First Impressions of IE9

Internet Explorer 9 has launched and I was excited to get an opportunity to give it a test drive. A quick perusal of the new features list gets me a little more excited, as there is some nice stuff here.

First, let me start of by saying that I routinely use IE8, Firefox 3.6 and Chrome 10, both as a web developer and a regular user. While I’ve been fairly happy with IE8 over all — it accounts for about 75% of my browser usage across 3 different machines — there were times I wished for the performance of Chrome and the full-featured developer tools of Firebug and PageSpeed available in FF. I have also found myself using Firefox less and less in favor of Chrome for my normal browsing activities, with FF being relegated to mostly webpage testing scenarios. I wouldn’t say I’m completely comfortable with the Chrome UI, but it’s growing on me little by little. However, I love the performance benefits of Chrome on JavaScript heavy sites. The one exception being with Silverlight heavy applications, where I’ve found Chrome to be very sluggish compared to IE and FF.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, lets get on with my first impressions. Put simply, I’m loving it. It’s fast. I haven’t bench-marked anything so this is purely subjective. But in the first hour or so of use I visited all my favorite sites plus a number of sites I’m actively developing and the performance seems every bit as fast as Chrome and I’ve encountered zero display issues. A number of these sites included some Silverlight based applications and the performance difference here was WAY faster than Chrome. In fact, I’d say Silverlight apps are even faster in IE9 than they were in IE8. I also haven’t noticed any rendering issues and the install went flawless.

The user interface does remind me a little of Chrome, particularly from the minimalist standpoint. It defaults to showing tabs and the URL/search box on one line, with a Bing toolbar below that. I’m not one for the Bing toolbar and I also don’t like my tabs sharing a line with anything else, so I quickly replaced the Bing toolbar with the tabs list. This leaves plenty of room for content and I think it ends up using slightly less space than a default Chrome window does. I’m also glad to see support for tear-off tabs, one of the features I really liked about Chrome, and I’m LOVING the site pinning features. The first site I pinned to the Windows 7 taskbar was Pandora.

And for a little fun, try visiting this site. In IE9, it makes use of hardware acceleration to display some SVG graphics. I tested is in all three browsers I had on my machine. FF 3.6 showed a miserable 6-8 fps, but was at least smooth. Chrome 10 bounced around between 15 and 40 fps with 20fps being typical and never was smooth – not sure why it wasn’t consistent. IE9 pegged the test at 60fps and showed no display lag was so ever.

I haven’t installed IE9 on my development machine yet, so I haven’t tried using it in a debug session from Visual Studio. Additionally, I’ve only spent a little time looking over the Developer Tools in IE9, and there looks to be some new features, such as Console and Network tabs,  which I’ll have to check out.  The compatibility mode now supports IE9, IE8 and IE7. I’d also like to see if a couple of bugs were fixed as well.

All in all, my first impression of IE9 is a good one. Time will tell if that holds true.

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