Apple Safari 4 Internet Browser

Apple's new browser promises faster load times, new features and private browsing, but will it make your surfing experience any better? Pocket-lint hit the Internet for some heavy web surfing action to find out.

None of this 3. something, Apple has opted for a full jump to version 4 of it's internet browser and added a number of features, refined the interface and then on top of all that the promise that it will be considerably faster than the last version.

The first thing you'll notice is a new streamlined design for both Mac and PC users. PC users now get a Vista and XP look and feel (oh exciting) to fit in better with their OS while tabs have been moved to the top of the browser "Chrome style". While the move gives you quick access to a plus button on the far right of the browser to open another tab, it has taken us most of the afternoon to get used to the move.

Once you are used to this, it does seem to make better use of your screen space than IE7, with its several wasted rows of options.

You can still slide the tabs around to organise, but just grabbing the centre of the tab shifts the entire window rather than the tab in question. No biggie, but frustrating if you're in a rush. In comparison Firefox and IE7 let you grab anywhere on the tab.

Again following Chrome, and more recently Firefox, Apple now presents you with a Top Sites page when you create a new tab. The page features 12 sites in total and this being Apple it's all very luscious and graphically tasty complete with reflections.

As a Safari 3 user, we aren't sure whether the top site boxes were fed using our previous search history data or suggestions from Apple, but it's a good way of nipping off to the sites that you use the most.

If they are provided by Apple you get the usual array of New York Times, CNN, Google Maps, Wiki and Amazon.com and like Chrome and Firefox clicking on the image takes you directly to that site.

In practice it's a welcomed addition and something that we use in Firefox and Chrome already. Apple's approach is more graphical than the others, but in no way more or less useful, it's just how they present it.

What is nice and one of the features we've already found ourselves using is the search history option. While Firefox allows you to search the URL and title of a page you've visited, Safari takes this one step further by actually allowing you to search the text on the pages you've visited.

As you can imagine this is going to be great for finding words that aren't in the header or page URL and give you a greater chance of finding something from a previous article you've read.

Continuing with the bookmarks and history side of things Apple has also added a Cover Flow feature to the interface allowing you to flick through your bookmarks or previous pages. It's a predictable step that Clover Flow fans will no doubt welcome, but for the rest of us it's unlikely to add any real excitement until that touchscreen Mac comes a calling.

As for private browsing it's a simple affair, clicking the feature on means your web history isn't recorded, great for surfing sites you perhaps shouldn't. No not those ones, the ones you've used to research your partner's birthday present.

All these new features are irrelevant if the browser is slower than your granny when it comes to getting around the web. Luckily Safari is fast. Damn fast.

The new tech, called "Nitro", runs according to Apple, JavaScript 4.2 times faster than Safari 3 and JavaScript 30 times faster than Internet Explorer 7. Against Firefox it is three times faster.

We haven't benchmarked it, it's not something we do here at Pocket-lint, and besides with a browser it is almost impossible to prove how much faster it is than other browsers due to the way the web works. However, that said, it was quick to load all the sites we visited prior to writing this review.

It is considerably quicker than Safari 3 and therefore worth the upgrade just for that reason. Compared to Firefox there were times Safari won and time Firefox won. Compared to IE7, however, it seems that Microsoft's browser just isn't in the same race. Put basically, it's going to be down to personal preference when it comes to speed.

Verdict

It's free, it works so what's not to like? Not much really. If you are a Safari user then you are going to love it. The Top Sites page looks good, the search history option our favourite bit and the speed improvements welcomed.

The tweaks and improvement make for a cleaner intuitive application that is faster which can only be a good thing.

Will it make you switch from Firefox or Chrome? Probably not. Most of the features introduced here are already available for both the competing browsers and it will really come down to what you are happy using and Safari isn't supported by most banks online yet.

That's not to say anything here will work against you, it's just you probably already know whether you're a Safari user or not. For us we will continue to use it alongside Firefox, but it's not going to replace the "fox" just yet