As those of you with older PCs may have noticed the hard way, some of the new features in Apple's Safari 4 beta for Windows require a graphics card with at least 64MB of on-board RAM that supports at least DirectX 9. This makes it the first browser I've heard of with an explicit graphics card requirement, but is this really a big deal?

Missing from next to the Bookmark icon is the toggle for Top Sites. (Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

DirectX 9 has been around since 2004, and you can pick up a card for your desktop that supports it for around 20 bucks. This isn't quite analogous to Windows requiring a massive hardware upgrade for Vista, although it is definitely annoying.

What is strange is that Cover Flow on iTunes will work on these older machines, including the main Windows XP computer I use at work. The graphics card is older, yet, as you can see in the screenshots, Cover Flow works in iTunes and doesn't in Safari 4. This leads to my other complaint about the beta: Safari offers no notification when your graphics card is not compliant. Top Sites and Cover Flow merely don't appear. So if the browser must require an upgrade, when iTunes doesn't, the least Apple could do is include some kind of warning.

Taken on the same Windows XP machine, Cover Flow in iTunes works fine. (Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

This isn't the biggest deal in the world, and Safari 4 is still in beta so there's plenty of time to work out the kinks. But this strikes me as a seriously annoying problem, if nothing else, when you consider that the graphics and design elements of Apple software are one of their big attractions.

Apple suggests that one solution could be to upgrade your graphics card drivers, which didn't work for me. Apple had not returned my call requesting comment at the time of publication.

If you have other problems or solutions to problems in Safari 4 beta, tell me about them in the comments.