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First impression of Safari 5: meh.

Ok, so there was a little bit of a hiccup between PR Newswire announcing that Safari 5 had been released and the actual bits being made available for download, but it's here now... So I figured I'd take a quick look at the new version and see how it stacks up.

My first stop with any new browser is Futuremark's Peacekeeper. On my home system running Windows 7 and an AMD Phenom 9550, Google Chrome 6 posts a 5236 (I'm not running quite the insane rig that Sebastian is). Safari 5 came in well behind at 3360 points -- about 35% slower. Apart from the concrete Peacekeeper numbers, many of the sites loaded noticeably slower -- ours, for example -- than they do in Google Chrome (5 or 6).

Enough of the stale benchmarking and performance talk... Let's move along and take a look at what's new and shiny under the hood in Safari 5.

What about the other new features? Well, there's Safari Reader. As you can see above, it's a Readability-esque mode which is designed to provide a better experience on blog and news sites. It does a good job of stripping away excess page elements and presenting only what you want to focus upon, but the page has to load completely first before you can turn Reader on. It does provide a nice, distraction-free way to read web content.

Hardware acceleration on Windows is touted by Apple, but Safari 5 still has a difficult time chugging through the wicked Flickr Explorer demo Microsoft has posted in the IE9 preview gallery -- which is pure HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. Extension support was announced at WWDC, but we won't be able to try it out until "the end of the summer" when Apple officially opens the doors to its "gallery."

There are a number of evolutionary changes, like the fact that you can now choose to have links that want to open in new windows open in new tabs instead, a smarter address bar which borrows some search tricks from Chrome's Omnibar, and the option of using Bing for searches. Help me out here -- am I missing something, or can I really not add additional search engines?
Oddly enough, on Windows 7 Apple chose to implement the more troublesome eye candy of per-tab taskbar thumbnails -- and decided to leave out any Jump List functionality. Both Chrome and Firefox recently dumped the thumbnails, if you recall, and commenters on our site (for the most part) seem to consider them an annoyance.

Developers, fans -- feel free to tell me something different, but I just don't find Safari 5 all that exciting on my Windows of OS X systems. Safari 5 just seems like it falls short of the mark being set by next-gen browsers like Chrome 6, Opera 10.60, Firefox 4.0 -- and even Internet Explorer 9.

Better HTML5 support, extensions, and all the other updates to v5 are indeed good additions, but I don't think they're enough to make Safari a compelling option for choosy users. Like Internet Explorer, however, Safari will no doubt continue to win by default -- because it's there on Macs and because Apple will probably keep piggybacking it on iTunes.
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Tags: apple, browser, safari 5, Safari5, web