Google Chrome 9.0.597.84 - Free download and software reviews - CNET Download.com

Google Chrome

CNET Editors' review

The bottom line: Google Chrome 9 is not only stable to use, but comes with a full range of competitive features. It lacks some of the fine-tuning customizations in Firefox, but overall, users browsing with Chrome will find it a pleasant, fast, and standards-compliant experience.

Review:
Google Chrome has begun to mature from a lightweight and fast browsing alternative into an innovative browser on the precipice of a potential browsing revolution with the pending Chrome OS. The browser that people can use today, Chrome 9, offers highly competitive features including synchronization, autofill, and standards compliance, and maintains Google's reputation for building one of the fastest browsers available.

Chrome 9 represents a major milestone point for the browser, but those who are familiar with seeing dramatic changes in major-point updates will be disappointed. New features include the inclusion of support for WebGL, the cutting-edge hardware accelerated 3D graphics support; allowing Google Instant to work in the location/search bar via a settings toggle; and support for the Chrome OS-centric Chrome Web Store for Chrome apps.

Please note that there are at least four versions of Chrome available at the moment, and this review only addresses the "stable" branch, intended for general use. Chrome beta, dev, and Canary are respectively progressively less stable versions of the browser, and aimed at developers.

Installation
Chrome's installation process is simple and straightforward. If you download from Google's Web site, it will ask you if you'd like to anonymously submit usage statistics to the company. This can be toggled even after the browser's installed by going to the "Wrench" preferences menu, choosing Options, then Under the Hood, and unchecking Help Make Chrome Better. Depending on your processor, the installation process should take less than 2 minutes.

Interface
Google's Chrome interface has changed remarkably little since its surprise debut in September 2008. Tabs are still on top, the location bar--which Google likes to call the "Omnibar"--dominates the minimalist design, and the browser has few visible control buttons besides Back, Forward, and a combined Stop/Reload button. Although some may not like the tabs on top, we find it to be aesthetically preferable because it leaves more room below for the Web site we're looking at.

One change has been to remove the secondary Page options button, and combine it with the preferences Wrench to create space for extension icons to the right of the location bar. As it currently looks, it could be better organized. Some controls, such as page zoom, are readily available. Others, such as the extension manager, are hidden away under a Tools submenu.

Chrome's extensions are fairly limited in how they can alter the browser's interface. Unlike Firefox, which gives add-on makers a lot of leeway to change the browser's look, Chrome mandates that extensions appear only as icons to the right of the location bar. The benefit maintains a uniform look in the browser, but it definitely limits how much the browser can be customized. Chrome doesn't support sidebars, either, although other Chromium-based browsers (such as Flock 3) do offer the feature.

Even with its limitations, the interface design has remained a contemporary exemplar of how to minimize the browser's screen footprint while remaining easy to use and versatile.

Features and support
Chrome 9's features are accessible from the Preferences menu, and the browser offers a complete range of modern browsing conveniences. The basics are well-represented, including tabbed browsing, new window creation, and a private browsing mode that Google calls "Incognito," which disables cookies tracking, history recording, extension support, and other browsing breadcrumbs.

Chrome is based on WebKit, the same open-source engine that powers Apple Safari, Google's Android mobile platform, and several other desktop and mobile Web-browsing tools. Chrome runs on a different JavaScript engine than its WebKit cousins, and there are other changes, as well.

Chrome's tabs remain one of the best things about the browser. The tabs are detachable: "tabs" and "windows" are interchangeable here. Detached tabs can be dragged and dropped into the browser, and tabs can be rearranged at any time by clicking, holding, dragging, and releasing. Not only can tabs be isolated, but each tab actually exists in its own task process. This means that when one site crashes, the other tabs do not. Though memory leaks are a major concern in Chrome when you have dozens of tabs open, sluggish behavior and other impediments weren't noticeable until after there were more than 30 tabs open. That's not an immutable number, though, and a computer's hardware will alter browser performance.

Some of the basics in Chrome are handled extremely intuitively. In-page searching works smoothly. Using the Ctrl-F hot key or the menu option, searching for a word or phrase will open a text entry box on the top right of the browser. It searches as you type, indicating the number of positives results and highlighting them on the page.

Account syncing is another area where Chrome excels. Using your Gmail account, Chrome will sync your themes, preferences, autofill entries, extensions, and bookmarks. You can toggle each of those categories, too. It does not yet offer password syncing, although the password manager offers a smart show password option that keeps it visually separate from the site that it's associated to.

Chrome also contains a lot of privacy-tweaking settings. In the Options menu, go to the Under the Hood tab. From here, you can toggle and customize most of the browser's privacy and security settings. Cookies, image management, JavaScript, plug-ins, pop-ups, location information, and notifications can be adjusted from the Content Settings button. This includes toggling specific plug-ins, such as the built-in Adobe Flash plug-in or the Chrome PDF reader (which is deactivated by default.)

