Google Chrome 23.0.1271.97 - Free download and software reviews - CNET Download.com

Google Chrome

CNET Editors' review

More than just speed in Chrome

Google Chrome has matured from a lightweight and fast browsing alternative into an innovative, standard-bearing browser that people love. It's powerful enough to drive its own operating system, Chrome OS. The browser that people can use today, Chrome 23, offers highly competitive features, including synchronization, autofill, and standards compliance, and maintains Google's reputation for building one of the fastest browsers available.

Chrome 23 represents a major milestone for the browser, but those expecting to see dramatic changes in major version-point updates will be disappointed. For a while now, Google has been pushing features over what it calls milestone numbers in a rapid-release cycle, 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.

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 (download) | Mac (download)), Chrome dev (Windows (download) | Mac (download)), and Chrome Canary (Windows (download) | Mac (download)) are progressively less stable versions of the browser, and aimed at developers.

There's also Chrome for Android and Chrome for iOS.

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. Although you used to be able to toggle this easily, Chrome now splits up the anonymous data tracking options into multiple categories. You can toggle these from the Preferences menu (the three-line icon to the right of the location bar) under Settings, Advanced Settings, then Privacy Options. 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 (aka Omnibox) dominates the minimalist design, and the browser has few visible control buttons besides Back, Forward, a combined Stop/Reload button, and Home. 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.

The former Wrench icon for accessing settings has been replaced with the Android-styled "three-line" design. Settings open in a new tab, with many additional options available under various "advanced settings" links. It's not the best layout, and it's easy to get lost in the configuration woods as Google moves options around. 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.

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

Features and support
Chrome 23 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.

Incognito, known in other browsers as "private mode" and to the cognoscenti as "porn mode," does not prevent your Internet service provider from peeking in on your Web traffic.

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.

Along with hardware-accelerated 3D CSS, there have been interesting security improvements. You can delete Flash cookies from Chrome, which makes sense given that Chrome comes with Flash built in, and there's a Safe Browsing protection against downloading malicious files. Chrome's Web app support now includes the capability 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. You can also change plug-ins like Flash from loading automatically to click-to-run, both a security feature and a page-load time saver.

There's Native Client, too. Also known as NaCl, it's open-source technology developed by Google that allows C and C++ code to be securely run in the browser. It basically lets software run within two protected sandboxes, which will theoretically cut down on browser-based threats dramatically. When completed, NaCl will enable Web apps to run as smoothly as programs that are hosted on your hard drive.

Besides allowing you to disable JavaScript, Chrome will automatically block Web sites that are known to promulgate phishing attacks and malware threats or be otherwise unsafe. The usefulness of this depends on Google's capability 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.

Although Chrome has a poor reputation for privacy because of its Google origins, it actually does offer a lot of privacy-tweaking settings. 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). Still, that's not going to be enough for many people. If you're not comfortable using Chrome because of privacy concerns, we recommend the independent browsers Firefox or Opera.

Chrome offers malware scanning on Web pages to include downloads, and the precaching tool for loading sites in your search results early works with the Omnibox location bar.

Chrome's tabs remain one of the best things about the browser. The tabs are detachable: "tabs" and "windows" become 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 tab 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 20 tabs open. That's not an immutable number, though, and different computers' hardware will alter browser performance.

You can sync tabs and their browsing histories to other computers and devices such as Android and iOS in Chrome 23.

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 in which Chrome does well. Using your Gmail account, Chrome will sync your themes, preferences, autofill entries, passwords, extensions, and bookmarks. You can toggle each of those categories, too.

Chrome has multiple user account support. This means that you can now have multiple people, or at least multiple Gmail accounts, running in Chrome simultaneously. However, it's not "people-secure," which means that although your data might be secured on Google servers, once an account is logged in to Chrome, you don't have to re-enter your account data. Anybody with access to Chrome on your computer can see your stuff.

The intuitive New Tab page allows you to create custom categories by dragging and dropping apps and bookmarks, and includes navigation arrows on the left and right edges of the page that become more visible on mouse-over.

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 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 right now it doesn't greatly affect interactions with Web sites.

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. More than three 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.

You can see CNET's most recent benchmark tests that included Google Chrome; while that particular version of Chrome didn't do too well, the browser has seen a lot of changes since that test and you definitely should not discount it.

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. It finally has extended hardware accelerated graphics to older Windows and Macs courtesy improvements to WebGL support and changes to Canvas2D.

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 capability to lay claim to the "fastest browser" title, even when it may not be strictly justified. 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.

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:

    3.6 stars

    out of 20 votes

    • 5 star: 6
    • 4 star: 5
    • 3 star: 5
    • 2 star: 3
    • 1 star: 1
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1-10 of 20

  • 5.0 stars

    "Great overall browser."

    January 8, 2013  |   By Wezzle

    Version: Google Chrome 23.0.1271.97

    Pros

    To many to count.

    Cons

    I don't like that many apps are just links to websites.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (1)

  • 1.0 stars

    "Weak browser and Outdated and failed to update."

    January 7, 2013  |   By neilgonzales10

    Version: Google Chrome 23.0.1271.97

    Pros

    No advantage and annoying and outdated. Even the number 1 browser it fails. CAUTION: Google Chrome is not the real number 1 browser. and failed to update due to errors

    Cons

    This browser is incorrectly classified as a malicious website and annoying web browser.
    Firefox isn't classified as a malicious website and only the number 1 browser.
    Did not scan the software, image or other things compared to firefox and other browser.

