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Apple Safari 5 review

Can Apple's Safari close the gap with Chrome?

Apple Safari 5
Reader mode strips pages of ads and clutter to make things more readable


  • Support for extensions
  • Faster page loads
  • Reader mode


  • Competition still very tough

Safari is a big deal on the Mac, but it has never been a major player on PCs. That's partly because of good old-fashioned Apple arrogance, and partly because Safari didn't do Firefox-style extensions. That's finally changed.

Safari 5 offers both an extensions API and some interesting tricks up its sleeve, especially when it comes to HTML5 features.

It includes geolocation, draggable items and the ability to watch video in full screen and with closed captions.

There's also a new JavaScript engine that promises blistering performance, and the browser adopts Chrome-style DNS pre-fetching, scanning for links in the current page and performing address lookups so that clicking on a link loads a page more quickly.

The new Safari is fast, but not as fast as Chrome. Apple's browser raced through the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark in 625ms on our test PC, but Chrome was slightly faster at 598ms. That said, you'd struggle to tell the difference when performing real-world testing.

The most dramatic new feature is Reader. Whenever you visit a site that's overly stuffed with adverts, the Reader icon appears in the address bar. Click it and the page clutter is removed, with multiple pages joined together and images shown inline. The effect is rather Microsoft Word document circa 1997, but there are a number of extensions that can make it prettier.

We're sure site owners are already looking for ways to block it in the name of making sure people see their thrilling banner adverts.

Battle of the big five

Safari 5 is more bad news for IE9. Microsoft's competition has never been tougher, with superb browsers available not just from Apple but from Opera, Google and Mozilla too.

But whether Safari tops Chrome is largely down to personal preference. It's a decent browser and Reader is handy, but until there are more extensions, we think Chrome has the edge.

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