PC World have recently done a Search Engine Shoot-Out test across a number of search engines for a variety of different searches, and the results make interesting reading. I'd certainly suggest if you've got 10 minutes to spare, go across and take a look. However, if you want the potted version, stick with this.
Unsuprisingly they rather like Google - no big shock there. I quote: Google's index proved to be the most accurate, comprehensive, and timely of the bunch. It also bested the majority of the specialty-search sites we tried, meaning those that focus on a category or file type, such as videos, images, news, blogs, or local info delivered on a mobile phone.
However, that's only the start of the story. Other search engines get good mentions in despatches. In the text search arena both AlltheWeb and AltaVista get highly praised - over and above Big G in fact. This doesn't exactly surprise me - in my own work I've given AltaVista lots of praise in the past and I still rate it highly. Big G comes third, Yahoo 4th, MS Live in 5th with a surprising 6th for Ask. I was very disappointed that they didn't include Exalead in the test, since I reckon that would have performed very well. As an aside the writers consistently refer to Ask's test bed machine as Act X rather than Ask X.
In the weblog search arena Google Blog Search came out on top, followed by Sphere, Blogdigger and then Bloglines. Technorati was with the also rans, which again surprised me. They did a TV guide search, so UK readers can turn off here. Google aced this one too.
Google Image Search came out on top in the perfect picture challenge. This really surprised me because for my money Yahoo Image search beats it hands down every time. There were a bunch of other tests, but these were the main ones.
The criticism of course is that the tests are not as rigourous as they should be, so the results are always going to be open to personal interpretation. Fair enough, and when I do tests I'm guilty of the same thing - I don't have the time to run thousands of tests. However, it's an interesting set of results and really shows that while the search tide is still running in Google's direction they're not having it all their own way. I do wish they'd paid more attention to Exalead though, and also to Ask X. Still, can't have everything I suppose.
There's more analysis over at SearchEngineLand as well, though they're looking with more interest at the fact that other engines beat Google when it comes to search. But we kinda knew that already! :)