Google Chrome

Google Chrome

Editors' Rating:
5
Spectacular
Average User Rating:
3.7
out of 3077 votes
See all user reviews

Quick Specs

Version:
12.0.742.112
File Size:
Not available
Date Added:
June 28, 2011
Price:
Free
Operating Systems:
Windows XP/Vista/7
Total Downloads:
25,024,231
Downloads Last Week:
29,051
Product ranking:
#2 in Web Browsers
Additional Requirements:
Not available

Editors' review

The bottom line: Google Chrome 12 comes with a full range of competitive features, and is one of the most standards-compliant and fastest browsers available. It lacks some of the fine-tuning customizations in Firefox, but Chrome's minimalist interface, fast page-load times, and support for extensions make the browser appealing to the average user as well as to Google fanatics.

Review:
Google Chrome continues to mature from a lightweight and fast browsing alternative into an innovative browser on the precipice of a potential browsing revolution with the just-released Chrome OS. The browser that people can use today, Chrome 12, offers highly competitive features, including synchronization, autofill, and standards compliance, and maintains Google's reputation for building one of the fastest browsers available.

Chrome 12 represents a major milestone for the browser, but those expecting to see dramatic changes in major-point updates will be disappointed. For a while now, Google has been pushing features over what it calls milestone numbers, which means that as soon as new features are usable in the beta version of Chrome, Google will likely push them to all users in the stable edition.

There are no single big changes in Chrome 12; instead there's a series of smaller updates that are still worthwhile changes. Six weeks ago, Chrome 11 saw the debut of an HTML5 speech API that converted your speech into text via a microphone. Chrome 12 offers hardware acceleration improvements and better in-browser security, and notably removes support for the now-defunct offline tool Google Gears.

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 (Windows | Mac), Chrome dev (Windows | Mac), and Chrome Canary (Windows | Mac) 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 the browser 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 and choosing Options, then Under the Hood, and checking or 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 users may not like having 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 icon 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 in changing the browser's look, Chrome mandates that extensions appear only as icons to the right of the location bar. The benefit is that this maintains a uniform look to 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 Comodo Dragon) do offer the feature. There is an option in Chrome's about:flags, a series of experimental features, that lets you move the tabs to a sidebar.

A minor change in Chrome 11 was to move settings pages to their own tab, rather than a dialog box. Chrome 12 extends that configuration to Chrome's synchronization 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 12's features are accessible from the Preferences menu via the wrench icon on the right side of the navigation bar. 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 cookie 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. However, Chrome runs on a different JavaScript engine than its WebKit cousins, and there are other changes as well.

In Chrome 10, the biggest improvement was to Chrome's JavaScript engine. The new Crankshaft version of Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine, Google claims, was 66 percent faster than the one in Chrome 9. The importance of JavaScript performance has grown dramatically in the past year as developers have been writing not just Web sites but full-featured Web applications in JavaScript. Check out CNET's own benchmarks of the browser below in the Performance section.

Chrome 11 gave us the aforementioned HTML5 speech-to-text API. The input is recorded as text, and the browser automatically inserts the text into the available form field. At the time the feature was launched, it was only officially available on the Google Translate page when translating from English into another language. That's expected to change as developers begin to incorporate the API into their sites.

You can test it by going to Google Translate and clicking the microphone icon in the lower right corner of the text field. At the time of writing, the voice-to-HTML feature appears to work only with English.

While the feature is interesting to find in a browser, there's more behind Google's decision to include it. By gaining a speech-to-text feature, Chrome OS instantly provides a modicum of accessibility for users who have difficulty with keyboards. When the browser is the operating system, making it so people can speak to the computer and have the computer know how to interpret that speech is a quick way to ensure a broader appeal.

Along with hardware-accelerated 3D CSS in Chrome 12, we also get some interesting security improvements. You can now delete Flash cookies from inside Chrome, which makes sense given that Chrome comes with Flash built in, and there's a new Safe Browsing protection against downloading malicious files. Chrome's Web app support, which debuted earlier this year, now includes the ability to launch Web apps from the location bar. This gives keyboard jockeys a bit more power to avoid mousing around, more readily apparent in Chrome OS but nevertheless good to have in the regular old Chrome browser.