Like Firefox, Chrome gives broad control over search engines and setting search customizations. Though this doesn't sound like much, not all browsers allow you to set keyword shortcuts for searching, and some even restrict which search engine you can set as your default. Chrome comes with three defaults to choose from: Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

The Chrome extension manager, bookmark manager, and download manager all open in new tabs. They allow you to search their contents and throw in some basic management options like deletion, but in general none feels as robust as their counterparts in competing browsers. For example, URLs in the bookmark manager are only revealed when you mouse over a bookmark, and you must click on one to get the URL to permanently appear. That's an extra click that other browsers don't require.

Two other low-profile but well-executed features in Chrome include auto-updating and translation. Chrome automatically updates when a new version comes out. This makes it harder to revert back to an older version, but it's highly unlikely that you'll want to downgrade this build of Chrome since this is the stable build and not the beta or developer's version. The second feature, automatic translation of Web pages, is available to other browsers as a Google add-on, but because it comes from Google, it's baked directly into Chrome.

Chrome is also a leader in HTML5 implementation, which is uneven because of the continuing development of HTML5 standards. This will become more important in the coming months and years, but for right now it doesn't massively affect interaction with Web sites.

In the realm of security, besides allowing you to disable JavaScript, Chrome will autoblock Web sites that are known as unsafe or for promulgating phishing attacks and malware threats. This depends on Google's ability to flag Web sites as risky, though, and so it's recommended to use a network like the Web of Trust extension or a separate security program to block threats.

Performance
Based on the open-source WebKit engine and Google's V8 JavaScript engine, Google Chrome debuted to much fanfare because of its rocketing rendering speeds. Two years down the line, that hasn't changed, and the stable version of Chrome remains one of the fastest stable browsers available. The less stable versions, with their more-recent improvements and bug fixes, are even faster.

Google claimed that Chrome 6's JavaScript rendering was 10 times faster than when Chrome was first released in 2008. Historically, Chrome has been one of the fastest browsers available across multiple benchmarks, and that's not expected to change in version 9. CNET benchmarks will be added here soon.

Conclusion
Where Chrome 5 was the first version of the browser that felt fully baked, Chrome 6 began to add serious features to that foundation while improving usability. Chrome versions 7, 8, and 9 have felt more like minor-point updates. Still, it's a ready-to-go browser that offers top-of-the-line speed, a clean, minimalist look, and competitive features that justify its still-increasing market share. Chrome is a serious option for anybody who wants a browser that gets out of the way of browsing the Web.

More than just speed in Chrome:

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All User Reviews
  • All versions:

    3.7 stars

    out of 3,068 votes

    • 5 star: 1190
    • 4 star: 788
    • 3 star: 439
    • 2 star: 248
    • 1 star: 403
  • Current version:

    3.9 stars

    out of 77 votes

    • 5 star: 32
    • 4 star: 24
    • 3 star: 8
    • 2 star: 8
    • 1 star: 5
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1-10 of 77

  • 2.0 stars

    "nice, but installs into startup on its own"

    March 4, 2011  |   By dinomfaf

    Version: Google Chrome 9.0.597.84

    Pros

    nice, clean, pretty, quick

    Cons

    check msconfig..see Chrome pops its self into auto-startup on its own. You see it's running in Task Manager. Take it out of startup, restart...open chrome..Boom! its back in startup and it running on its own....Firefox doesnt do that...?!?!? S'up?

    Summary

    Is google living up to its be open motto?

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  • 1.0 stars

    "Garbage, wouldn't even install"

    March 3, 2011  |   By e_neo12

    Version: Google Chrome 9.0.597.84

    Pros

    Hard for there to be any "pros"...

    Cons

    Did nothing when the file was opened

    Summary

    Tried downloading it twice, tried installing it several times, nothing ever happened, not even a window popped up, nice job google...

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  • 3.0 stars

    "A Nice Alternative, But Not Perfect"

    March 3, 2011  |   By doggymcnuggets2

    Version: Google Chrome 9.0.597.84

    Pros

    Fast page loads after program startup
    Clean minimalist interface

    Cons

    Abysmally slow startup load times
    Clean minimalist interface is also not very customizable

    Summary

    As a longtime FF user, I decided a few months ago to switch over to Chrome for awhile to compare it. Overall Chrome is a good browser, but not a perfect one. I find that when I start the program it takes a really long time for the first page to load. After startup, however, the load times are very quick, certainly as quick as FF if not faster. But man, that startup lag is sometimes really annoying! The interface is a mixed bag - very clean without any clutter, but that streamlined approach comes at the expense of customization options. Most functions are tucked away in the "wrench" button on the upper right, requiring the use of sub menus for many of the functions I'd prefer to access directly from a toolbar or drop down menu. There may be ways to alter this, but I haven't found them. And I don't like the control button being on the upper right. I'm so used to navigating to the upper left portion of apps to access settings controls, it's very hard to re-train to the right.
    Overall Chrome is a fine browser, but I'm still on the fence about it. Fix the slow startup page load times and offer more customization and it's a clear winner. For now, the verdict is still out...

