Speed — the hallmark of Windows Internet Explorer 9

If the final version is as fast as or faster than the preview, Internet Explorer 9 will no longer be a laggard in the browser race and will most likely beat out Mozilla Firefox. HTML 5 support is a nice extra, but it’s still too early to tell how important that will be.
At this point, the Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview is little more than a browser display engine, and it isn’t intended for users. Instead, it’s Microsoft’s attempt to give developers a heads-up about where the browser is headed. There’s no address bar, no navigation features or Favorites, no Back or Forward buttons, no multiple tabs, no malware protection or other basic or advanced browser features.

To visit a website in Internet Explorer 9, right now you have to press Ctrl-O, type in the URL and then press Enter. When you click a hyperlink that would normally open a new window, that page will open in your default browser.

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Not surprisingly, the IE9 Platform Preview doesn’t replace your existing version of IE. Instead, it runs alongside it. Internet Explorer 9 cannot yet be set as your default browser. It runs only with Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Vista Service Pack 2 or Windows 7. To run it on Vista SP2 and Windows Server R2, you’ll need the Platform Update. It won’t run on Windows XP – now, or when it finally ships, according to Microsoft.

Internet Explorer 9: benchmarks

IE8 and previous versions of IE have been criticized for being far slower than competing browsers such as Firefox and Chrome, and tests have proved that out. The Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview fixes that problem. In our testing on two PCs – one with Windows Vista and other with Windows 7 – we found it far speedier than earlier versions of IE, and faster than Firefox.

We ran the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark on a Dell Dimension 9200 with an Intel Core 2 Quad CPU and 2GB of RAM. We tested the Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview, Internet Explorer 8, and the current versions of Firefox (3.6) and Chrome (4.1). IE9 exhibited a dramatic speed improvement; with an average score of 804ms, it performed more than six times faster than IE8 (5078ms) and nosed out Firefox (914ms) but was beaten by Chrome (489ms).

Microsoft says that one way it sped up the browser was by using a separate processor core to compile JavaScript in the background. JavaScript is only one benchmark for speed, of course. The vendor says it has taken steps to speed up the browser in other ways as well, notably by using a PC’s graphics processor to accelerate the rendering of text and graphics.
There’s no way to adequately test this, so we can’t report on it accurately. But on the Internet Explorer 9 Test Drive site, you can find several impressive demonstrations of interactive HTML 5 graphics powered by your graphics processor. We also tested Chrome and Firefox; both were significantly slower than IE9 and did not display the test graphics properly. However, there’s no way to know whether the graphics on the page have been specifically tuned for IE9, so it’s hard to know how significant the results are.

Internet Explorer 9: Adherence to standards

Microsoft is also touting IE9’s adherence to HTML 5 standards, including a variety of features such as the ability to embed video and to interactively change and animate the borders of web pages. To show them off, the company has created a set of Web pages on its IE9 Test Drive site.

The results are fast and impressive, but again, it’s hard to know how well the browser will work in the real world, since the pages may have been tuned for it. And because HTML 5 is not in general use, this may not be a big selling point in the short term, although it could be important in the long term.

IE9 – Web Standards: an overview

How often have you seen the message, “This site best viewed in Internet Explorer”? If you used Internet Explorer, you likely would have no problems viewing the site. But if you use another browser – Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Opera, and so on – you could run into some compatibility problems.

The idea behind web standards is that ideally every web browser would be able to view any website. You’d no longer have to rely on using the leading browser in order to view websites the way they were supposed to be. And support for web standards means support for the latest and greatest web technologies such as HTML5. The result is better websites, and a better experience for everyone, no matter what OS or browser the use.

To give website designers, application developers, and others who want to track the new browser’s progress a chance to try IE9, Microsoft has created what it called a “Test Drive” site that showcases the features and enhancements included in the Internet Explorer 9 preview.

What does IE9 bring to the party?

The Platform Preview of Internet Explorer 9 will run only in Windows 7, Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2) and Windows Server R2. The latter two operating systems require the Platform Update that Microsoft shipped last October. That update was notable for adding other Windows 7 features, such as that operating system’s ribbon-style interface , to Vista last year.

Internet Explorer has received a fair amount of criticism in the past for its tepid web standards support. With IE9, however, Microsoft is heavily touting its improved handing of new web technologies.

The IE9 Platform Preview provides improved HTML5 support, CSS 3 support (CSS is a technology that makes it easier for designers to specify how they want their sites to look), and an upgraded JavaScript Engine for better performance of web apps.

Also, IE9 will provide hardware acceleration for rendering graphics and text on a web page (Microsoft’s press release didn’t mention which GPUs will be supported, but it’s probably safe to assume you’ll need a fairly recent card), and built-in support for H.264 video playback using HTML5 (such as what YouTube currently provides for some videos).

Microsoft has several technology demos on its IE9 Test Drive site, such as a T-shirt designer, various animation demos, and even a variation of the classic game Asteroids. None of these demos use Flash; instead they all make use of web technologies such as JavaScript and HTML5.

How do I get Internet Explorer 9?

The IE9 Platform Preview is a free download from Microsoft; since it’s nowhere close to being a finished project, it won’t replace your current version of Internet Explorer. Be sure to download it and try out some of the demos.

Unlike full-fledged editions of IE, the IE9 Platform Preview does not replace existing versions of IE – such as IE7 on Vista or IE8 on Windows 7 – but runs alongside them on the same PC.

The preview is a 31MB download, and can be retrieved from the Test Drive site that Microsoft has set up.

If Microsoft can match its promises, Internet Explorer 9 could be the product that takes the fight back to fast-gaining rivals such as Firefox and – more recently – Opera and Google Chrome. With unparalleled compatibility, HTML5 and the ability to make the most of modern graphics hardware, it is an enticing prospect.

9 Platform Preview nicely shows off what Microsoft says will be the new browser’s selling points: speed and HTML 5 support. Updated, March 19 2010.

System requirements

Windows 7, Windows Vista SP2; internet connection

Verdict

At this point, the Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview does little more than display web pages, so there’s no way to tell what the final version of IE9 will look like.

However, based on this initial release, it’s clear that the browser will be far faster than previous versions of IE and that it will beat or rival Firefox, if not Chrome, in terms of performance. Only developers or those who simply must get their hands on new software the moment it comes out would need to download the IE9 Platform Preview – it can be found at Microsoft’s Test Drive site.

Everyone else will do well to wait until a later version is released. Microsoft says a new version of the Platform Preview will be released approximately every eight weeks, but it has given no date for beta or final releases.

Source: PC Advisor

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