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First Look: IE9 Platform Preview

Today Microsoft allowed developers to take their first look at Internet Explorer 9 by releasing the Platform Preview, which is basically the IE9 browser without any of the user interface you normally associate with a browser.

Today Microsoft allowed developers to take their first look at Internet Explorer 9 by releasing the Platform Preview, which is basically the IE9 browser without any of the user interface you normally associate with a browser.

Check out the IE9 Preview Platform image gallery

So, what's so special about IE9? Well, in a nutshell, a lot. First, there's increased support for a whole raft of web technologies such as HTML5, CSS3and SVG2. If none of that makes any sense to you, don't worry, it's stuff that makes your web experience better!

There's also a brand new JavaScript engine codenamed "Chakra" which has been specifically designed to make better use of dual-core systems by using the second core to compile the JavaScript code down to native code. There's also a new graphics subsystem and the browser also makes use of the PC's GPU in order to boost performance, something which has NVIDIA excited:

“Today, with introduction of Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft gives us another milestone for visual computing. Internet Explorer 9 includes a new JavaScript engine, support for HTML5 and hardware accelerated graphics and text. Internet Explorer 9 is the first browser designed to take advantage of modern hardware, resulting in graphics and performance improvements throughout the browser including the first to deliver hardware accelerated scalable vector graphics (SVG); the first to enhance JavaScript engine performance with the benefit of shifting from the CPU to the GPU; and the first to deliver GPU-Powered HTML5.”

All in all, big changes.

I've take the new Preview Platform out for a quick spin on the web and checked out some of the code examples that Microsoft has on display, and I have to say that I'm seriously impressed. First off, the examples that Microsoft has developed in order to show off the new browser are very impressive.

 
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I know that there will be screams that what I've done is unfair, but I decided to put the IE9 Platform Preview up against Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3.6, Opera 10.50, and Chrome 4 to see if this preview can hold its own.

So, how does IE9 look? Pretty good to tell you the truth, especially considering that it's a work in progress.

Testing -->

Let's take a look at a few key areas.

Note: All testing carried out on a 2.4GHz dual-core system running 3GB of RAM on Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit.

ACID 3 Test

In the ACID 3 test, the IE9 Preview Platform scores a respectable 55, beating IE8. However, it still has a long way to go before it comes close to Opera, Chrome and Firefox.

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SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark

In the SunSpider JavaScript the IE9 Preview Platform actually manages to beat Firefox 3.6. However, it is still comfortably beaten by Chrome 4 and Opera 10.50.

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V8 Benchmark

I include the V8 benchmark for completeness. In this test Chrome 4 comes out on top, followed by Opera 10.50. The IE9 Preview Platform is once again in the middle, with Firefox 3.6 and IE8 pulling in a lower score.

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All in all, for such an early preview, these scores are quite impressive. Sure, the browser has a long way to go, and before it's released it's likely that the other major players will have improved too, but this is still a very decent debut.

Download the Platform Preview and take a look for yourself (it's a standalone installer and doesn't mess with your system settings of fiddle with your default browser, and it's happy to work alongside Internet Explorer).

Note: The preview doesn't work on XP, and neither will IE9 when released it seems.

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