Review: Apple's Safari 4 Web browser zips past rivals
The speedy browser is now out of beta
Since its debut, Safari has offered Mac users hassle-free browsing, standards-friendly HTML rendering, and a number of thoughtful and handy features to make surfing the Web just a little bit more fun. Its triumphant new version continues all these trends with style -- and bolts on a jumbo jet engine's worth of pure speed.
Remember the DeLorean from Back to the Future, leaving tracks of flame in its wake as it shot into another era? That's the impression one gets when comparing Safari's performance to that of its closest rivals.
In XHTML rendering, Safari's 0.54 seconds clocked in at nearly seven times faster than Firefox 3's 3.42 seconds, and still thrashed Firefox 3.5's 2.82 seconds. Even Chrome, which uses the same WebKit rendering engine that powers Safari, could only manage a respectable 1.14 seconds.
In addition to superlative speed, Safari also tops the competition in its strict compliance with Web standards. Living up to Apple's hype, Safari 4 is indeed the only current Mac browser to pass the Acid3 Web standards test with flying colors. Chrome managed to match Safari 4's perfect 100-out-of-100 score, but got a linktest error that Safari didn't. Firefox 3 scored a 71, while Firefox 3.5 got a much closer 93.
Not surprisingly, Safari also got top marks for compatibility with selectors for the emerging CSS3 standard for online style sheets, albeit in a tie with Chrome. Both browsers were able to handle all 578 selectors thrown at them by an automated online test. Firefox 3 accepted only 371, while Firefox 3.5 scored a much more impressive 576.
Apple touts Safari's ability to handle the still-in-development HTML 5 markup standard, and in most respects, it's right. Safari 4 had no trouble rendering any pages from a gallery of sites already using HTML 5, and it could even display some -- but not all -- of the cutting-edge pages from a gallery built specifically for Google's Chrome. (It did seem to have trouble with HTML 5's emerging Video and Audio tags, but that technology's admittedly still in its infancy.) Safari also does a great job with animation, drop shadows for text, and other new tricks vying for inclusion in the final CSS3 style sheet standard, feats only Chrome and its shared WebKit engine can match.
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