Saturday, August 29, 2009

Safari 4 in Snow Leopard is very, very fast

Just how fast is Snow Leopard? It's hard to say since every application will perform differently. However, one application that just about everyone uses these days is a web browser, and on the Mac, Safari is the most popular.

After browsing around the net a while with Safari in Snow Leopard, it definitely feels faster. But how much faster is it really? Let's put that to the test.

Hardware: 13" MacBook Pro, 2 GB 1067 MHz DDR3, 2.26 GHz Core 2 Duo
Software: SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark 0.9

Mac OS X 10.5.6, Safari 3.2.1: 3261.8 ms
Mac OS X 10.5.8, Safari 4.0.3 (5531.9): 824.8 ms
Mac OS X 10.6 32-bit, 32-bit Safari 4.0.3 (6531.9): 657.6 ms
Mac OS X 10.6 32-bit, 64-bit Safari 4.0.3 (6531.9): 479.2 ms
Mac OS X 10.6 64-bit, 64-bit Safari 4.0.3 (6531.9): 478.4 ms

(Lower is better)

As you can see, Snow Leopard's Safari 4.0.3 is noticeably faster as a 64-bit application than a 32-bit application. Still, even the 32-bit version of Safari 4 in Snow Leopard 10.6 is significantly faster than Safari 4 in Leopard 10.5.8. Of note, the speed of the 64-bit Safari 4 was essentially identical regardless if Snow Leopard 10.6 was running in 32-bit or 64-bit mode.

The older Safari 3.2.1 wasn't even in the same league, and our results mirror our previous benchmarks from back at the beginning of the year when the Safari 4 beta was released.

I personally will be sticking with the default 64-bit Safari, but those of you using third-party Safari plugins might benefit from the 32-bit version, since most of these plugins are currently incompatible with the 64-bit Safari.

P.S. Some of the more astute geeks might be wondering how I got 10.5.6 Leopard and Safari 3.2.1 running on a 13" MacBook Pro, considering the machine shipped with 10.5.7 and I believe Safari 3.2.3. Actually, I had a previous install of 10.5.6 on an external hard drive, as a backup for my white 13" MacBook. I hooked that drive up to the 13" MacBook Pro, and it actually booted, albeit initially with a few errors, and Safari 3.2.1 worked fine with the machine.

13" Mac laptop and 64-bit Snow Leopard: It works!

13" Mac laptop and 64-bit Snow Leopard: It works! Well, sorta. I can confirm it works on the latest 13" MacBook Pro at least.

Whether your Mac's CPU is 64-bit or not, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard's 64-bit kernel is normally only able to load if the machine also has a 64-bit EFI. You can tell if your machine has a 32-bit or 64-bit EFI by typing this command in Terminal:

ioreg -l -p IODeviceTree | grep firmware-abi

However, according to OSnews, the OS X seed notes claim that the 64-bit kernel of Snow Leopard is not supported on any 13" Mac laptop, even if it has a 64-bit EFI. Despite this, 64-bit Snow Leopard loads on my 13" MacBook Pro (aka MacBookPro5,5) just fine.

The latest 13" Mac lives up to its "Pro" name after all.

Despite having this 64-bit capability, I will usually run in 32-bit mode since 32-bit kernel extensions (like printer drivers, etc.) won't run when the 64-bit OS X kernel is loaded, and 64-bit applications can still run normally with the 32-bit OS X kernel.