Firefox 3.5: An early look

Chrome and IE have dinged Firefox's reputation, the Firefox loyalists are looking hopefully to version 3.5.

There was a time when Firefox was the Web browser for the cool kids who knew their tech. Most would still agree that it's better than Internet Explorer, but that's damning it with faint praise. Over the last year or so, Firefox has become better known in tech savvy circles for its relatively poor performance and mediocre memory management. Chrome's insane speed and Internet Explorer 8's overall improvement have also dinged Firefox's reputation. But now, Firefox 3.5 is almost ready to go. Does it have what it takes?

I downloaded the latest beta, Firefox 3.5 beta 4, to find out for myself. I used it on two different PCs. The first was my workhouse Windows XP SP3 system, and the other was my Fedora 10 computer. The XP box was a Dell Inspiron 530S with a 2.2-GHz Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core processor, 4GBs of RAM, a 500GB SATA drive and an Integrated Intel 3100 GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator). For Fedora, I used a Gateway GT5622 desktop with a 1.8GHz Intel Pentium E2160 dual-core CPU, 3GBs of RAM, a 400GB SATA drive, and an Intel 950 GMA.

On both systems, installing the browser took no more than five minutes. Once installed, I found that my two must-have Firefox extensions the Google Toolbar and XMarks were both working.

However, on Windows, I found that two other extensions were DOA. These were the AVG Safe Search 8.5 malware detector and the Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant 1.0. I wasn't too surprised by either one. The AVG program has had issues with other versions of Firefox and the .NET Framework program has always been a pain.

I should also note that, unlike Google Chrome, Firefox has a mature family of extensions. I really like Chrome a lot, but it's still taking baby steps when it comes to using extensions for added functionality.

Where Chrome still zooms by Firefox is when it comes to rendering speed. That's especially true when it comes to JavaScript-heavy pages. Firefox 3.5's TraceMonkey JavaScript rendering engine is much faster than what you'll find in the Firefox 3.0 series and Internet Explorer doesn't belong in the performance conversation.

Still Chrome 2.0's V8 JavaScript engine beats TraceMonkey handily. Using the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark on the XP system, Firefox 3.5 was almost twice as slow as Chrome 2.0 at the benchmark with a recorded time of 1,225.6-millisecond to Chrome 2.0's 704.0. If speed is what matters the most to you, Chrome is the browser for you.

On the other hand, after running Firefox for days and with multiple windows and tabs, I found that on both Windows and Linux, Firefox is finally not hogging memory. Even with the debugging code that must be in a beta, I found that Firefox is no longer leaking memory. That's good for both the browser's stability and its security.

I also noticed that Firefox has borrowed several nice improvements from Chrome. For example, it uses DNS (Domain Name System) pre-fetching so that when you click on a link you'll get to its page a bit faster.

The new Firefox also has some nice features of its own. It now supports embedded Ogg and WAV video and audio format without the need for a helper program. It also far better privacy settings so you can use your own, or any other, computer without leaving any traces behind of what you've been doing.

All-in-all, I found this beta to be a real step up from Firefox 3.0.x. Still, I find myself wishing that I could have a Firefox with Chrome's speed or Chrome that works on multiple operating systems and with Firefox's abundance of extensions. If you're already a confirmed Firefox user though you'll want to switch over to Firefox 3.5 as soon as the final version comes out. Look for it sometime in mid to late June.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags mozillamozilla firefoxweb browsers

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

This Holiday Season, protect yourself and your loved ones with the best. Buy now for Holiday Savings!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?