By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, December 8, 2009 at 2:08 pm
After what seems like a lifetime of waiting–but was really a little over fifteen months–Mac users can finally get their hands on a beta version of Google’s Chrome browser. Many of us have been running various rough drafts of OS X Chrome and its open-source cousin, Chromium, for months. But this is the first one that Google deems to be finished enough for wide use. And it’s part of a big Chrome news day that also includes betas of a Linux version and Firefox-like extensions.
But Chrome for OS X is missing some of the key features that make Chrome’s Windows version such a distinctive browser, including App Mode and built-in Gears offline technology. It also doesn’t yet support Chrome’s new extensions feature. And the user-interface doesn’t match the delightful minimalism of Chrome for Windows. It’s partially OS X’s fault, since Mac apps are required to have a traditional menu bar with several obligatory menus. But I still pine for the way Chrome for Windows brings the tabs up to the very top of the screen, and tucks all options into a grand total of two menus.
Here’s a peek at the Chrome for OS interface (top) versus its Windows counterpart.
Google says that the long-term goal is to bring the Mac version of Chrome to feature parity with Windows, so I’m officially laying off griping about the stuff it doesn’t have yet.
I hesitate to even publish these, since they don’t prove which browser is fastest–all they do is indicate how well they ran the SunSpider benchmark on one particular computer. (Which, in this case, is a current-generation 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.54-GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, NVidia GeForce 9400M graphics, and 4GB of RAM). Here they are, for what they’re worth–the numbers are milliseconds, smaller is better, and the results are the averages of three passes per browser.
Chrome and Safari completed the tests in such a neck-and-neck fashion that it was essentially a wash. (Safari finished first by a wee bit, and I’m guessing that Apple won’t stop calling it the world’s fastest browser anytime soon.) Firefox took a bit over twice as long. And Opera was a very, very distant fourth place–although Opera sure doesn’t feel ten times slower than Chrome, which leads me to say once again: This benchmark only tells you so much. But I think it’s still fragmentary, incomplete evidence that Chrome for OS X is indeed zippy.
If you’re using Chrome–on any platform, let us know your take. Come to think of it, tell us why you use the browser you use, no matter what it is–there are few tech topics that are more fun to debate than the browser wars…