Blazing performance up to twice as fast as Internet Explorer. So says Apple of its latest version of the Safari web browser, now available as a beta for Windows PCs . Tech.co.uk has taken the new browser for a test drive alongside the other contenders - and found some rather interesting results.

Overall, the Safari experience will be pretty familiar for anyone using the latest versions of the two big browsers currently available for Windows. Like Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Firefox from Mozilla, Safari is a tabbed browser with a wide range of security features.

However, Apple has brought the full OS X look to Safari to Windows. That includes font rendering that mimics the OS X build of Safari. Apple has also carried over the full set of window furniture right down to the metal-look toolbars and blue-liquid scroll buttons.

Indeed, Apple has probably gone a step too far in copying the default OS X window resizing routine. Regular Windows XP and Vista users will no doubt find it confusing that the bottom right hand corner must be manipulated to resize a Safari browser window.

Let's go on a Safari

As for features, Safari for Windows has most of the handy little extras found in the latest OS X build. One of our favourites is the improved "find on page" feature.

Mind you, it's something that both Firefox and Internet Explorer both offer, but the Safari implementation is so much better. For starters, all instances of a word or phrase are highlighted simultaneously. And as you cycle through the document, each example literally jumps off the page.

Resizable text boxes are also a welcome innovation delivered by Safari. The text boxes used for inputting forum posts or comments to blog and news post can often be rather cramped. Safari clever allows you to resize them within the actual webpage. Nice.

But what about performance and stability? We did discover a number of rendering issues, ranging from the occasional wonky or disappearing fonts to problems with javascript menus.

There are also reports of installation issues cropping up regularly on enthusiast forums, though here at Tech.co.uk, that side of things went smoothly. In fairness, none of that is out of the ordinary for a beta build of a new application.

Still, there are a few seemingly avoidable annoyances for regular Windows users. As well as the aforementioned resizing issue, Apple has chosen not to support the back button for browsing. That's probably a bad decision for the Windows platform.

Performance parity?

Performance-wise, we tested load times on a Windows Vista-powered machine and found they were identical for all three browsers - nigh on instantaneous. However, Tech.co.uk's powerful test machine and the influence of Vista's Superfetch technology probably mask any differences in initial load performance.

However, there's no doubting Safari's page loading speed once the browser is up and running. Indeed, it's noticeably quicker than both IE7 and Firefox for several of the high density web pages we sampled.

But it's not all good news. Our investigations of memory usage threw up some interesting numbers. And Safari comes in dead last in this particular metric. Following a clean boot, the Apple browser chewed up a quite staggering 33MB of memory to render a single page.

That compares with 26MB for Firefox and just 20MB for Internet Explorer. Clearly, Safari isn't quite as clean and lean as Apple would like you to think.

As we reported earlier today, it's also worth noting that several security flaws have already been discovered in the new browser. But, should you want to download it, the Safari 3 public beta is available for download now from Apple's website for users of OSX, Windows XP SP2 and Windows Vista. Jeremy Laird