Chrome for Mac–Finally!

By  |  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.

With so much missing from this first beta of Chrome for OS X, the browser has even more riding on its signature feature: speed. It certainly feels satisfyingly snappy. But to satisfy my own curiosity, I ran the widely-used SunSpider JavaScript benchmark on the OS X versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera.

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…


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9 Comments For This Post

  1. Ron Says:

    I use Chrome under Windows 7. Its extremely fast, and I like the minimalist design. In fact, I may only use 1-3 extensions now that they’ve made hundreds available. The two things I want my browser to be is fast and unobtrusive. Chrome scores on both counts.

  2. tom b Says:

    Is Chrome any faster than Safari in Windows?

  3. donno Says:

    I think startup needs to be taken into consideration. Yeah, Safari [barely] benchmarks faster than Chrome, but as is my experience in XP, it starts up much slower. Verdict: I’m using Chrome.

    Any startup time data available for Chrome on a mac?

  4. tom b Says:

    “I think startup needs to be taken into consideration.”

    Maybe, but Firefox is widely used (and is my favorite browser) in spite of glacial startup times. Safari starts quickly on the Mac; maybe Apple should address that issue on the PC side, if it’s slow to start in XP.

  5. Jason Anderson Says:

    I will switch from Firefox when it allows all the features I have come to use in FF either built-in or through extensions. The most important ones though are…

    DownloadHelper for downloading flash video sources from sites with unprotected flash video like YouTube.

    Google Preview which puts thumbnails in Google searches. I mean come on, why isn’t this part of Google yet? Or Bing or Yahoo! for that matter? It’s a super convenient feature and I’m surprised we still need a plug-in.

    Sxipper for password managing and auto-filling. I’ve just become so used to it learning from me. I just need an equivalent.

    Some features from Tab Mix Plus like undoing closing tabs (Open the tabs right back up where they were) and single window mode where it never allows separate windows keeping all popups and children in the same window under new tabs.

    Session Storing. I want to close the browser and have it open up right exactly where it was complete with individual tab histories. Even if it crashes. Firefox does this and it’s my most required feature of any browser. I keep a lot of tabs open when I am busy to get to them later, sometimes I don’t get there for days. Keeping them open even when rebooting or shutting down is so convenient and is how every app should work these days.

    Other than that I’d like a way of compressing the amount of used space in the UI. FireFox allows you to use CSS to move elements of the browser UI around. I have mine set up so all you see is one 22 pixel high toolbar with back/forward, the location bar using 250 pixels and the rest of the toolbar blank with my tab bar sitting in the empty space. My status bar is gone so I get the largest amount of space possible on OS X without turning the location and tabs off. (i.e. a blank empty window.) All my other commands like reloading are done via various gestures or clicks. Double-click to reload the tab. Middle click to close it. Etc… Chrome seems fixed and uses a lot of space just for the toolbar. It’s huge and thick. I wish I could make it smaller.

    Firefox starts up slow, even 3.6, and will probably never be really fast unless the Mac Mozilla team rewrites it completely, like the Camino team did, but I continue to use it because of its infinite customization abilities. When Chrome has a plug-in library that rivals Firefox’s and is at 1.0 final, I will reconsider switching. If mainly because of its use of WebKit. I love WebKit. Every browser should dump their Gecko’s and IE rendering engines and just use WebKit. Especially Safari’s version that allows for so much cool stuff. (Thanks to the iPhone OS, WebKit is not only a web renderer but also a development platform.)

  6. Stephen Turner Says:

    I use Firefox on Windows 7, but mainly because of the extensions. Now that Chrome has extensions, I’ll consider switching: or at least, once it has all the “essential” extensions I use.

  7. donno Says:

    Yeah, if Safari started up as fast as Chrome, I suppose I’d be using Safari instead. I like to use both Chrome and Firefox, even at the same time, because I find it to be the easiest way to switch between multiple accounts on hotmail, gmail, and facebook…since the two browsers don’t share authenticated sessions. Perhaps I’ll even add Safari and use three browsers at once, because there are some sites where I have 3 accounts.

    So…yeah, I agree that Firefox is the “handiest,” but I end up using Chrome more because it’s faster for almost everything.

    Chrome beats Safari on speed overall (taking startup into consideration), and Firefox beats Safari on usefulness and customization…but ya know what? I’ll go ahead and add that third browser to my personal computer right now (I already have it at work for application testing purposes).

  8. Tech Says:

    It’s about time they made Chrome available on Mac.

  9. ND Milder Says:

    I tried Chrome just to try it, but I found it snappier, faster than my Firefox.

    I do not like IE, which wants to boss me rather than serve me. It always seemed to be telling me I had to do something. Also, I am not an aficionado of Mamma Microsoft.

    Safari left me cold after it made it hard to use my Gmail address book.

    Firefox is still my default browser, but Chrome has me looking.

    Firefox, Safari, Chrome — really not a bummer in the lot. A happy predicament.

2 Trackbacks For This Post

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