Google Chrome 8

Google Chrome 8 is not only stable to use, but comes with a full range of competitive features. It lacks some of the fine-tuning customisations in Firefox, but overall, users browsing with Chrome will find it a pleasant, fast and standards-compliant experience.

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Now into its second year, Google Chrome has begun to mature from a lightweight and fast-browsing alternative into an innovative browser on the precipice of a potential browsing revolution, with the pending ChromeOS. The browser that people can use today, Chrome 8, offers highly competitive features including synchronisation, autofill and it maintains Google's reputation for building one of the fastest browsers available.

Chrome 8 represents a major milestone for the browser, but those who are familiar with seeing dramatic changes in major-point updates will be disappointed. New features include the sandboxing of Chrome's PDF reader, which means that if the PDF you're viewing crashes, it won't take down the entire browser. Experimental options, such as side tabs, remoting, disabling outdated plug-ins and a "tab overview" mode for Macs, have been given a slight refresh by changing the name of about:labs to about:flags.

Please note that there are at least four versions of Chrome available at the moment, and this review only addresses the "stable" branch, intended for general use. Chrome beta, dev and Canary are progressively less stable versions of the browser which are aimed at developers.


Chrome's installation process is simple and straightforward. If you download from Google's website, it will ask you if you'd like to anonymously submit usage statistics to the company. This can be toggled even after the browser's installed by going to the "Wrench" preferences menu, choosing Options, then Under the Hood and unchecking Help Make Chrome Better. Depending on your processor, the installation process should take less than two minutes.


Google's Chrome interface hasn't changed much since its surprise debut in September 2008. Tabs are still on top, the location bar — which Google likes to call the "Omnibar" — dominates the minimalist design and the browser has few visible control buttons besides Back, Forward and a combined Stop/Reload button. Although some may not like the tabs on top, we find it to be aesthetically preferable because it leaves more room below for the website we're looking at.

One change has been to remove the secondary Page options button and combine it with the preferences Wrench to create space for extension icons to the right of the location bar. As it currently looks, it could be better organised. Some controls, such as page zoom, are readily available. Others, such as the extension manager, are hidden away under a Tools submenu.

Chrome's extensions are fairly limited in how they can alter the browser's interface. Unlike Firefox, which gives add-on makers a lot of leeway to change the browser's look, Chrome mandates that extensions appear only as icons to the right of the location bar. The benefit maintains a uniform look in the browser, but it definitely limits how much the browser can be customised. Versions 6 and 7 of Chrome don't support sidebars either, although other Chromium-based browsers (such as Flock 3) do offer the feature.

Even with its limitations, the interface design has remained a contemporary exemplar of how to minimise the browser's screen footprint while remaining easy to use and versatile.

Features and support

Chrome 8's features are accessible from the Preferences menu and the browser offers a complete range of modern browsing conveniences. The basics are well-represented, including tabbed browsing, new window creation and a private browsing mode that Google calls "Incognito," which disables cookies tracking, history recording, extension support and other browsing breadcrumbs.

Chrome is based on WebKit, the same open-source engine that powers Apple Safari, Google's Android mobile platform and several other desktop and mobile web-browsing tools. Chrome runs on a different JavaScript engine than its WebKit cousins, however, and there are also other changes.

Chrome's tabs remain one of the best things about the browser. The tabs are detachable: "tabs" and "windows" are interchangeable here. Detached tabs can be dragged and dropped into the browser and tabs can be rearranged at any time by clicking, holding, dragging and releasing. Not only can tabs be isolated, but each tab actually exists in its own task process. This means that when one site crashes, the other tabs do not. Though memory leaks are a major concern in Chrome when you have dozens of tabs open, sluggish behaviour and other impediments weren't noticeable until after there were more than 30 tabs open. That's not an immutable number, though, and a computer's hardware will alter browser performance.

Some of the basics in Chrome are handled extremely intuitively. In-page searching works smoothly. Using the Ctrl-F hot key or the menu option, searching for a word or phrase will open a text-entry box on the top right of the browser. It searches as you type, indicating the number of positives results and highlighting them on the page.

Account syncing is another area where Chrome excels. Using your Gmail account, Chrome will sync your themes, preferences, autofill entries, extensions and bookmarks. You can toggle each of those categories, too. It does not yet offer password syncing, although the password manager offers a smart show password option that keeps it visually separate from the site that it's associated to.

Chrome also contains a lot of privacy-tweaking settings. In the Options menu, go to the Under the Hood tab. From here, you can toggle and customise most of the browser's privacy and security settings. Cookies, image management, JavaScript, plug-ins, pop-ups, location information and notifications can be adjusted from the Content Settings button. This includes toggling specific plug-ins, such as the built-in Adobe Flash plug-in or the Chrome PDF reader (which is deactivated by default.)

