A Closer Look At Safari 4: How Does It Stack Up?

Safari 4's Unique Features

Before we delve into a full-on features breakdown, let's look at what's new in Safari 4 compared to previous versions of the browser.

Top Sites
This is a feature that's pretty resource intensive, particularly when you load Safari 4 for the first time. In essence, it's a homepage for all of your homepages. You simply toggle the "Grid" button at the top-left of the browser windows, and up to 24 thumbnails of browser windows are presented on a single page. You can customize the display by pinning a favorite site to a specific location in the grid, and you can easily tell what sites are changed/new by spotting the star in the upper-right corner (which signifies new content). From this page, a single click on your favorite window opens the page in earnest and updates the thumbnail. While you're browsing, you can always head page to Top Sites by simply toggling the aforementioned button.

Top Sites is somewhat overwhelming at first. Up to 24 panels hitting you as soon as you wake up and open your browser in the morning is a bit of a shock, but with time, we grew to appreciate having all of our favorite material front-and-center. We will say, however, that even on a 2.2GHz MacBook Pro, having Top Sites load up when starting Safari 4 forced the browser to take around four to seven seconds of additional load time compared to starting up to a single homepage. Is it worth waiting those extra seconds to have all of your favorite sites show up at first? That's a decision you'll have to make.+

Top Sites; Click To Enlarge

Cover Flow
If you've got iTunes loaded on your machine, or you own a newer iPod, iPod touch or iPhone, you know what this is. Rather than letting you flip through album art, Safari 4's Cover Flow lets you flip through web sites. We're talking history, bookmarked sites, etc. -- full-page previews of the websites that look exactly as they did when you last visited them. Honestly, we're not too keen on Cover Flow. We understand that this works best on a notebook with a trackpad that supports multi-touch (so you can just swipe from site to site), but we'd honest prefer to view all of our sites in Top Sites rather than flip through one by one. In use, this just isn't a time saver.

Cover Flow; Click To Enlarge

Full History Search
This demands quite a lot of your machine (space and resources), as it lets you flip through full-page previews of the sites you visited in the past. This is a great feature for swinging back to a site you stumbled upon, but we don't see it being something you use frequently. Still, we can totally understand how this would save the day in a few situations, and considering that it's a free feature, we'll take it. Safari 4 even lets you search for clips and phrases that you think you saw previously, and if it finds a match, it'll take you back.

Safari 4 History; Click To Enlarge

Nitro Engine
This is really just a bragging point for Apple. Due to this engine, the company claims that Safari 4 "outraces Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Chrome." We'll let the benchmarks in the next page prove whether or not all this bragging was merited.

Windows Native Look and Feel
It's funny that Apple even touts this as a new feature, but we guess you have to make the Windows faithful feel comfortable in an OS X application if you ever hope for them to one day buy a Mac. Apple's engineers made sure to give the Windows version of Safari 4 a "native Windows feel," with a title bar, borders, and toolbars. Apple goes on to say that "Safari for Windows delivers the same lightning-fast performance provided by the Mac version." We'll see, now won't we?

Safari 4 Predictive URL Entry; Click To Enlarge

Developer Tools

Apple has a thing with developers. Or, we should say, Apple has a lot of developers, and a lot of active developers at that. Thus, it's no surprise to hear that the Safari 4 browser includes loads of tools for devs. We're not so sure how this is a "new feature" per se, but we suspect there are more ways than ever now to develop new code to make the browser more your own.

Browsing Tools

Safari 4 has added a few less unique features that make the browsing process easier on the eyes and fingers.

  • Full-Page Zoom: a simple button click zooms in to fine print while the graphics and text are scaled correctly elsewhere.
  • Smart Address Field: Like most other browsers these days, Safari 4 is smart enough to attempt to complete your URL field before you do, cutting your address typing time down significantly.
  • Smart Search Field: When using the built-in Search bar, the browser offers up Google suggestions just as Google.com does. We love this feature when searching from Google's homepage, so obviously we love it here.
  • Phishing and Malware Protection: Apple's pretty proud of how secure Safari 4 is, and if the browser catches something fishy, it'll throw up a warning to let you know.
  • Synchronize Bookmarks Using MobileMe: Safari 4 has one big thing that other browsers don't, and that's integration with MobileMe. Granted, MobileMe is a $99 per year service, but if you have it, this enables Safari 4 to keep the bookmarks on your computers and devices in sync, automatically.

Safari 4 History/Bookmarks; Click To Enlarge

All told, Safari 4 has around 150 features as a web browser, though the ones outside of those listed above are more generic and generally found in every other major browser as well. If you're really interested in diving in for all 150, have at it right here.

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