This time Opera's claim of being the fastest browser holds true.

DailyTech displayed in Opera 10.6.
We explore Opera's latest release which while minor in number brings some major performance bumps

With the wealth of browsers out there, it's hard to pick.  There are, of course, five major competitors -- Google Chrome, Opera, Mozilla's Firefox, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, and Apple's Safari.  Some time ago we compared those browsers in a four part series [1] [2] [3] [4].  More recently we benchmarked Safari 5 and Opera 10.5, both of which claimed to be the world's fastest browser, but came up lacking.

This time around we took Opera 10.6, the latest from the Norwegian web firm, out for a spin.  And we can first say that of the recent "fastest" browser claims -- including some of Opera's own -- this one seems the most legitimate.

To test its claims we ran three popular web test suites -- Sunspider (Javascript, only), Celtic Kane's JSBenchmark (Javascript, only), and Futuremark's Peacekeeper browser benchmark (all around performance). 

However, this time we took things a step further.  We decided to retest Internet Explorer 8 -- the most used browser -- and also take the third test build of Microsoft's upcoming Internet Explorer 9 (found here) for a spin.  We also tried to install Mozilla's Firefox 4.0 beta (which appears to be found here) to install, but had some issues -- our version number stayed at 3.6.6 despite repeated installations.  It also appears that Mozilla has pulled the official Firefox 4.0 beta page (see here) -- so this may have something to do with that.

With that context in mind, the results are as follows:

SunSpider Benchmark
Opera 10.5                   353.4ms +/- 1.1%
2. Chrome 6.0.408.1       489.6ms +/- 3.9%
3. Opera 10.6                  517.4ms +/- 5.7%
4. Safari 5.0 (7553.16)   600.4ms +/- 1.1%
Chrome 5.0.375.86      635.0ms +/- 3.6%
6. Internet Explorer 9      807.4ms +/- 12.1%
   (Trial Build 3)

7. FireFox 3.6.4            1396.6ms +/- 14.6%
Internet Explorer 8   7228.8ms +/- 9.7%

JSBenchmark (by Celtic Kane)
Chrome 5                     459 ± 0
Opera 10.6                  387 ± 0
3. Chrome 6.0.408.1       355 ± 0
4. Safari 5.0 (7553.16)   252 ± 0
Opera 10.5                  211 ± 0
6. Internet Explorer 9      177 ± 0
   (Trial Build 3)
7. FireFox 3.6.4              100 ± 0
Internet Explorer 8      59 ± 15

Futuremark Peacekeeper Benchmark
Opera 10.6                 5244 Points
2. Chrome 6.0.408.1      5162 Points
3. Chrome 5.0.375.86     4897 Points
4. Opera 10.5                 3323 Points
5. Safari 5.0 (7553.16)  2606 Points
Firefox 3.6.4             1939 Points
7 Internet Explorer 9      1919 Points
   (Trial Build 3)
8. Internet Explorer 8      829 Points

As you can see a compelling side story is how Internet Explorer 9 is now beating Firefox 3.6 in speed.  This is a remarkable turnaround for Microsoft -- in fact in the Sunspider Javascript test IE 9 was almost 10 times faster than IE 8.

Returning to the core story, it Opera 10.6 narrowly edges out Chrome 5 in two of the tests, and Chrome 6 in two of the tests.  In the world of mixed martial arts, they would call this a split decision win.  But a win is still a win and we can say that unlike with Opera 10.5, Opera Software's claims that it has the world's fastest browser are fair.

As an additional note Chrome 6 (an advanced test build, not widely available) is dangerously unstable, so Opera clearly has the edge over it.  Chrome 6 crashed so often we could almost keep time by the crashes. Chrome 5 was slightly more stable, but still crashed more than Firefox 3.6 or Opera 10.6 (twice in our limited testing versus no crashes for Opera 10.6 and one for Firefox 3.6.4).

In looks Opera 10.6 seems to hold an advantage over Chrome and Firefox if you like a graphical look.  If you like a more minimalist look, you may find Chrome or Firefox more pleasing.  At the end of the day, it's honestly a subjective call.

However, Opera 10.6 does have one more ace up its sleeve -- it's bundling free antivirus software from AVG inside its browser.  Opera writes us : "We are incorporating AVG into Opera. Specifically, AVG's Web Threat Data Feed. This will work with our existing Fraud Protection technology that already uses Netcraft and PhishTank."

This should offer further protection against exploits and malware to Opera 10.6 users.  Opera is already pretty safe due to its small market share versus Firefox or Internet Explorer.  Of course its Flash player is just as vulnerable as its foes.

In the PC browsing market, Opera has less than a 5 percent market share internationally, but it continues to have a legion of loyal followers and push the envelope on web technologies.  By contrast, in the mobile sphere, Opera is the biggest player on the market, and even recently scored approval on the iPhone.

You can pick up Opera 10.6 here.

All tests were done on a MacBook Pro running 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.  The hardware onboard included a Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T9600, a NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT GPU, and 4 GB of DDR RAM.

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