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Safari 4 beta arrives, is fast, but still not the fastest (review & screenshots)

Apple have made waves with a tentative update to Safari, their internet browser, pushing it up to Safari 4 beta.

Despite its beta label, the excitement surrounding it has been huge, with multiple blogs posting first-looks and reviews. Here’s my quick review and screenshot tour.

GUI / Appearance

First off, kudos to Apple for working hard to make it look a little more like a native Windows application. It has standard Windows-controls up top for minimise, close, etc. It now finally looks like it belongs on Microsoft’s OS.

Apple have made the decision to use standard Windows font rendering by default, meaning most users won’t be taken aback by Apple’s blurred font rendering (you can blur your fonts again by going to preferences).

Interface: Chrome-inspired, only sleeker

The interface itself reminds me a lot of Google Chrome.

Some parts are a complete ripoff – except that Safari has more visual polish and sleekness than Google’s browser.

Take a look at the new, top-mounted tabs (top is Chrome, bottom is Safari):

… and the similar side buttons:

… and the “Top Sites” page, borrowed from Chrome (and made pretty by Apple):

  vs. 

Tabs

The tabs are now top-mounted, just like in Chrome. Combining the title-bar and the tab-bar makes perfect sense, and makes great use of space.

The open tab is a little larger than the ones around it, and this helps give it prominence. Favicons aren’t shown in the tab/title bar and this is a little annoying.

Two things annoyed me. Tab reordering is controlled by these little grab-things on the sides of the tabs, which requires unnecessary mouse movement.

The other thing that annoyed me was that a middle-click doesn’t close tabs, it treats it like a normal click (i.e. switches to that tab). I’m too lazy to move my mouse to the close button, so fix it Apple!

Overall tab control is fine – not quite as good as Chrome’s, but much better than Firefox’s. Naturally you can tear them off to make new windows, just like in Safari 3.

Speed

  • Feels about as fast as Chrome at loading pages.
  • If it has a chance to cache the page first, it makes a huge difference.
  • Starts up very quickly, but still not as quickly as Chrome.
  • Firefox takes an age to start up after switching on, but it’s handicapped by me, since it has around 12 extensions running.

Overall it’s very, very snappy

But my testing (using timers and everything) shows it’s still not as fast as the current benchmark, Google Chrome.

Chrome bested its performance on every count, including: page load times, start up time,  memory handling, and others.

I wasn’t impressed by…

The bookmark/history coverflow. For how I work, it just isn’t useful. But more eye-candy is always nice.

The lack of an import bookmarks function. This was present in Safari 3 so I can’t imagine why Apple left it out. (I just didn’t see it, it’s under the File menu, accessible by pressing Alt).

The constant crashing. I saw a lot of this:

It’s pretty serious, as it happens every few seconds or so. Even though for some reason it doesn’t appear to do very much. The program rarely actually closes when you choose either of these two options.

The lack of an extensions platform. It’s been missing for a while and Safari isn’t the only offender.

But seriously, Firefox pretty much wrote the book on extensions, and it’s the deal-killer that means I will stick with the Fox for a while longer.

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3 comments:

lukbut_1 said...

Aw sim, I'm not getting the crashes at all in fact I've switched to it from FF for the time being. Pressing ALT brings up the context menu from where you can access import bookmarks from the file menu!

good luck :)

Simon SC said...

Hey Luke,

I don't actually know what's causing Safari to crash all the time. If I do something, like click a link or open a menu, it throws up a crash report.

Safari only actually closes like 5-10% of the time, but it's still a real pain.

Thanks, article corrected re: bookmarks import. :)

Anonymous said...

hm, tnx for the bookmark import tip but it doesnt work x(

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