Benchmarks: Safari 5 shows JavaScript boost

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When Safari 5 was released Monday, Apple claimed that the “world’s fastest” Web browser is now faster. Macworld Lab ran a performance test on the new Safari, and our results confirm that Safari 5 provides a boost over its predecessor—at least when it comes to the browser’s JavaScript engine.

We used the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark, which focuses on Safari’s Nitro JavaScript engine. Apple claims (on the Safari website) that Safari 5 is “up to 30 percent faster than Safari 4, 3 percent faster than Chrome 5.0, and over twice as fast as Firefox 3.6.” Apple also uses the SunSpider test.

In our testing, Safari 5’s JavaScript performance was 19.2 percent faster than Safari 4’s. That’s nowhere near “up to 30 percent” claimed by Apple, but there are a lot of variables that come into play affecting the results. The most important factor is the Internet connection—conditions can vary based on traffic and routing. Still, a boost of nearly 20 percent is significant.

As for the other browsers in Apple’s claim: compared to Chrome 5.0, Safari 5 was 3.5 percent faster in our test. Safari 5 was well over twice as fast as FireFox 3.6. Our results actually find Safari 5 faster than what Apple claimed—again, Internet connectivity can influence test results.

Apple didn’t mention Opera in its speed claims, but we tested Opera 10.53. We found that Safari 5 was 11.5 percent faster.

One thing to keep in mind is that the differences are measured in milliseconds, so you may not be able to sense a difference between Safari 4 and Safari 5.

Shorter bars are better. Reference software in blue and italics. How we tested: We ran the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark on each Web browser. Our test platform was a 15-inch 2.4GHz Core i5 MacBook Pro with 4GB of RAM running Mac OS X 10.6.3.—Testing by Blair Hanley Frank

A full review of Safari 5 is in the works and coming soon.

[Roman Loyola is a Macworld senior editor.]

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