player plugin. Both Firefox and the Flash plug-in use more of the CPU than when running with Safari. Winner: Safari
Performance: Similar to performance with the Flash Player, Firefox continues to lag in CPU and memory usage. Although, Firefox 4 is still in beta, previous versions have always had memory leaks and other performance problems and it looks like version 4 is no different. At one time during testing, Firefox almost reached 500MB in memory used. Initial testing showed similar results with beta version 12, which was just released. Winner: Safari
Stability: Surprisingly, during the testing period, Safari had more crashes than Firefox. Not sure if more sites are written for Firefox, or if Firefox is more stable. For the Beta version of Firefox, stability is pretty high. Winner: Firefox
Look and feel: Buy adding a Firefox plug-in to remove favicons from the toolbar, Firefox can look very similar to Safari. Firefox 4 has come a long way in this area. While it still is rough around the edges, it was close enough not to have made a big impact. Winner: Tie
Search: Firefox 4 has integrated the address bar and search bar into one. Now, you can search or enter an address from the same location. With the addition of a plug-in, one can even choose which search engine to use with a few key strokes. Firefox also has more search engines available, which gives it the edge here. Winner: Firefox
Video Playback: Firefox does not have built-in support for the H.264 video codec. While you can get a plug-in for it, this is still a major disadvantage for Firefox. Most sites that look to see which browser you are using can't assume Firefox can play H.264 and will use the WebM codec instead. As previous tests show, WebM is less supported and uses more resources than H.264. Winner: Safari
Firefox 3 was slow, buggy, and had multiple memory leaks on the Mac. Safari was the clear winner before, but Firefox 4 has narrowed the gap. Still, Firefox has several major hurdles to overcome. The Flash Player and overall performance really needs lots of improvement. Firefox still needs to be shut down every few hours, due to memory leaks, which can be a deal breaker. The lack of built-in H.264 support is a deal breaker for most Mac users. While Safari has less features than Firefox, it is faster and more refined. Safari is still the best Browser on the Mac.
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