FireFox 4 for Mac – Not Quite There Review

FireFox 4 for Mac - Not Quite There Review

I have been playing around with FireFox 4 for the Mac, since I absolutely adore the Windows version and it has replaced Chrome on my main PCs. My experience hasn’t been all that great – I tend to run loads of things all at once on my Mac and have found the performance … lacking. Turns out I am not alone, as a new review from Macworld shows that while FireFox 4 is much better than the last version, it still lags Safari and Chrome in terms of key performance.

Here are a few graphs they shared:

FireFox 4 for Mac - Not Quite There Review

FireFox 4 for Mac - Not Quite There Review

FireFox 4 for Mac - Not Quite There Review

FireFox 4 for Mac - Not Quite There Review

I highlighted my experience in two purely subjective areas: ‘piggyness’ and ‘suckiness’. My graph at the top shows my feelings on the various browsers, with FireFox 3 as the gold standard of a completely crappy Mac browsing experience (since IE is gone, anyway).

Piggyness I define as the extent to which a browser sends my hard disk thrashing if I try to open up even my five tab ‘Minimal’ set. Firefox 3 was brutal, and nothing else can compare to that. However, in recent releases it feels like Safari is racing to become the worst performing browser on the Mac! I have found it starts slow, loads slow, and is generally a pain to deal with. Chrome is super-fast, though with enough tabs it will start the hard disk chugging! FireFox 4 is SO much better than version 3 it is hard to compare them – it is even quicker than Safari. But it is nowhere near as responsive as Chrome … sorry FireFox!

Suckiness is if a browser forces me to put another browser on my dock in order to handle certain tasks. FireFox 3 was compatible on paper, but again was so wonky and ill behaved on the Mac that it was just a totally sucky experience. For a more specific example, if I don’t have my work PC and need to use corporate webmail, Chrome is a pain with annoying login popups that make no sense, so I will have Safari open with a single tab running webmail. Safari has text box issues with some sites, layout issues with others, and general strangeness way too often to consider it a potential full-time browser. Chrome is one that will either work or not – and generally it works well. There are some compatibility issues, but in general it is a solid experience. FireFox 4 works for every web site I tried, and did a good job …but too many add-ons were not compatible.

So in the end, I am sticking with Chrome. It has a solid balance of excellent performance and compatibility, and is light enough that if I need to run another browser for a single page I won’t bring my system to its knees (unlike with combining Safari and FireFox!).

Review: FireFox 4 for Mac

Where to Buy: FireFox Home Page

Price: Free download

What I Like: Solid compatibility; much improved performance

What Needs Improvement: Still somewhat of a performance/resource pig; update broke too many add-ons

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About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!