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  • 3.0 stars

    "REDIRECT ERRORS"

    March 1, 2011  |   By txsugarbear

    Version: Google Chrome 9.0.597.84

    Pros

    Love the added space at the top with all the tabs gone

    Cons

    Sick and tired of constantly getting {redirect errors}

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Better Than Firefox!"

    February 28, 2011  |   By mzhoneythang

    Version: Google Chrome 9.0.597.84

    Pros

    Faster than Firefox, no script errors, simple interface, just about everything.

    Cons

    None that I've found yet!

    Summary

    I switched to Chrome from Firefox due to script errors and haven't looked back since, highly recommended!

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  • 5.0 stars

    "simply the best"

    February 28, 2011  |   By jeffrey davies

    Version: Google Chrome 9.0.597.84

    Pros

    i love everything about google chrome start up is superb.i had a rush of blood to the head a few weeks ago give firefox a go, sorry no contest although its a nice browser but so slow on start up

    Cons

    none at all

    Summary

    to all the computer user\s out there who are undecided get the best
    get google chrome

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  • 4.0 stars

    "I am impressed with Chrome"

    February 27, 2011  |   By Brahm Felgar

    Version: Google Chrome 9.0.597.84

    Pros

    I find the program easy to use.

    Cons

    None really

    Summary

    I would recommend it to everyone

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Superior to all browsers."

    February 27, 2011  |   By AvenirV7

    Version: Google Chrome 9.0.597.84

    Pros

    Blazing Speed, Lightweight, No Lag, Simple UI, Easy-to-Use UI

    Cons

    A few sites are still incompatible with Chrome.

    Summary

    I am a stickler when it comes to my browsers. So far, I have tried out: Firefox, IE, Opera, Safari, Maxthon, Netscape Navigator, Amaya, Konqueror, LunaScape, and Camino. In the end, I always came back to Chrome.
    Many compare Chrome to Firefox. Here are some rumors to dispel:
    1. Firefox is faster than Chrome. Wrong. Research shows that Google Chrome has faster browsing, rendering, Javascript loading, startup, and almost all other aspects.
    2. Firefox offers more security than Chrome. I cannot corroborate nor refute this claim. But I know that as long as you have a good Antivirus (I recommend Avast), both browsers are safe.
    3. Firefox offers more customizations. Yes, but Chrome already has a plethora of extensions (and we all know that in the end, only 4 or 5 out of FF's million extensions are useful). Give it about a year, and it will match FF's archive.

    In the end, Chrome is blazing fast, and lightweight. Its simple UI is great and easy to use. Firefox, on the other hand, sometimes have lag bursts and definitely not as fast. I hate slow browsers. Yes, FF, you can have more cutesy personalizations, but I look for practicality. Chrome wins!

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Extremely FASSST..."

    February 27, 2011  |   By ZaNazNur

    Version: Google Chrome 9.0.597.84

    Pros

    Though I don't have a T1 like-connection, surfing the Internet was never the same since I'd dumped Firefox.

    Cons

    It start a lot faster than Firefox and IE!

    Summary

    Google really knows how's the web being used and displayed, but to abandoned IE ultimately is far too hard than being said. Yeah, I still had to use them both at most of the time online, with Firefox no longer reside inside Windows. :-)

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  • 5.0 stars

    "My skeptical mind soon became won over"

    February 27, 2011  |   By Steven Limbrick

    Version: Google Chrome 9.0.597.84

    Pros

    The fastest browser I have used so far, beating Firefox and the dreadful IE9 by miles. Once sorted the way I want it to look by getting Bookmark Bar etc showing stopping the automatic form filler/saver etc it is brilliant almost.

    Cons

    Not easy to find everything as quite different to Firefox but once found all is ok. Still like my bookmarks down the left hand side when I open a web page, as far as I can see this is not possible.

    Summary

    Fantastic, Fast, easy to search anything in google by right click. I know other browsers have this though. Unlike the Internet Explorer 9 which is now out it does not show an annoying bar at the bottom asking if you want add on or extensions closed. I find this so annoying as you have to close it every time in IE9 so a good thumbs up to Chrome. Also I have noticed the IE9 is very similar to Chrome so looks as though Microsoft are getting worried. I can't wait for Google OS to come out and hope it is a success as Microsoft far too expensive. Digressed slightly but had to be said. Overall I think this is fantastic and glad I have now made it my default browser. Since now lots of programmes work with it as they do Firefox and IE9 which was stopping me from using it originally. So yes 99% happy just the bookmark down the side to sort.

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Results 1-10 of 77

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