What’s the world’s fastest browser?

Oh sure the following tests aren’t as scientific as putting all the browsers in a ring and seeing which one is left standing after the fight but it’s close.

Before we begin however the new contender: Swiftfox.

Firefox which we all know and love has in recent times been accused of putting on weight and slipping back the bulky days of Mozilla the very thing its birth was supposed to be an escape from. The draw cards of Firefox’s first releases were speed and simplicity.

While I personally don’t think Firefox has strayed far from this there are those who feel otherwise — like the chaps behind Swiftfox.

Swiftfox is Firefox with a few key differences — it’s compiled with optimised flags for various CPU architectures and it drops some of the more recent bulk — such as the depedencies on the Pango libraries (used in part for international font rendering).

It’s only available for Linux but as Firefox is open source there’s nothing stopping someone building a Swiftfox for Windows.

Swiftfox has gained a rapid following for being noticeably faster so I was curious to see if this was the case. Armed with my Ubuntu install and specialised ‘benchmarking toolkit’ (read: bag of chips coke and a stopwatch) I sat down to see if Swiftfox could live up to its moniker using the AMD64 optimised binary for Ubuntu on my AMD64 4400+ system.

If you want seriously hardcore Web standards benchmarking throw your browser through the Acid2 test which is really what it’s all about. But here we’re looking for speed and for this there’s nothing better than Scragz’ quick and dirty browser rendering benchmark. So onto the results!
First a baseline under Windows:

(32-bit) Internet Explorer 6: 3.76 seconds
(32-bit) Firefox: 5.03
(32-bit) 9.01 Opera: 4.89

Well there’s a nice surprise! Even the aging IE6 bundled with Windows XP is a fair bit faster at the testpage than Firefox and Opera. But lets see how things fare under 64-bit Ubuntu and if Swiftfox lives up to its name:

(64-bit) Firefox: 4.75 seconds
(32-bit) Firefox: 4.79
(32-bit) Swiftfox: 4.67

Well Swiftfox is indeed faster — by about 1.7%. Not really that much to write home about but your mileage may vary. And plausibly the 64-bit version of Firefox is flea’s sneeze faster than the 32-bit version. While we’re here what about the two default browsers for the KDE and Gnome desktops common to most Linux distributions:

(64-bit) 3.5.2 Konqueror: 3.75 seconds
(64-bit) Epiphany: 4.69

Now there’s another surprise. Not only is the default (and often overlooked) Gnome browser Epiphany rendering almost as fast as Swiftfox but Konqueror (KDE’s default browser) blows them all away running head to head with IE on Windows.

So there you go. You want speed it’s Konqueror or yes IE. And to be fair while Swiftfox wasn’t exactly leaps ahead it does actually startup noticeably faster than Firefox which is nice.

Do you notice rendering speed differences between browsers? And which is your preferred choice and why?