Google Chrome, has recently become available for OSX, and we’ve spent some time taking it for a test drive.
The first thing you’ll notice is how fast Chrome opens and launches your homepage. It starts noticeably faster than Firefox or Safari.
The address bar, is by default, a Google search box. You can type in
what your looking for, and Google will start displaying results in the
bar. The search also feels extremely snappy, and it’s a nice convenience
to be able to search without having to open an additional tab.
Chrome supports tabbed browsing, and when you open a new tab you’ll be
brought to a favorites page that displays your most visited sites and
recently closed tabs. The tabs can also be dragged visually to
arrange them in any order, and you can pop them out to start a tab in an
entirely new window. This seems to offer a nice combination of the way
Safari and Firefox handle tabs.
In our completely unscientific tests, Google Chrome does seem to load
nearly every page much more quickly than Firefox, and is about as fast
as Safari. Plenty of people have done head to head browser tests for speed, and Safari seems to show up as slightly faster in technical tests. We found Chrome very fast overall.
The user experience with Chrome is fantastic. It’s clean, uncluttered
and very easy to find and tweak the settings. There is no fluff in the
user interface, and Chrome seems built for simplicity. Either choose a
favorite site from your thumbnails, or type what you’re looking for into
the search bar. It all happens in one place, so you don’t need to jump
The Preferences pane is the most well organized we’ve encountered. It
has three tabs: Basics, Personal Stuff and Under the Hood. You can
change every setting that matters right here, and each setting is
clearly explained. The preference panel here is much more user friendly
than Firefox or Safari, where you sometimes need to dig a bit to find
the setting you’re looking to change, and the function of these settings
can be somewhat confusing for inexperienced users. Google has done a
solid job of highlighting the setting most users need to change, and
eliminating some of the more confusing setting you find in other
There’s one feature we really love and have been getting a lot of
mileage out of. You can set Chrome to open up a few sites in separate
tabs whenever you start the browser. When Chrome launches, Google
Wave, Co-Tweet and some of the other web apps we use open automatically.
Basically, you can pop open the browser and get ready to work.
This is especially helpful when you’re trying to get used to using a new
app, like Wave.
There’s also some interesting technical stuff going on under the hood as
well. Each tab in the browser is it’s own separate entity. What’s going
on in one tab, doesn’t effect the others, which is an added layer of
malware protection. If you have the bad luck of opening up a data
stealing site in one tab, and happen to be purchasing something or
looking at your bank account in another, your personal information is
safe. It’s a solid security feature that is built right into the design
of the browser.
The one place where Chrome for OSX fails, at least for now, is with
addons. Firefox and Safari have an enormous amount of plugins, addons
and hacks available that can make your life much easier. Chrome doesn’t
currently support any extensions, although this is set to change in the
future. If you’re a power user, who has a suite of plugins you can’t
live without, Chrome isn’t the browser for you. Yet. We’ll reserve our
judgement in this area until Chrome starts adding extra functionality,
but it will be difficult to replicate the large hacker community
surrounding Firefox, that are always adding new functions.
However, there is a hacker build of Chrome, called Chromium
that addresses some of these shortcomings. Chromium has a full suite of
extensions available, features daily updates and removes the Google
branding from the browser. Chromium is a good choice for tech savvy
power users, and does a great job of showing the future potential of
Chrome does offer some very cool themes to change the look of the browser, including ones by Jeff Koons, Karim Rashid and Anna Sui. These are wonderful looking, but just window dressing. Very cool attractive stuff, but they don’t add any functionality.
Overall, Chrome is a very light, solid and fast browser. Safari users
may be tempted to jump ship, as it seems more stable and nearly as
quick. Firefox users will enjoy the speed increase Chrome brings to the
table, but without the plugins, Chrome won’t be the best choice for
geeks who live inside their browser. Our feeling is that Chrome is a
great choice for casual web users, especially those that aren’t very
Chrome is still in beta. When the community expands, plugins become
available, and Google tightens things up, we imagine Chrome will become
the number one browser on the web in the near future.