Mac users now get a warning window when using Command-Q to close the browser. And finally, Google Gears support is removed in Chrome 12 in preparation for a new offline option for Google Apps. How this will work remains to be seen. Although it could be tied to a Chrome version of Internet Explorer's site-specific pinned tabs feature, that's mere speculation at this point.

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 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, we found 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 different computers' 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. Chrome searches as you type, indicating the number of positive 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 it's associated with.

Chrome also offers 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 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 they don't feel 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 are autoupdating 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 right now it doesn't greatly affect interaction with Web sites.

The jump from Chrome 12 beta to stable also brings 14 security changes, including five marked as high-risk. These fixes mostly cover potential risks such as "use-after-free" issues with cursors and float handling. The bottom line is: Chrome continues to get safer as threat vectors are discovered and patched.

In the realm of security, besides allowing you to disable JavaScript, Chrome will autoblock Web sites that are known to promulgate phishing attacks and malware threats or are otherwise unsafe. The usefulness of this depends on Google's ability to flag Web sites as risky, though, and so it's recommended to use an add-on 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 often faster.

Note that to effectively use hardware acceleration, you must make sure that your graphics card drivers are up-to-date.

Nevertheless, Chrome remains one of the fastest browsers available, and its rapid version update rate ensures that it is consistently competitive.

Conclusion
It's hard to tell which is faster, user adoption of Chrome or its development. Certainly the two are linked, and due in no small part to Google's ability to lay claim to the "fastest browser" title, even when it may not be strictly true. The rest of Chrome's appeal lies in its 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.

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All User Reviews
  • All Versions:

    3.7

    out of 3077 votes

    • 5 star: 1195
    • 4 star: 788
    • 3 star: 440
    • 2 star: 249
    • 1 star: 405
  • Current Version:

    0 stars Be the first to review this product
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    Results 1-10 of 3075

  • 5 stars

    "The best Browser for pros that have objectives."

    July 24, 2014   |   By STRAVO96

    Version: Google Chrome 36.0.1985.125

    Pros

    None better anywhere.

    Cons

    None to speak of.

    Summary

    Chrome is the best as it has the what we all look for smooth operation. I have been with Chrome for many years after trying other that have faded away. The overview spells it all out, and the rest is up to you!

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  • 5 stars

    "Probably the best browser out there"

    July 22, 2014   |   By Pollock55

    Version: Google Chrome 36.0.1985.125

    Pros

    - fast

    - simple

    -nice design and overall quality

    Cons

    - didn't find

    Summary

    For those who wish to simply browse the internet, but can't stand IE.

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  • 3 stars

    "Good browser but not the best."

    July 19, 2014   |   By benfulghum

    Version: Google Chrome 36.0.1985.125

    Pros

    Free, frequent updates,

    Cons

    Slower than MSIE, does not open all web sites that MSIE does

    Summary

    I tryed Firefox and Chrome, both good browsers but I always go back to MSIE because it`s faster than the others and I have yet to find a web site that it wouldn't open.

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  • 5 stars

    "When it's working it's great."

    July 14, 2014   |   By bluesmanbass

    Version: Google Chrome 35.0.1916.153

    Pros

    Easy to use and understand Intuitive. Does what it should most of the time.

    Cons

    Application Shortcuts exclude bookmark bar, search window, etc.....

    All was well until I hit a wall. Google Chrome refuses to update!
    Version 35.0.1916.114 dev-m
    Update failed (error: 3)An error occurred while checking for updates: Update check failed to start (error code 3: 0x80040154 -- system level).

    I've been trying to update for MONTHS without success and it's driving me crazy! I've been using Chrome for over two years and now....?

    Summary

    I have thoroughly enjoyed Google Chrome for over two years. I love it but now... I'm lost! It will not update. It has slowed down. Sometimes it won't function and the updates carry the security fixes! I have tried and followed every lead. I have restored browser settings to their original defaults to no avail!

    I am going to keep up the good fight for another week or two, but in mean time; If anyone in the Cnet domain happens upon a resolution to my quandary will you please contact me? If you can help I will be forever in your debt......and may the odds be ever in my favor! (There's the nerd in me!)

    Though this has happened to me I'm sure I'm one in a million! I would still highly recommend this browser. It has been a delight. Just go slow when you click on About Google Chrome!

