[UPDATED] Google’s new browser, Chrome, was released this week – and while this is by no means a comprehensive review, I thought I might give a quick rundown of my first reactions and compare it with my browser of choice, Firefox 3. First, the most important thing to do if you’ve been reading any of the official releases is to dismiss the ugly candy blue UI that’s presented in the demo – on Vista at least, the UI chrome color actually matches whatever visual style you have picked out for your OS.
See a full res comparison and my full review by clicking the link below.
Download Here: http://www.google.com/chrome
More Content Space
The first thing you’ll notice in the new browser is the streamlining of the UI. There is no bloat to speak of, in fact, the basic installation is about as clean and crisp as you could possibly get – reserving an abundance of screen real estate for content, not bulky toolbars. Compared to my basic version of Firefox, I gained a quick 60 px of vertical space – valuable “above the fold” real estate in designer terms.
Here’s where Chrome begins to shine (no pun intended). Google’s signature simplicity is in tact. sure, you could minimize Firefox the same way, but even the visual styling of the UI is streamlined – ironically, there’s no “chrome” styling to speak of in fact. The visual style is the same simple google style that you’ve come to expect. Nothing feels designed at all, which if you ask me is the trademark of a truly great UI. It actually took me a few minutes to get used to the fact that everything was where I expected it – which is to say that the learning curve simply involved unlearning the toolbar atmosphere of other browsers.
My first thought when I heard about yet another browser to account for was, uh, not a happy one to say the least. Anyone involved in web design & dev knows the heartache caused by having to test for a variety of browsers, IE being notoriously the least standards compliant. Shockingly though, in my relatively brief testing of Chrome, I haven’t seen any major issues or differences in the rendering of web pages… certainly nothing akin to the problems I had with IE7 when it was released. My own blog and the entire WP admin panel (which I’ve loaded with plugins) runs like a charm, and the additional vertical space means that I get even more content per screen. I can only hope that the new IE 8 will behave this well.
Again – this is by no means a professional benchmark; but running the same 3 sites (my blog, gmail, and the WordPress admin panel), Firefox rang in at 91MB of memory, vs Chrome’s miniscule 34MB. Both are a huge improvement from Firefox 2′s memory issues, of course. Only time will tell whether these numbers translate to long surf sessions, but the fact that Chrome runs so quickly even with the addition of Google apps bodes well for it. Read a little more about Chrome’s performance here. See benchmarks here.
No Plugins = No 100% Adoption [UPDATED]
At the writing of this post, there aren’t plugins for Chrome – which means that Firefox is still likely going to be my browser of choice despite some radical new ideas that come with the new Chrome. In addition to a variety of tools like Grab n Drag and the search engine dropdown, I use Firebug on an daily, if not hourly basis when I’m actually working on anything related to web design.
[UPDATE] Oh Snap! moment for me – Google’s actually found a way to include Firebug in the installation of Chrome – meaning, when I transfered over my bookmarks and plugins (part of the installation wizard), I actually transferred the Firebug plugin. That, or Chrome has it’s own version of Firebug inherent to the installation… which would be hot. It’s not as docked like the original version, but it’s there and it works beautifully – so I can’t really gripe about that specifically now can it?
First Impression: Summary
I’ve gotta say that despite reading a lot of skeptical posts about the new Chrome browser, I was hesitant of what I’d find in my first test-drive. Turns out that Chrome is doing a lot of things right, which, regardless of what browser you happen to use, inevitably means that this will push ALL browser developers to push more of these innovations into their own products. This initial launch of Chrome, while still in its infancy, might be the herald of lots more great browser innovations from the search behemoth.
True, Chrome would benefit from a community of plugin and addon developers; But with the time that it’s taken Mozilla to develop a thriving plugin community, this is certainly not something out of Google’s grasp; So I anticipate that this will come around sooner or later.
It seems the major hurdle that may stand between Google Chrome and mass adoption in the next year might just be the fact that they’ve done so many things right by streamlining the UI. Users nowadays have come to expect some bloat, which is one of those odd facts about user behavior. Specifically, some new users will find the lack of the typical Windows “File > Edit > View…” dialogue in the header unsettling; but Chrome has included all the major functions in the top right drop downs, so that satisfies me. I really like the easy integration of other Google apps as well, so with a few key additions to Chrome, it very well could become this designer’s browser of choice.
In any event, innovation in the marketplace is never a bad thing, so I anticipate that this will spur even more progress in the ever so dramatic browser wars in the years to come.