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Google says Chrome is now faster than Safari on Apple Silicon

According to Apple's own benchmarks, Chrome 99 scored the highest out of any browser ever tested

Google said on Monday that its Chrome browser now beats the performance of Safari on Apple hardware, according to Apple’s own benchmarking tests.

The current version of Chrome, Chrome 99, is also now reportedly the fastest browser ever recorded on Apple’s Speedometer benchmark too, with a score of 300.

This means Google’s latest browser, long known for being resource-intensive and prone to crashing, is not only faster than Safari but also now the fastest browser on Apple hardware.

Apple’s dedicated Safari webpage claims its browser is “the world’s fastest” but added in the fine print that testing was carried out between August and September last year. Regardless, Google will be pleased with its feat given Safari was considered the much faster choice for Apple users since the launch of the M1 processors. 

Google credited the landmark performance score to a number of improvements, chief among which was the enablement of ThinLTO in Chrome 99 - a build optimisation technique that “inlines speed-critical parts of the code base, even when they span multiple files or libraries,” said Max Christoff, senior director at Chrome Engineering.

Enabling ThinLTO led the engineers to achieve a 7% performance boost over current Safari builds but coupled with graphics optimisations, Chrome’s performance received an additional 15% increase.

Other areas in which Chrome made improvements were the implementation of the V8 Sparkplug compiler and short builtin calls. 

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“Sparkplug is a new mid-tier JavaScript compiler for V8 that generates efficient code with low compilation overhead,” said Christoff. “Short builtin calls are used by the V8 JavaScript engine to optimize the placement of generated code inside the device’s memory.”

These two contributed to a “substantial difference” specifically to Apple’s M1-based Macs and helped boost performance further by avoiding indirect jumps between function calls.

Overall, the latest Chrome build is running 43% faster than it did 17 months ago when Apple first released its devices with its own M1 chips.

Performance increases can also be found on Android, Google said, with page loading times down 15% thanks to prioritising critical navigation moments on the browser user interface thread.

The improvements build on previous work to reduce startup times using what Google calls “freeze-dried tabs” - using a lightweight version of a tab on load - and improving speed and memory usage using isolated splits which preloads the majority of the browser process codes on a background thread.

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