Like Firefox, Chrome gives broad control over search engines and setting search customisations. Though this doesn't sound like much, not all browsers allow you to set keyword shortcuts for searching and some even restrict which search engine you can set as your default. Chrome comes with three defaults to choose from: Google, Bing and Yahoo.

The Chrome extension manager, bookmark manager and download manager all open in new tabs. They allow you to search their contents and throw in some basic management options like deletion, but ,in general, none feels as robust as their counterparts in competing browsers. For example, URLs in the bookmark manager are only revealed when you mouse over a bookmark and you must click on one to get the URL to permanently appear. That's an extra click that other browsers don't require.

Two other low-profile but well-executed features in Chrome include auto-updating and translation. Chrome automatically updates when a new version comes out. This makes it harder to revert back to an older version, but it's highly unlikely that you'll want to downgrade this build of Chrome since this is the stable build and not the beta or developer's version. The second feature, automatic translation of web pages, is available to other browsers as a Google add-on, but because it comes from Google, it's baked directly into Chrome.

Chrome is also a leader in HTML5 implementation, which is uneven because of the continuing development of HMTL5 standards. This will become more important in the coming months and years, but for right now it doesn't massively affect interaction with Web sites.

In the realm of security, besides allowing you to disable JavaScript, Chrome will autoblock websites that are known as unsafe or for promulgating phishing attacks and malware threats. This depends on Google's ability to flag websites as risky, though, and so it's recommended to use a network like the Web of Trust extension or a separate security program to block threats.


Based on the open-source WebKit engine and Google's V8 JavaScript engine, Google Chrome debuted to much fanfare because of its rocketing rendering speeds. Two years down the line, that hasn't changed and the stable version of Chrome remains one of the fastest stable browsers available. The less stable versions, with their more recent improvements and bug fixes, are even faster.

Google claims that Chrome 6's JavaScript rendering is 10 times faster than when Chrome was first released in 2008. Historically, Chrome has been one of the fastest browsers available across multiple benchmarks and that's not expected to change in version 8. Some are making unverified claims that Chrome 8 is two to three times as fast as Chrome 7. CNET benchmarks will be added here soon.


Where Chrome 5 was the first version of the browser that felt fully baked, Chrome 6 began to add serious features to that foundation while improving usability. Chrome 7 and 8 have felt more like minor-point updates. Still, it's a ready-to-go browser that offers top-of-the-line speed, a clean, minimalist look and competitive features that justify its still-increasing market share. Chrome is a serious option for anybody who wants a browser that gets out of the way of browsing the Web.


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cjrolla posted a review   

The Good:Fast

The Bad:Unstable

Oops Snap! something went wrong here! anyone using chrome im sure has seen this a number of times


UlyssesBlue posted a review   

The Good:Free

The Bad:Terrible rendering capabilities

I don't understand why people rave about Chrome so much. I'd heard good things about it so I thought I'd give it a go; was pretty open-minded about the whole thing, but was utterly shocked when I found it was just hopeless at rendering my favourite webpages (using version 8.0.552.237). It might render them quickly, but if the result is so broken the page can't be properly read, understood or navigated, what's the point?

For an excellent example of just how broken it can get, visit, a company which make computer components. The navigation features drop-down menus with some on-hover rendering effects. Looks nice, but nothing overly complicated or unusual. You have to look hard to see a difference between IE and Firefox when they render the page, but using Chrome it is just completely incapable of coping with the drop-down menus or colour changes required by the on-hover elements. The result is a very confusing navigation area listed down the left side of the page, with massive white space over the majority of the page, and the intended content hidden way down the bottom of the page. I had to revert back to the much despised IE just to view this page in a comprehensible way.

Perhaps Chrome has the potential to be a great browser, and with a company like Google behind it it would certainly have the financial backing to get there, but it does not yet have the capabilities to make it a serious contender in the browser wars.

GrantH Facebook

GrantH posted a review   

The Good:Fast, clean, stable

The Bad:Could benefit from better developer tools

My go-to browser above all others now, with great performance plus excellent code rendering thanks to Webkit. Only wish the Firebug extension was not a 'lite' version, because then I wouldn't find myself using Firefox for site development.

But for most web users, it's hard to find fault with it. Another great community service from Google!


Kwad_Kore posted a review   

The Good:Fast, The best

The Bad:Not enough people use it

My favourite browser, and good for web developing. I prefer it over firefox, and the only problem that I can find is that not enough people use it!!

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User Reviews / Comments  Google Chrome 8

  • cjrolla



    "Oops Snap! something went wrong here! anyone using chrome im sure has seen this a number of times"

  • UlyssesBlue



    "I don't understand why people rave about Chrome so much. I'd heard good things about it so I thought I'd give it a go; was pretty open-minded about the whole thing, but was utterly shocked when I f..."

  • GrantH



    "My go-to browser above all others now, with great performance plus excellent code rendering thanks to Webkit. Only wish the Firebug extension was not a 'lite' version, because then I wouldn't find ..."

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