Is Safari a good web browser

The best browser for your Mac

Stephan Wiesend

Safari, Chrome and Firefox are all reliable, but we noticed differences in the areas of security and speed.

EnlargeThe best browser for your Mac? Safari, Chrome and Firefox in the test

On the Mac, three browsers divide the market: Apple's Safari, Google Chrome and the open source browser Firefox.

Performance comparison

An Internet browser is probably the program with which a user spends most of the time or even uses it permanently. The faster a browser loads a website, the better. Simply measuring the loading time of a website is not very meaningful these days - too often, the loading speed of websites depends on the banners and overlays that have just been delivered. In addition, modern web applications are no longer just about loading and combining text and image files: Dozens of Javascript files have to be processed to load a website quickly. Each browser manufacturer relies on its own specialized Javascript engine that is optimized for fast script processing.

As a standard measure of the pace of this core technology, there are several standard benchmarks such as Peacekeeper. In the first test run, Firefox on a MacBook Pro from 2011 achieved 3767 points, Safari 3574 points and Chrome came in last with 3389 points. The situation is different with the other benchmarks we use, which measure the execution of several scripts - the shorter the better. Executing the Sunspider benchmark created by the Safari developers takes a long 245 seconds in Chrome, Safari wins with 218 seconds and Firefox lands in the middle with 234 seconds. On the other hand, Safari only achieved 17774 points in Google's Octane benchmark, Chrome was the winner with 22343 points ahead of Firefox with 21101. The Mozilla project also had a benchmark: kraken 1.1. Again, Chrome achieved 1373 points, Safari came in last with 2430 points and Firefox was on par with Chrome with 1386 points. Overall, Safari scores rather mediocre, Chrome and Firefox are a bit faster - although usually only a few percent.

Browser benchmark results:

Benchmark

Homepage

safari

Chrome

Firefox

unit

Peacekeeper

http://peacekeeper.futuremark.com

3574

3389

3767

The unit of measurement is points, more means better

Octane

http://octane-benchmark.googlecode.com/svn/latest/index.html

17774

22343

21101

Measuring unit points, more means better

octopuses

http://krakenbenchmark.mozilla.org

2430

1373

1386

The unit of measurement is seconds: less means better

Sunspider

https://www.webkit.org/perf/sunspider-1.0.2/sunspider-1.0.2/driver.html

218

245

234

The unit of measurement is seconds: less means better

For Macbook owners, the topic of performance also includes the topic of resource consumption. Safari can convince here. According to many user reports and measurements, the battery lasts significantly longer when surfing with Safari than with Chrome and Firefox. For users of a desktop Mac, this is of course of little concern.

compatibility

For many users, perhaps more important than a few milliseconds when loading a page is problem-free functioning in everyday life - if you use a web shop, ordering should be possible without any problems. Every current browser supports basic functions, but it looks different with advanced functions or web applications such as an editorial system. However, the assessment is not that easy - there are no fixed standards for current web technologies. Websites use increasingly complex functions, which are summarized under the keyword HTML5. There is actually no fixed web standard here - advanced technologies are implemented on the web faster than any committee can work. A good makeshift test for HTML 5 is the HTML5 test by Niels Leenheer, which shows where the strengths and weaknesses of a browser lie. Chrome does particularly well here, with 526 of 555 points it clearly beats Firefox with 467 points. Safari scores a disappointing 396 points. The current iOS version of Safari does a little better with 405 points, as does the beta version under El Capitan. The areas where Safari fails are input and peer-to-peer - such as access to webcam and gamepad, and technologies like WebRTC, a standard for communication between browsers. Obviously, Apple is going its own way here. However, Apple can rely on the fact that compatibility with Safari is tested by most website operators - simply because of the many wealthy iPhone and iPad owners. The mobile version of the new iOS versions is almost the same as the desktop version. Here you will have to do without plug-ins such as Flash in the future, at least extensions such as ad blockers will soon also be available on the iPad. We assume that Apple is particularly keen to bring the mobile and desktop versions of Safari closer together.

Functional scope and ease of use

If you use other than his Mac iPad or iPhone's Safari highly recommended - especially because of the good sync functions. Chrome and Firefox also support the synchronization of bookmarks and open pages. Thanks to iCloud, Safari can also reliably synchronize login data with the keychain, display the pages on the other devices and save websites locally. Firefox in particular is left behind here, as there is still no iOS version of Firefox. Overall, Safari makes the best impression here, even if Apple has a clear advantage. If, on the other hand, you use an Android device, you have some advantages with Google Chrome. Firefox, on the other hand, can traditionally score with a good range of extensions. Google Chrome has caught up a lot in this regard, while Safari with extensions looks rather meager.

security

Google Chrome and Safari have an advantage over Firefox: They use a so-called sandbox to protect the rest of the operating system from attacks from the network. Only upcoming versions of Firefox will receive this new function. Integrated check routines, which query a website with known malware sites before each call, also ensure greater security. Firefox and Safari also check every download for malware - Safari uses the Xprotect function here. Another plus point for Chrome: Google is paying a premium for detecting a Chrome security hole, while Apple has reportedly corrected security holes communicated without comment and often with a delay. The Google method is expensive, but it ensures that only a few gaps remain undetected. Firefox does better when it comes to privacy. Chrome transfers a large amount of user data to the parent company. In order to prevent this, the user must first specifically prohibit this. Firefox developers also have a reputation for quickly closing security holes.

Equipment and evaluation

Safari 8

Firefox 39

Chrome 43

Manufacturer

Apple

Mozilla

Google

Test verdict

Advantages: optimal integration into the operating system, good performance synchronization with iOS version. Cons: average compatibility

Advantages: good range of functions, best compatibility Disadvantages: no iOS version has a higher battery load than Safari

Advantages: fastest browser in the test, comfortable operation. Disadvantages: higher battery load than Safari

Overall rating

1.7 good

2.0 good

1.8 good

INDIVIDUAL REVIEWS

Performance (50%)

1.8 good

1.7 good

1.5 good

Furnishing (20%)

1.8 good

2.0 good

2.0 good

Handling (20%)

1.5 good

2.0 good

2.0 good

Help (10)

1.5 good

2.0 good

2.0 good

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Expandability

Yes

Yes

Yes

Phishing filters

Yes

Yes

Yes

Rendering engine

Webcore

Gecko

Chrome

voice control

Yes

Yes

Yes

Synchronization function

Yes