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IE9 Beta, inital thoughts

I think the most useful innovation in IE9 is the introduction of pinned shortcuts. While the other browsers copy useless features off each other and have lame addons, Microsoft was innovating the user interface of the web browser. This is a big change, I would say that they literally reinvented the web browser with all their changes, and especially this one…. The idea behind this feature is straightforward: you open a website in an IE9 tab, then drag its icon from the address bar (or drag the tab itself) onto the Taskbar, where it’s pinned just like a program. The result is a shortcut that uses the site’s favicon instead of the generic IE icon. It basically treats websites as apps…
Philosophically, these special shortcuts represent a way to divide web content into two distinct types. For basic browsing, you can save a site as a favorite, which is an ordinary shortcut that opens in an ordinary Internet Explorer window, with its tab identified by the IE icon on the associated Taskbar button. Sites that you pin to the Taskbar, however, behave differently. Two visual differences are immediately obvious. First, the back and forward buttons shift slightly to the right, and the favicon for the site appears in the newly vacated space. And second, those navigation buttons pick up the predominant color of the favicon, just as program buttons in the Windows 7 Taskbar pick up the icon’s color when a mouse pointer passes over them. This screen shot shows the difference the page at top was opened in a standard IE windo

this browser is fast…. For most pages, load times were quick, navigation was snappy, and it was IMPOSSIBLE to measure differences between IE9 and rival browsers, even with a stopwatch.

The single biggest performance boost in IE9 comes from its support for hardware acceleration. Because IE9 runs only on Windows Vista SP2 and Windows 7, it can be tuned to offload some rendering tasks to modern graphics hardware, which often has more raw processing power than the rest of the PC. It’s clear from daily use, though, that hardware acceleration really does make a difference in rendering text, images, and graphics.

As a result, Microsoft finds itself in an unaccustomed position, out in front of other browsers, which are furiously trying to play catch-up. I tested the IE9 beta alongside Firefox 4 beta 5, which was released in September 2010 and is the first Mozilla offering to support hardware acceleration however it isnt full hardware acceleration, making it much slower… I also tested it against the most recent beta of Google Chrome 6, which doesn’t use the GPU for rendering.

at its IE Test Drive site, On the FishIE Tank example, which uses the new HTML5 Canvas tag, here’s how the three browsers compared:

IE9’s frame rates stayed high as I kicked up the number of animated fish in the virtual tank. Performance remained smooth and glitch-free even when I moved the window across multiple monitors and docked it to the side of the display using Aero Snap. Firefox 4, by contrast, was able maintain high frame rates for short bursts, but moving the browser frame caused performance to plummet and even froze the display for long periods. Using Firefox, frame rates plummeted dramatically when I selected the most demanding settings (500 and 1000 fish). Chrome, of course, was at unfair disadvantage because of its lack of hardware support. Its frame rates were well below either competitor, although it moved smoothly around the screen without any negative impact on other programs or Windows itself.

For a more independent performance test, I enabled all three browsers for YouTube’s HTML5 channel and tried playing a handful of high-definition videos at 720p and 1080p resolution. All three browsers performed admirably within a window and at full-screen resolution. IE9 and Chrome 6 were able to maintain full-fidelity playback even when tearing a tab out of the browser pane and dragging it to its own window. Firefox 4, on the other hand, failed this test, stopping the playback and starting the clip over when it landed in a new window.

The other new performance-enhancing component in IE9 is the new Chakra JavaScript engine, which uses multiple processor cores and has already been extensively benchmarked via the platform preview releases. Microsoft has handed out several charts showing its impressive improvements; most of those charts include its dismal IE8 score, which is almost an order of magnitude slower than IE9 and grossly distorts the scale of the charts.:

The difference between each browser is only about one-tenth of a second, and that composite result includes dozens of complex operations. The independent JSBenchmark test produced similar results, with the IE9 beta running 21% faster than the latest Firefox 4 beta but 29% slower than the latest test build of Google Chrome 6. The conclusion?
JavaScript performance isn’t a significant differentiator between modern browsers, and IE9 can hold its own with any Webkit-based browser on this score. (Yesterday, in anticipation of this first wave of reviews, the IE Blog published an interesting discussion of what JavaScript benchmarks really measure.)

In previous IE versions, browser add-ons have been a frequent source of slowdowns. IE8 introduced an add-on manager that was effective but hard to find and too daunting for mere mortals. It’s still available in IE9, but it’s been supplemented with a cleaner tune-up kit. After you run IE9 for a while, you’ll see a notification along the bottom of the screen. If you choose to follow it, you’re taken to this simple list, where you can identify and if necessary disable a troublesome add-on.

so conclusion: IE9 is faster than all the other browsers, has a much nicer sleek interface, feels snappy and clean, and includes a host of innovative new features like pinning a shortcut in windows 7, which other browsers cannot replicate because they arent built into windows.

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