Chrome 14: The best Web browser keeps getting better (Review)

Google's Chrome 14 is another step into the lead for the best Web browser of them all.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

It's odd. When Firefox moved into its accelerated development path, Firefox really didn't get much better. In fact, it's been getting less stable. Google's Chrome Web browser though just keeps getting better with every new release. Chrome 14, in my opinion, is now clearly the best Web browser for any operating system available today.

Why? Well, look at all the raw numbers. To see how Chrome 14 ranked, I put it up against the latest releases of Firefox and IE 9 on a Windows 7 box.

When it comes to Web standards compatibility, Chrome 14 is a winner. On the Acid 3 compatibility test, which checks out how well a browser complies with Web standards such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), JavaScript, and Extensible Markup Language (XML), Chrome had a perfect score. Firefox 6 had a score of 97 and IE had a 95.

On the recently, August 23rd, updated HTML5 Test, which checks to see how compliant the Web browser is with the HTML5 Web page standard, Chrome is king of the mountain again with a score of 341 out of a possible 450. Firefox 6.02 came in second with 313 and IE 9.0.8 came in a distant last with 141. Anyone who tells you that IE is HTML5 compliant is trying to sell you Windows. It's not. It's not even close.

Download.com: Chrome 14

Moving on to performance, I use Chrome 14 on all my systems. That means I use it on various Linux desktop distributions; Chrome OS on a Samsung Chromebook, Mac OS Snow Leopard and Lion and Windows XP and 7 PCs. It runs fast on all of them.

For performance benchmarking, though I use my Gateway DX4710 running Windows 7 SP1. 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.

The first benchmark was Kraken 1.0. This is Mozilla's take on the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark In Kraken, lower scores are better. Chrome 14 beat its last version, Chrome 13 and all other comers with a score of 4578.5millisecondss (ms). Chrome 13 had a score 4927.7ms.; Firefox took second with a score of 7588.2ms.; and IE came in last with a wretched 17,051.9ms.

With Peacekeeper, another JavaScript-performance benchmark, where higher scores are better, IE wins with a score of 8,343. Chrome comes in second with 7,663 and Firefox comes in a distant last with 4,588 points.

According to Google's own JavaScript test V8 Benchmark Suite, where higher scores are better, Chrome 14 takes first with 7,591. The others aren't even competitive. Firefox flops with a showing of 3,614 and IE does even worse with 2,193.

Finally, on SunSpider 0.9.1, the oldest of the JavaScript Web benchmark tests, where lower results are better, Chrome wins again with a score of 249.9ms Here the results are much more competitive. IE 9 is hot on its tail with a score of 252.6ms. and Firefox shows well with 301.2ms.

The results? Chrome is more standard compliant and faster than its closest competitors. Chrome has more than just that going for it though. This latest release includes some nice minor fixes and some very interesting major features.

Chrome 14: Pretty and Fast. (Gallery)

The fix I think most people will like is that print preview is now not only included, it works automatically. That's the good news. The bad news is it doesn't work well for Chrome on Macs. The feature, which is powered by Chrome's built-in PDF reader, worked sporadically for me on both my Snow Leopard and Lion systems.

While that was annoying, it was nice to see the feature work perfectly on my Linux and Windows systems. Mac users may be mollified to find that Chrome 14 does work with Lion's overlay scrollbars. You can also use the hot-key combo of Ctrl+Shift+F to activate basic support for Lion's full-screen mode.

The two important new features aren't going to be important to you in the short run, but it may be a different story in the long run.

The first, Web Audio application programming interface (API) lets developers create interesting sounds effects for games and applications. With it, programmers can add 3D dynamically positioned sounds sources and mix multiple sound sources. The results can be quite interesting. Try and see for yourself. I can see some very interesting games and musical applications coming out of this.

A far more significant feature is that Chrome 14 now supports C and C++ applications in Google's Native Client SDK (software developer kit). Native client lets developers create local applications that run locally within Chrome.

What that means isn't, as some people will have it, that Google is trying to redefine the Web. No, but what Google is doing, as has been doing ever since they introduced Chrome OS, is to redefine the desktop. What's important about Native Client is that instead of just running applications off the Web, you'll be able to run local applications at your machine's full speed instead of at your Internet's speed. In addition, since Native Clients run within the Chrome security sandbox, they're much safer than most applications.

Put Native Client applications together with Google's support for HTML5 local data storage for its applications and it's clear than ever that Google wants Chrome to be just not your browser, but your operating system as well. At this time, there are only a handful of Native Client applications and those are only available via the Chrome Web Store, but I see big things coming here.

Indeed, I see big things coming for Chrome in general. It's not only faster and more fully featured than ever, it's also becoming more popular by the day. Indeed, in some South American countries, Chrome is already the number one Web browser. At this rate, I can see the day when it's the number one Web browser in the world.

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