Bigger, better 64-bit Chrome Web browser now available for Windows

Bigger, better 64-bit Chrome Web browser now available for Windows

Summary: Google delivers a faster, better and more secure version of its Chrome Web browser for Windows. Indeed, the 64-bit version may just be today's best Windows Web browser.


Like clockwork, Google has delivered its latest version of its Chrome Web browser for Linux, Mac, and Windows users, but it's the 64-bit Windows users who will get the most from this latest upgrade: Chrome 37.

Chrome 38 64-bit
64-bit Chrome for Windows is the best Windows Web browser available today.

Will Harris, a Google Software Engineer, blogged, "64-bit Chrome offers many benefits for speed, stability and security." While 64-bit Chrome has long been available for Linux, this is the first 64-bit version in Chrome's stable channel. The 64-bit Chrome for Mac OS X is now in beta.

Harris added that "The native 64-bit version of Chrome has improved speed on many of our graphics and media benchmarks. For example, the VP9 codec that’s used in High Definition YouTube videos shows a 15% improvement in decoding performance." So, is it really faster?

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To find out, I ran benchmarks on 32-bit Chrome 36m the new 64-bit Chrome 37, and 64-bit Internet Explorer (IE) 11 on a Gateway DX4710 running 64-bit Windows 7 SP1. You must be running 64-bit Windows to run a 64-bit application, but you can run 32-bit applications on a 64-bit system.

By default, IE 11 on the desktop runs its tabs as 32-bit processes. That's because historically, 64-bit IE runs far more slowly than 32-bit IE. In addition, Microsoft runs IE 11 processes as 32-bit for compatibility with older plugins. If you choose to run 64-bit IE, however, you'll be operating with more security because this also invokes Enhanced Protected Mode. For these benchmarks, to make sure IE showed to its best advantage, I ran IE in its default 32-bit mode. 

My benchmark PC is powered by a 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor and has 6GB 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 100Mbps (Megabit per second) cable Internet connection. For the benchmarks, I used Sunspider 1.02Futuremark's Peacekeeper; Octane 2.0, Google's own Web browser benchmark; and Mozilla's Kraken 1.1 benchmark.

On Sunspider, which is a popular, simple JavaScript benchmark, the lowest scores are the best. In this benchmark, IE 11 was the clear winner at 184.3-milliseconds. It was followed by Chrome 36 at 264.3-milliseconds and the newest 64-bit Chrome at 288.3-milliseconds. Clearly, for this test anyway, the new Chrome isn't that fast.

With Futuremark's PeaceKeeper, which examines almost all aspects of a browser's end-user performance, it was a different story. On this benchmark, where higher scores are better, Chrome 37 won with a score of 2,409, well ahead of the 32-bit Chrome 36's 2,214, and far, far ahead of IE 11's 1,632.

In Kraken, which gives browsers' JavaScript engines a good work-out, low scores are again better than higher ones. Here, the new Chrome once more won by a nose, with a score of 2,638.5-milliseconds over Chrome 36's 2661-milliseconds. IE 11, with 5,136.3, was in the rear.

Finally on Octane 2.0, Google's house Web browser benchmark, where higher is better, it should come as no surprise that Chrome 37 was the victor with a score of 13,156, well over Chrome 36's 12,895 and way ahead of IE 11's 8,142.

Google also claims that the new 64-bit Chrome displays high-definition (HD) video better. While I was unable to benchmark this, it certainly appeared to my eyes that YouTube HD videos, such as The Emmys 2014: Robin Williams Tribute (Highlight) and the Homeland Season 4: Teaser Trailer appeared quite sharp without any frame drop-outs.

For now, the 64-bit version of Chrome is optional. If you want to use it, click on the new “Windows 64-bit” link on the Chrome download page. Harris noted, however, that one "significant known issue is the lack of 32-bit NPAPI [Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface] plugin support." NPAPI is an obsolete technology and Google is depreciating it, but there are still a handful of older Web services and out-of-date Web sites that use it. 

The 32-bit channel will remain fully supported for the foreseeable future. In addition, Chrome will continue to support 32-bit plugins until NPAPI is removed from Chrome.

Regardless of whether you use 32- or 64-bit Chrome on Windows, the new Chrome now supports DirectWrite support on Windows for improved font rendering. DirectWrite has been around since Windows Vista, but Google had continued to use the mid-80's Graphics Device Interface (GDI) for font rendering. That was fine in the day when VGA's 640x480 resolution was the best you could expect, but it's completely out of date today.

Not everyone is happy with this change. Some users are reporting that with DirectWrite, "Chrome appears zoomed in and blurry, including the header bar (address bar, tabs, bookmarks bar)."  I was unable to reproduce this problem on any of my Windows 7 or 8 systems. I strongly suspect this problem is because of a combination of individual factors rather than a Chrome bug.

One user has suggested that if this happens to you, you can try "Right-clicking the Chrome shortcut and then click Properties. On the Compatibility tab, select Disable Display Scaling On High DPI Settings, and then click OK. This causes the text in the application to appear clearer." This fix is based on a fix for Windows applications having trouble with high DPI displays.

Both 32- and 64-bit Windows versions, as well as those for Linux and Mac OS X, also received numerous stability, security, and performance fixes.

To me, this is a no-brainer. If you want the best possible Web browsing experience on Windows, especially 64-bit Windows, get Chrome today.

