Chrome 19: The Best Web browser just keeps getting better

A new edition of Chrome appears, and, yes, once again, it's better than the last version and it's much better than the competition.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

With Chrome 19 you can sync tabs between PCs and Android smartphones.

With Chrome 19 you can sync tabs between PCs and Android smartphones.

The Google Chrome Web browser just keeps getting better and better. The just released Chrome 19 is a perfect example of this.

Besides fixing a slew of security problems, Chrome 19's niftiest new feature is tab syncing. Chrome has long given you the power to sync your bookmarks, apps, extensions, history, themes, and other settings. Now, you can sync your open tabs as well between computers, and if you're lucky enough to have an Android smartphone with Ice Cream Sandwich, which supports the beta Chrome for Android, you can sync them with your phone as well.

Here's how it works. When you're signed in to Google, your open tabs are automatically synced across all your devices. To get to them, simply open a new tab on your browser and on the bottom left there's an "Other devices" menu on the center-left of the bottom of the page. From it, you can see all your other Chrome sessions and their open tabs. Want to open one on tabs from say your work computer? Just click on it and you're on way.

This is neat. This makes it easier than ever to never lose track of what you were doing in your various browsers.

It's also just a wee-bit creepy. If you share your Google log-in with other people on other PCs, you'll be able to see what they're looking at on their Chrome sessions. Mind you, for security reasons you shouldn't be doing that anyway, but it is something to keep in mind. Or, to flip it around, if you're in the habit of leaving your work computer on and you left Chrome running while you were logged in, someone could come by your office desk and see what tabs you have open on Chrome on your home PC. In short, don't be careless when you're using this feature.

On the other hand, Chrome gives you many privacy-tweaking settings. To get to those, go to the Options menu, and from there, head to the Under the Hood tab. Once there, you can control what happens with cookies, including Flash cookies now; image displays; JavaScript; plug-ins; pop-ups, and location information. You can also turn on Chrome's built-in Adobe Flash plug-in and PDF reader. Both of these are turned off by default.

If like me, you're a little tired of the endless flood of Adobe security problems, you'll welcome Chrome's version of them. Even if they go wrong in Chrome, at least they'll be stuck inside Chrome's sandbox where they won't be able to do mischief in the rest of your computer.

Some people have been having trouble with Chrome 18 on Windows 7 64-bits. Their problems seemed to show up most often when they were running lots of tabs at once with a heavy Adobe Flash use. So, I decided to see if I could duplicate their problems on my test PC.

My Web browser testing system is a 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 100Mbps (Megabit per second) cable Internet connection.

On it, I opened 40 plus tabs at once multiple times in the last 24-hours. Half of them, like YouTube, included a lot of active Flash content. I couldn't get a single lock-up or crash from it. I then left them running for six hours, thinking perhaps a memory leak problem was to blame. Again, everything went fine afterwards.

I can't say that you won't have problems with this new version of Chrome. All I can say is that on my Windows 7 box, and on my various Linux and Mac boxes as well, Chrome 19 never faltered no matter how heavy a load I put on it.

As for the basics, Chrome 19 remains as easy to install and use on Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows as ever. You simply download it from the site, run the program and in less than two minutes you'll be up and running it.

Chrome's interface is also as clean as ever. The Omnibox, the combined search and location box is still on top. Underneath it, you'll find the tabs, on the right top you'll find the bookmark icon and that's about it. There are only a handful of control buttons. If you want to adjust the browser's looks and behavior you'll need to go to the wrench icon and look at the menus it hides.

Once there, you'll discover there's not a lot you can do with Chrome's looks. If you want to give your Web browser a make-over to get it looking and working just they way you want Firefox is still the browser for you.

Chrome on the Benchmark Rank

Moving on to the benchmarks, Chrome gets a perfect score on the Acid 3 compatibility test, which checks how well a browser complies with various Web standards such as CSS, JavaScript, and Extensible Markup Language (XML). But, then all modern browsers score perfectly on this test these days. If your browser doesn't get a perfect score-update it. Now.

On the HTML5 Test, which checks to see how compliant the Web browser is with the HTML5 Web page standard, Chrome 19 scored 402 out of a possible 500. The new Firefox 12 was way behind with 345 points. Internet Explorer 9? It scored a dismal 138 points.

For my first benchmark I used Google'sJavaScript V8 Benchmark Suite, where higher scores are better. As you might expect, Chrome crushed Firefox and IE with a score of 9,091. Firefox took a distant second with 5,505. IE was way behind the open-source browsers with a score of 2,112.

On the old, SunSpider 0.9.1, JavaScript test where lower results are better, Chrome did OK with a score of 256.9ms. IE nosed ahead though with a score of 252.7ms to take first place. Firefox came in last with 296.5ms.

On the Peacekeeper Web browser test suite, which looks at JavaScript performance and looks in on HTML5 compatibility, video codec support and other Web browser features, higher scores are better. On Peacekeeper, Chrome won once more. On this benchmark, where higher is better and Chrome took first with a score of 2,241. Firefox followed with a far slower 1,557 and IE was back in the rear with 1,347.

The bottom line is that Chrome is simply the fastest Web browser out there. It's also, from where I sit, one of the most secure browsers and I really like its clean interface and its features. As far as I'm concerned, Chrome is still easily the best browser out there. As always, you don't have to take my word for it. Try Chrome yourself. I think you'll find, as hundreds of millions of other Chrome users have, that Chrome will become your first choice in Web browsers.

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