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  • 2 stars

    "I quit Google Chrome"

    June 18, 2014   |   By losmeme

    Version: Google Chrome 35.0.1916.153

    Pros

    Fast generally reliable

    Cons

    Uncontrollable

    Summary

    Today is the last day I fight with the little man that resides in each and every chrome browser. This man has been tasked by Google to infuriate you at any cost, to trip you up and make you loose work. The little man is there to ensure you use chrome how Google sees fit, and not how you would like to work. The little man will not play videos on certain sites, the little man will inexplicably launch Chrome in Windows 8 mode, and then refuse to return to the desktop without a restart. The little man will loose a decades worth of bookmarks during a simple upgrade. The little man will arbitrarily decide to trash all your settings, and use only the Google approved ones.

    The internet was never meant to be this difficult to access, why Google can't understand that is beyond me.

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  • 5 stars

    "My default browser."

    June 14, 2014   |   By sammojr

    Version: Google Chrome 35.0.1916.153

    Pros

    Fastest browser I know of. Google leads the way in new web technologies currently. It's also leads the way in standards compliance by W3C standards. There is much additional functionality to add between Chrome Apps & Chrome Extensions as well as nice pretty themes. It's minimalist design makes the use of the browser fairly easy. There is no redundant buttons, toolbars or any redundant bars for that matter. The omni-bar simplifies the interface, there is no separate address bar from search bar, which is easier in my opinion than having to click between two boxes to type in a search query, or type in a URL.

    Cons

    It could use a better download manager. As far as I know there is no good download manager extension, or app for Google Chrome. There is no open file ability from the download manager, only save file can be selected. Incognito mode opens a new window. There is no option to set it to open in new tab.

    Summary

    Google Chrome is a great browser. Fast, simple, yet extensive-able. It's at fore front of new web technologies in attempt to make the web better, from WebP to Native Client. Google Chrome is a serious choice for people who want the latest, fastest, and efficient browsing.

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  • 5 stars

    "I have used Google Chrome for years and its the Best"

    June 14, 2014   |   By emaildavidnow

    Version: Google Chrome 35.0.1916.153

    Pros

    Its fast with many options to customize it and they are always improving it

    Cons

    I have used most of the web browsers out there and Google Chrome is Great. No major problems that I have had with it

    Summary

    You really must try it.

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  • 5 stars

    "Very nice add-ons"

    June 13, 2014   |   By GenevieveRance

    Version: Google Chrome 35.0.1916.153

    Pros

    Many useful features
    Great HTML5 support

    Cons

    Very nice add-ons

    Summary

    Never crashed on my PC
    Speed
    And most important: Sync with Android version works perfectly. :)

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  • 5 stars

    "Awesome browser!"

    May 17, 2014   |   By srb_alex96

    Version: Google Chrome 34.0.1847.137

    Pros

    Many useful features
    Great HTML5 support
    Very nice add-ons
    Never crashed on my PC
    Speed
    And most important: Sync with Android version works perfectly. :)

    Cons

    I switched from IE and there are some things which I dont like. For example, donwload manager has bad UI and option to click "run" instead of save is missing. And bookmarks and tabs are much better organised on IE...

    Summary

    Fast browser with many useful features, but UI needs improvement. I think it's the best alternative browser, because it's faster than Firefox (and less crashes), has much more features that new Opera and it has more add-ons than IE.

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  • 1 stars

    "Chrome.....a good backup to Firefox, nothing more"

    April 26, 2014   |   By wyzwyk

    Version: Google Chrome 34.0.1847.131

    Pros

    1) The browser opens quickly and renders web pages fast ....no, very fast!

    Cons

    1) I can't customize this browser to anywhere near the extent I can Firefox. While Chrome has several really nice extensions their selection pales in comparison to the Mozilla browser.

    2) Ad Sense is yet another invasive Google practice. In my opinion if they don't refine it some it's going to chase many thousands of users to other browsers.

    Summary

    While I have Chrome on my computer it remains there only as a backup should anything happen to Firefox. I have never been a fan of Chrome's minimalist UI. There simply isn't enough room on the single toolbar for all my extension launch icons; I hate tucking them away several clicks inside a menu. This to me IS NOT user friendly. I don't like the tabs on top either, nor do I like the fact that Chrome doesn't have an equivalent to the Tab Mix Plus extension one can use in Firefox. This is a BIG negative for me. Chrome is just way too restrictive with their UI. Simply put, I can customize Firefox far easier and to a much greater extent than the Google browser. It's not even close.

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  • Results 1-10 of 3075

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