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Can't give you any hard numbers but I'm quite sure that "CSS images" this size load faster in most cases. But, once you load an actual raster image you're done with it: you can cache it, reuse it as many times as you want, manipulate it's placement, etc. - all without significant performance issues. With "CSS images" that's not the case. Placing a few on one page and/or allowing user any interaction with them will create performance bottlenecks more often than not. For the 'real world usage' it's safer to stay with the raster images.

Matt Seeley, UI Engineer at Netflix, made a presentation in which he touches these issues. It's available here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5618867/mseeley-2011-09-27-html5devc...

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