    Summary

    WARNING: Beware when visiting incorrect or correct malicious site or wrong site. This may lead to distract, confuse, scams personal attacks or malicious advertisements.

    Updated on Jan 7, 2013

    Extensions that don't come from the official Chrome Web Store install directly.

    Reply to this review Read reply (1)

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  • 2.0 stars

    "I left unstable IE10 Beta. Chrome too is now unstable."

    January 6, 2013  |   By PhoenixCanDo

    Version: Google Chrome 23.0.1271.97

    Pros

    There is nothing positive to say about Chrome.

    Cons

    I do not like the "minimalist approach to Chrome's lack of buttons and ready access to features. I am always stumbling around to find my way into or out of things. My main complaint is that I too often find myself in another place, lost windows or tabs locked up in a place I do not want to be.

    Summary

    I still prefer IE9 with all of its rich tool bars, menu bars, readily accessible favorites with much richer readily available features and its familiarity. Give me back my 'stable' IE9 to which I am now returning. IE10 Beta is much too unstable yet; as is the latest version of Chrome. Are Microsoft and Google competing to produce the most unstable Beta Browsers?

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Great Browser"

    January 1, 2013  |   By djlen

    Version: Google Chrome 23.0.1271.97

    Pros

    There are very few things about this browser that a not appealing to me. Very fast and once you get acquainted with it, easy to use.

    Cons

    None that I can think of.

    Summary

    There are a few apps. that I'm not sure are compatible with it but it probably just needs a tweak or to and then all should work fine.
    This is a definite recommend to anyone looking for speed and dependability.

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  • 2.0 stars

    "Not as good as I expected"

    December 29, 2012  |   By iamnotuiamme

    Version: Google Chrome 23.0.1271.97

    Pros

    Fast, prefer old version better.

    Cons

    webpage started 6-10 inches from top. getting strange message stating that my profile was from an upgraded version of Chrome, therefore some extensions would not be working correctly.
    Contacted Google, never heard back on how to resolve issue/s.

    Summary

    Uninstalled Chrome, Google hasn't helped resolved issue/s, went back to Firefox.

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  • 3.0 stars

    "GC Focuses On Speed First And Priorities Second"

    December 29, 2012  |   By CaNtStOptheLaVa

    Version: Google Chrome 23.0.1271.97

    Pros

    It shares the speedy Webkit engine that Safari uses. (but do not try Safari for Windows because its terrible). No lag clicking and switching from tab to tab and it doesn't feel slow and sluggish.
    A wide variety of cool Apps (the extensions are another story). Great Apps for cool games like Need For Speed online game, First person shooters, Angry Birds,Piano playing and ect.

    Cons

    The extensions are not fully developed and taken care of as they should be. This causes frequent bugs to pile up over a period of time and problems up ahead. Most likely you'll be waiting for an update for about 4-5 months to a year or none at all. Ive had to uninstall many extensions that were un-useful because the developers decided to quit for some reason. The bottom line It wastes time clicking and trying old extensions that dont work. Flash crashing problems will never end. Google Chrome and flash do not get along at all and it never will. The only thing holding them both togather is the fast javascript engine that loads and buffers the videos of Youtube-ect. The browser hiccups when your streaming a video or listening to music when trying to load another tab(s) in the process. Its real awkward because when your listening to music and it happens you may think you have a CD in and the disc just skipped.

    Summary

    Google Chrome is fairly fast but it shows its true speed when you have extensions installed. And to be honest its not that fast as people say its cracked up to be. Its good browser to get from A to B. If your looking for an advanced and more flexible browsing and disappointed with the extension management and features I recommend you try Firefox. Choose what suits you best.

    Reply to this review Read reply (1)

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Excellent browser. The best that I have ever tried."

    December 28, 2012  |   By Frans M. Hartanto

    Version: Google Chrome 23.0.1271.97

    Pros

    Fast and simple.

    Cons

    No shortcomings.

    Summary

    Highly recommended.

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  • 3.0 stars

    "2nd web browser"

    December 27, 2012  |   By ultamaterev123

    Version: Google Chrome 23.0.1271.97

    Pros

    speed 3/5

    Cons

    stability 2.5/5

    Summary

    fast

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  • 3.0 stars

    "Chrome is Rusted"

    December 25, 2012  |   By pauly1651

    Version: Google Chrome 23.0.1271.97

    Pros

    Easy interface

    Cons

    Slower than Explorer

    Summary

    I switched to Chrome because I was told it was faster than Explorer. It was at first, but as time went on, it became buggy and slow. I am going to give it one more try. I will uninstall then reinstall. If it gets all buggy and slow again, then I will try something else or go back to Explorer?

    Reply to this review

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  • 4.0 stars

    "Very Nice Browser!"

    December 24, 2012  |   By Jexthoth

    Version: Google Chrome 23.0.1271.97

    Pros

    Everything is pretty easy to navigate and is very fast. Browser is a strong defensive browser with a phishing and malware filter.

    Cons

    a little more bland than firefox, but otherwise nothing bad.

    Summary

    very protective and quick, I am on it right now.

    Reply to this review

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Results 1-10 of 20

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