In a comprehensive shootout by Tom’s Hardware, Safari 5.1 on Windows 7 edged other browsers in two out of three GUIMark2 Flash tests

While some folks feared the 2GB of memory requirement meant an added bloat in Mac OS X Lion, many fans were pleasantly surprised seeing their Lion system perform faster and zip through daily tasks smoother compared to their previous Leopard or Snow Leopard installations. But how does Lion fare against Windows 7 in web-based tasks, including page loading times and common technologies such as Adobe’s Flash, HTML5 web apps and WebGL-accelerated graphics?

Tom’s Hardware set out to figure out the answer to that. They put both operating systems through their paces in a series of tests run on the same hardware, so Lion was running on a PC machine rather than an Apple-branded Mac. The tests were conducted using the latest platform-specific builds of Chrome 13, Firefox 6 and Safari 5.1 for OS X Lion and Windows 7.

Overall, Chrome wins by a slim margin. However, Lion’s Safari running on a Hackintosh matched or beat the best score from Windows-based browsers in 10 out of 29 scored tests, leading author Adam Olivera to write:

On its native platform, Safari is definitely no slouch. In fact, the performance of Safari 5.1 in OS X Lion matches that of Firefox 6 in Windows 7. Mac OS X Lion is a beauty to behold, and its benefits aren’t just skin-deep. The score for Safari 5.1 on OS X is really close to Chrome 13 running on Windows 7, and it might even beat Firefox 6 for Windows. So, if you throw Safari 5.1 for OS X into the regular Windows 7 mix, Apple takes or shares second place.

Analysis tables for both Windows 7 and OS X Lion are right below the fold. Note: Benchmarks are just benchmarks and often not representative of real-world performances. One such benchmark, for example, painted Windows Phone 7’s browser as being much faster than Safari in iOS – even though the results alter drastically with Safari’s Nitro engine in the picture. With that in mind, Olivera also wrote that a Hackintosh fared better in Flash, HTML5, WebGL and page load times than Windows 7:

Even on a Hackintosh, Mac OS X is capable of providing better results than Windows 7 in Flash, HTML5, WebGL, and the ever-important page load times. Better standards compliance in Safari and Chrome for Mac even tip conformance in favor of OS X.

We find it somewhat hard to believe that a Hackintosh would outperform Windows 7 in Flash performance, despite monster improvements under Apple’s operating system, but that’s what the testing says. Traditionally, Flash has never been tightly optimized for OS X the way it is for the Windows platform, which has led Apple to remove Flash Player from the OS X Lion in the first place.

Mac OS X analysis table, courtesy of Tom’s Hardware

Windows 7 analysis table, courtesy of Tom’s Hardware

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