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Apple Safari 5 review: Apple Safari 5

A valuable upgrade to Safari. It's a shame add-ons have to go through the Apple approval process, but this browser is speedy and adds some smart new features.

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Richard Trenholm
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Richard Trenholm

Movie and TV Senior Editor

Richard Trenholm is CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture over the past 15 years from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.

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3 min read

High fives all round for Safari 5, the newest version of Apple's Web browser. As iPhone 4 steals the headlines, Safari 5 gets extensions, more HTML5 goodness, and ad-free reading of articles.

orig-safari5logo.jpg
7.5

Apple Safari 5

The Good

Useful add-ons; speedy; supports HTML 5.

The Bad

Add-ons must be signed off by Apple.

The Bottom Line

A valuable upgrade to Safari. It's a shame add-ons have to go through the Apple approval process, but this browser is speedy and adds some smart new features.

Safari 5 also cosies up to Microsoft, adding the Bing search engine as a built-in search option alongside Google and Yahoo. The address bar also autocompletes your typing to search any part of the Web addresses in your history and bookmarks, instead of just the start of each URL.

Adding add-ons

Safari 5 adds extensions, dinky bits of software that add extra features to the browser. The option to bolt on different add-ons to your browser has long been Firefox's killer feature, but it seems every browser has them these days. Developers can build them in HTML5, CSS and JavaScript, but they need to be signed off by Apple. It seems Apple will takes the same walled-garden approach to extensions as it does to iPhone and iPad apps, although the company has yet to get back to us on whether there'll be an 'app store for extensions'.

Update: Apple has told us that Safari 5 will include an extensions gallery for users to browse add-ons before downloading them from the developer's Web site. The gallery will open "in the summer". If you fancy making your own extension, sign up to the free Safari Developer Program and use the add-on builder within Safari.

HTML5 by five

HTML5 puts the 5 in Safari 5, so to speak, with new features including full-screen video and closed captioning. On the programming front there's support for assorted HTML tags, including sectioning elements, draggable attributes and forms validation. Safari 5 uses HTML5 to create separate pages in your history for dynamic Ajax-created pages, and supports upstream and downstream communication over a single connection with WebSocket. You'll be able to get EventSource push notifications, and access local services with geolocation. This lets you tell geolocation-enabled Web sites where you are for location-based services and content.

Speed test

Apple reckons Safari 5's new Nitro JavaScript Engine is 30 per cent faster at rendering JavaScript than version 4, twice as fast as Firefox and a whopping 3 per cent faster than Google Chrome. We ran a quick and dirty test on our Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook and found Safari 5 ran the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark in 432.6ms, which was twice as fast as Firefox 3.6.3's time (1,187.6ms), but was in fact slower than Chrome 5.0.375.55's time (76.2ms).

The new browser uses the DNS pre-fetching technique that helps make Chrome load pages faster. This looks at the links on a Web page and starts to work out the addresses it might need, before you even click them. Safari 5 also scores 100 out of 100 in the Acid3 rendering test.

Safari Reader banishes ads

The final new feature is Safari Reader. When it spots an article, a reader icon appears in the address bar. Click on it, and you get a floating box containing the text, pictures and links of the article without any ads. Articles can be printed or even emailed in full. It even pulls in the other pages of multi-page articles -- but not ours, it seems, sorry -- so you can read a whole story in one uninterrupted, clutter-free sitting.

Don't take our word for it -- try it yourself!

Safari 5 is free to download, and is available now at apple.com/safari.