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Topics: Networking, Browser, Google, Microsoft, Windows

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  • It should be noted for the record

    that 64 bit processes do not inherently run faster. They can address more memory, but that's not equivalent to speed. In some cases 64 bit registers can actually perform more poorly. I often compile Windows programs for 32 bit to get a bit of a boost in this area.
    • Yes, correct

      The 64-bit advantage is accessing memory above 4GB. The iPhone doesn't even have that much memory so 64-bit is all hype. However on a PC with 4GB or more RAM, 64-bit makes sense especially when running multiple processes and consuming HD media.
      Sean Foley
      • Not quite true. There are other advantages

        Regardless of the AMOUNT of memory a device has, the address space is 4 billion times larger. That means it is WAY harder to do heap attacks.

        Secondly a 64bit processor is much better at handling encode/decode stuff like compression, encryption, audio and video codecs. Many of these algorithms use more than 32 bits. Double precision calculation is improved.

        So the advantage of a 64 bit phone is that it is probably a better gaming system. And, later on they could actually compile and run 64 apps and depending on what the app does (i.e. whether it takes real advantage of 64 bit processing), get a performance boost
      • Different CPU architectures

        It should be noted that x86 chips and ARM chips are quite different. In x86 land, when transitioning from 32-bit to 64-bit, you gain access to additional registers. Larger address space is just the most obvious advantage but not the only one.
    • When you can process numbers in

      64-bit chunks you get a speed boost. Always. It isn't just about memory.
      • Always?

        So if I have numeric 2 in 16 bit register A, a numeric 2 in 16 bit register B and they are added in a 16 bit ALU that would be slower than if they 32 bit values and added in a 32 bit ALU?

        Are you nuts?

        For processing numbers, higher bits only help when the alternative is to string together operations to perform a larger bit result than the bit sizes of the registers and ALU.
        • Yes exactly

          and most integer operations (like a PK in a rowset) are well below the two billion range.... most usage of an int is in for loops, which is where you want short fast operations.... and in MSBuild projects (and I've clocked it), those often perform better on 32 bit targets.

          Don't get me wrong, I'm not dogmatic about it, and for things like printing, where things have to be thunked up for the spooler, there are some 32 bit bottlenecks.

          But there are cases where going 32 bit is a quick way to catch a speed boost. You'd be crazy not to if it turns out you get one!
          • Ah but here's the rub. Browsers do encode/decode

            So you are all correct when dealing with regular processing which covers most of my code. But browsers have to deal with video, audio and compression and in some cases these are more than 32bit operations and are still integral. For many of these a 64 bit system will work much better.

            But the memory problem isn't a small one either. In 32 bit you generally do not get more than 3GB of memory and with all the background processes it is pretty easy to fill it up. Not only that when you have a 32bit address space it is easier to hack (even if it is only a 32 bit sandbox under a 64 bit system) because it is much much easier to scan the address space.

            So in summary a web browser as an application really can take advantage of 64 bits better than many other applications.
          • Oops I forgot encryption, decryption

            add encryption and decryption
          • There are more bytes in 64 bit. Like sector size

            64 can be less efficient because you can waste more space. It is like a larger sector size. Files that are smaller just waste disk. You may have to allocate more space for storage and what not. In these cases 32 bit is probably the way to go. But looping and incrementing should be exactly the same for 32 bit and 64 bit. What you are probably noticing is the the effect of what is in the loop. 64 bit can mean more data is moved in and out of memory and if it is 4 bytes or less then some of that movement is wasted. But from an ALU standpoint no difference.
        • Sigh. That's not a number you need to process

          in a 64-bit chunk. Sheesh. Sometimes I assume too much of the reader when I write something.
      • Dp you mean like

        2,147,483,647 + 2,147,483,647 ?
        Sean Foley
      • Most code doesn't do 64 bit though

        Take your average C or C++ code. A lot of it is 32 bit and that won't execute one whit faster under a 64 bit OS. A lot of existing code doesn't process numbers in 64 bit chunks. For one thing a lot of available code is already compiled as 32 bit. And many code bases aren't 100% portable and so can't simply be recompiled. Windows applications may have hooks into Win32 and there are many other related issues that impacts this.

        Jitted languages like java and C# runtimes can automatically take advantage of some 64 bit but even their the type structure is pretty explicit an Int32 is an Int32 and it doesn't change.

        But browsers really can take advantage of 64 bits due to the variety of encode/decode things they do. Compression, encryption, audio, video, etc. Many of these involve more bits.
    • 64 bit registers operations take the same number of cycles as 32 bit.

      I believe that there are times where you are correct that 32 bit code executes faster but not because of cpu register speed but because you have to move more data around when you don't need it. So if you use an int[] to store byte information this will be more inefficient on application compiled for 64 bit.

      note a 64 bit application can still perform 32 bit operations, which may or may not be faster.
      a 32 bit application can perform 64 bit operations (but more slowly).
      a 32 bit application doesn't change its behavior when run on a 64 bit system
  • Except

    Except for the Google spying thing.
    Buster Friendly
    • Place tin foil hat, here
      • Spying

        When spying and collecting personnal information about the users is your business model, I too see a problem.
        • when earning 92% profit margin on a certain software and still not caring

          about the customers is the business model, that's a more serious problem to me. That's a monopoly behavior.

          Please explain how google is "spying" when I know my data goes to them. You still may not like it, but how is it "spying". That's when you don't know someone is slurping your data.

          I bet there is a lot of actual spying going on on your PC, though. malware, russian hackers wiresharking you, etc.
          • And, just how many people realize

            that Google scans every search term you enter, every email you write, every freaking thing you do in Chrome in order to sell it. It's not like Google is out there telling them.
          • Show me where it says they "sell the information"

            They sell ad space, ads which will be automatically chosen based on what they know about you , from within google's servers. They sell anonymous statistics like everyone else.
            Also, gmail does clearly tell you with "why this ad" link at every ad, explain the terms in your email that automatically triggered it. Its not like this all is a big mystery to anyone.