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Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 review

Our Rating :

It's a big improvement over the previous version of IE, but its Windows-centric approach means that Chrome is a better choice.

At one point Microsoft had a 95 per cent market share of the browser market with its Internet Explorer browser. With strong competition from FireFox, Chrome and Safari that lead has fallen to around 43 per cent.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 9

With Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft is hoping to get its browser back on track, promising that it’s the fastest and most secure browser yet. It’s available as a free download for Windows Vista and 7, but Windows XP is no longer supported. As with previous versions of Internet Explorer, other operating systems, such as Linux and Mac OSX, are not supported.

One of the main benefits of IE9 is that it has built-in hardware acceleration for HTML5 websites, so that the power of your graphics card can be used to render graphics. This can be seen by looking at the FishIE Tank demo programmed by Microsoft.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 FishIE Tank

This creates a virtual aquarium in your web browser. Testing with Google Chrome we got 52fps with 20 fish, but with 1,000 fish we got just 5fps. In IE9 we got 60fps with 20 fish. Moving up to 1,000 fish, we got the same 60fps. This is all well and good, but it’s quite a specific example and we had to push the number of fish rendered up to a high number before there’s any real noticeable difference between IE9 and Chrome.

As it stands the number of HTML5 websites is very low, so there are few that will take full advantage of a hardware-accelerated browser. Even YouTube only has a rather basic HTML5 version where not all of the videos will play using the HTML5 video player. Those that will can’t even be put into a full-screen mode. IE9 might have a slight advantage at the moment, but the other browsers should catch up by the time that HTML5 is much more popular.

Running some more tests we found that testing the load time of Expert Reviews using the WebWait test, we found that Chrome averaged a load time of 1.61s after five runs and IE9 1.71s after five runs. It’s essentially too close to call.

Running the [/a]SunSpider JavaScript benchmark[/a] we found that Chrome completed the test in 366.8ms and IE9 in just 244.4ms. IE9 is a fair bit quicker here it has to be said. Overall, we found the IE9 engine to feel a touch more responsive than Chrome, but only marginally so.

One of the main new features of IE9 is its integration with the Task Bar. By dragging the Fav Icon on a website, you can pin/ Bookmarks to your favourite tabs to the Task Bar, making it quicker to launch them. Some sites support JumpLists to give you quick access to information. For example, with Facebook, you can right-click the Task Bar icon to jump to News, Messages, Events and Friends.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 JumpList

While all of this works really well, the features are Windows specific, so if you use multiple operating systems, Chrome and its ability to sync data between Windows, Mac, Linux and Android 3.0 is probably a better choice, still.

In terms of internet security, Microsoft has done a lot of work. As well as the anonymous InPrivate Browsing mode, which doesn’t store information on any sites you visit, there’s the new Tracking Protection. This is used to prevent your browser from storing tracking cookies, which can be used to target advertising across many websites. For this to work, you have to add tracking lists to the browser. Unfortunately, the link in the browser takes you to the incorrect web page and you need to go to the Microsoft Tracking Protection Lists.

There’s a good range available, including some that allow tracking cookies from ad networks that have proved that they handle user data sensitively. This could be a good option, as the internet is largely funded by online advertising and by blocking all ads from working it can cause harm to your favourite sites. That said, there are lists that block everything, so both sides of the advertising argument are covered.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 Tracking Protection

There’s also SmartScreen Filter, which uses reputation-based statistics to say whether a download is harmful or not. Microsoft has high claims of how good this protection is, but until we’ve run the browser through our AV labs, we can’t make any judgements on how good it is. We like the new Download manager, but given that all of the other browsers have had this functionality built in for a while now, this is Microsoft just playing catch-up.

The interface overhaul takes a little getting used to and we’re not sure that we like the squashed-up address bar. It’s like this so that the browser window has the maximum amount of space. However, given today’s high-resolution monitors we’d have preferred a longer title bar above the tabs bar, giving only slightly less room for the website we were viewing.

There’s no denying that Internet Explorer 9 is a big improvement over the previous one and it’s good to see a download manager and better privacy features. The speed of the browser is also impressive, although this won’t be fully appreciated until more HTML5 websites are available.

Our problem with IE9 is that it’s too focussed on Windows, when other devices and platforms are starting to become more prominent. Currently, then, we think that Google Chrome is a better choice, as it has full bookmark, app, auto-fill, extension, password, preferences and theme syncing across Windows, Linux, Mac and Android 3.0.


Price £0
Rating ****

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