Apple Safari 7

Nathan Alderman
30 October, 2013
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Safari 7

Apple, www.apple.com/au

Pros 

Much-improved JavaScript performance; revamped Top Sites page; new power-saving features; shared links from Twitter and LinkedIn

Cons 

A hair slower than its predecessor in some tests; jittery scrolling; new sidebar is more convenient but less useful

Free with OS X Mavericks

Reviews

The new OS X Mavericks seems to offer far better performance and power management – but its programs often pack fewer features and less-elegant interfaces. The same holds true on both counts for Safari 7. It’s as fast as its predecessor in rendering HTML, and far zippier with JavaScript, but the changes to its look and feel aren’t all improvements.

Surface imperfections

The first thing you’ll see when opening Safari 7 is the new Top Sites window. Dispensing with previous versions’ glossy curviness, the redesigned grid of frequently used pages loads much faster and offers ready access to your bookmarks, Reading List and new Social Links. The latter feature is nice but not essential. If you’ve tied your LinkedIn or Twitter account into your Mac’s System Preferences, posts from your friends or followees will show up here. But where’s Facebook? Did Apple think it’d be redundant, since Facebook updates are already available in the Notification Center? The bookmarks and Reading List work well in the Top Sites window, but not necessarily as a sidebar when you’re browsing other pages. The button that once let you edit your entire bookmark list with ease now summons the sidebar. You can rearrange the order of your bookmarks, or right-click to edit them, but it’s not quite as convenient as it used to be, and it’s harder to see all the links in a longer list of bookmarks, at least on a laptop screen. The absence of a separate Reading List button cleans up Safari’s cluttered interface a bit, but also gives you no handy visual indication of whether it has finished saving a link or not.

Safari 7 Top Sites

The redesigned Top Sites page is one of Safari’s best interface changes.

If the sidebar offends you, you can safely ignore it, and the good old easy-to-edit bookmark list lives on via a Bookmarks menu item. Finally, there’s something off about Safari 7’s scrolling. With our laptop’s trackpad, we noticed a faint but irritating horizontal jitter, as the subtle motions of our fingers dragged pages slightly to the right or left while we scrolled up and down. It doesn’t make Safari unusable, but we hope the next version slays this bug.

Safari 7 Bookmarks and Reading List

Bookmarks and Reading List icons now appear in a pop-out sidebar on the left side of the screen.

Invisible improvements

We were much more impressed with Safari’s internal upgrades. The new power-saving features in Mavericks work as advertised; after hours of surfing over multiple days, we noticed that our battery still had a lot more life in it than before we installed the upgrade. Part of that owes to Safari’s new ability to switch off certain plug-in media, which would otherwise chew up computing power. Safari’s guesses about which parts of a page are or aren’t what you came to see could use a little work, but you can turn on deactivated YouTube clips or other Flash-based media by simply mousing over and clicking. The delay is minuscule and never annoying. Don’t mistake it for a full-fledged ad-blocker, but it’ll boost performance without getting in your way. Safari also works seamlessly with the new iCloud Keychain to autofill your credit card information when you’re buying stuff online (provided you’ve set that up). New security features let you decide which sites you do and don’t want to trust when opening non-HTML files like PDFs. And as John Siracusa points out in his epic ArsTechnica review of OS X Mavericks, Safari now offers its own version of Google Chrome’s stability-enhancing sandboxing system; if one tab you have running crashes, the others will remain open.

Safari 7 UI

The lack of a Reading List icon declutters the crowded interface a little.

The benchmarks

In terms of horsepower, Safari 7 is notably improved from its Mountain Lion predecessor in HTML5 standards compliance and Google’s Octane benchmark for JavaScript. But disappointingly, it still lags the most recent versions of rivals Firefox, Opera and Chrome by considerable margins in both tests. In HTML5 rendering benchmarks, it was actually just a hair slower than Safari 6.0.5. Still, it handily thumped its rivals in vector graphics, led a bit more narrowly in text rendering, and edged slightly ahead of the rest in bitmap graphics. (On some of these pages, Safari 7 rendered extra white space at the edge of the screen, a glitch seen in at least one other browser during the testing.) But in the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark – designed for WebKit-based browsers like Safari – Safari 7 reigned supreme. Its predecessor scored dead last, but Safari 7 completed SunSpider’s tests a good 16 percent faster than its closest competitor, Chrome.

Benchmarks: Safari 7

Browser HTML5 Vector HTML5 Bitmap HTML5 Text Octane SunSpider HTML5 Compliance
Safari 7 55.63 56.08 38.89 16583 133.8 400/11 bonus
Safari 6.0.5 56.68 56.96 41.81 10537 175.5 393/11 bonus
Chrome 30 32.61 55.60 34.25 22999 155.6 463/13 bonus
Firefox 24 7.90 24.89 30.78 17111 159.9 414/10 bonus
Opera 16 32.59 55.38 31.64 20344 159.2 442/9 bonus

Best results in bold. Reference browsers are in italicsHTML5 Vector, Bitmap, and Text test results are in frames per second; higher is better. The Octane JavaScript test results are scores; higher is better. The SunSpider JavaScript results are in milliseconds; shorter times are better. The HTML5 Compliance result is a score out of 500.

Bottom line

On balance, Safari’s underlying improvements more than make up for its interface annoyances. The new power-saving features make a big and welcome difference we’ve yet to see other browsers match. If you were already using Safari in Mountain Lion, the new edition absolutely merits an upgrade. And if you’re a die-hard Chrome or Firefox fan, Safari 7’s performance boost might be worth a try.

One Comment

One person was compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Tony says:

    I have noticed on my macine that HTML5 videos play in full screen with the DOWNLOAD button appearing superimposed over the video with no way to remove it.

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