Google's new Chrome 15 is better than ever. This release boasts a new tab page, which makes it easier to get to your Chrome apps and most visited sites. Under the hood, there are also several significant security and performance improvements.
Before launching into those, let's go over the basics for those of you who haven't used Chrome. The Chrome Web browser has a minimalist interface. Instead of a tool-bar, the basic interface has a combination address and search bar, the Omnibox, at the top with tabs above that. The handful of visible control buttons consist of Back, Forward, a combined Stop/Reload button, and a preferences wrench icon. That's it.
If you add extensions, they'll appear as icons on the right of the Omnibox. If you like having lots of tool-bars and endless interface tweaking power, Chrome is not for you. If you want a clean, fast system without a lot of fuss, Chrome will work well.
When you open a new tab in Chrome 15 you'll see the "New" New Tab page. At the bottom of the page, you can jump from a page with your Chrome Apps to one with your most visited sites. In the Chrome 15 beta, there was a third choice, "Bookmarks," but Google elected to not include this feature. Bookmarks are still available via either the Bookmark Bar or Manager.
Besides giving you easier navigation between online apps and your favorite Web sites, you can also organize apps by dragging and dropping them into new sections. You do this by dragging a program to the bottom of the page until a new apps section appears. You can then name the section to something useful by double-clicking on its label. For example, you can make one called "Games" to stuff Angry Birds and the like in.
On the new apps tab, you can also go directly to the revised Chrome Web Store. Here you'll find the latest Chrome Apps in a much easier to review and install format. Want to know more about a particular application? Click on it, or an extension or theme, and you'll get panels with additional information, screen-shots, and reviews.
That's all nice but the real tests of any browser these days are how secure it is, how compliant is it with Web standards, and never, ever least, how fast it is.
As for security, Google fixed numerous vulnerabilities in this update. In addition, this new version of Chrome has been set to defend its secure Web connections against attacks from BEAST, for "Browser Exploit Against SSL/TLS," a hacking tool for breaking Secure Socket Layer/Transport Layer Security Web site encryption.
On the HTML5 Test, which checks to see how compliant the Web browser is with the HTML5 Web page standard, Chrome 15 scored 343 out of a possible 450. Firefox took second with score of 313 and IE is way back in the back with 130 points.
Moving on to performance benchmarks, I set Chrome, along with the latest releases of Firefox and Internet Explorer, on a Gateway DX4710 Windows 7 SP1 test box. This PC is powered by a 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor and has 6GBs of RAM and an Intel GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 3100 for graphics. It's hooked to the Internet via a Netgear Gigabit Ethernet switch, which, in turn, is hooked up to a 60Mbps (Megabit per second) cable Internet connection.
Put it all together and what do you get? You get the best popular Web browser available today. Download Chrome yourself and see. Chrome is available for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.