My Turn

iCab Beats Opera as Fastest Low-end Browser

Clarisse Leite Motter - 2002.01.07

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

It's interesting how things work when one wants to access something with no problems, quirks, or annoyances. This is particularly true if your hardware is older and quirky. Most of the time those who own older Macs (like me) end up having to "make do" with second- or third-class applications and very slow Internet browsing.

This is not the case with iCab 2.6.1 on my Apple Workgroup Server 6150 (a.k.a. Power Mac 6100/60) running Mac OS 8.5 and using a dialup 33.6 Internet connection (along with the extremely reliable ISP, Blazenet.com).

Users with DSL connections and faster Macs might find it hard to believe that using my setup could conceivably be satisfying.

Unbelievable as it may sound, this is the case, and I can access 99% of all websites, make secure 128-bit encrypted transactions, do all the research on my various interests (including secure pages in medical journals), find time to write, and still have time for my family and grandchildren.

I've been using the Internet for only three years. I have tried four different ISPs and a few different Browser/ISP/Mac combinations (mostly Centris 610s and 6100 PPCs).

For these computers, iCab 2.6.1 is an agile, sleek, fast (images turned off make it fastest), responsive browser, which rarely crashes.

There are other browsers out there, and some of them are even faster than iCab, (Lynx, for example, a text-only browser, is faster than iCab). However, when it comes to day-to-day Internet activities (including 128-bit secure shopping), iCab cannot be beat.

Though quite sold on iCab, I'm not against trying new things when they come along, particularly because there do exist certain sites that will not allow one in without Netscape's or Microsoft's newest, most bloated browsers.

CVS.com is one of many examples. It won't even allow me to "fool" it by using iCab's "Preferences" setting of "Mozilla 4.5," pretending to be Netscape Navigator. CVS.com demands the real thing. Guess there will come a time when I'll have to break down - but that's another article.

UPDATE: You can access cvs.com - open Preferences, choose Inscript, and change the Identity/Settings to Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0. We still think it's rude of CVS to block Opera, OmniWeb, iCab, and anything besides Internet Explorer and Netscape.

Never mind that! I can still use iCab for 99% of my Internet usage!

I do realize that there are those who won't consider switching, but hear me out.

This past summer, my 16-year-old son suggested I try Opera, and he downloaded it for me. As soon as 5.0 was available, I downloaded it, too, to make sure my previous impressions weren't biased. Since he's a computer nut (Windows only), and I respect his opinions, I acceded; I told him he could download it and keep it on the hard drive.

Throughout the time he was here, he did use Opera nearly exclusively. Not me!

Following a frustrating two-day test drive, I decided to go back to iCab 2.5.3 (now at 2.6.1).

I found Opera's claims to be "the fastest Internet browser" far-fetched at best. Opera was wanting, particularly in speed - even with images turned off. It was slow, lethargic, unresponsive. In fact, it felt as if I was driving a Porsche, equipped with a 1982 Toyota sedan engine.

When it comes to hard drive real estate, Opera and iCab are similarly equipped, and both are much, much smaller than the two behemoths that Netscape and Explorer are. In fact, iCab Preview 2.5.3 used a lean 3.2 megs. iCab 2.6.1, at 3.8 megs, is still a lean application. Opera 5.0 PPC uses 3.5 megs.

My own personal (and very biased) opinion is that for an older PPC Mac with a 33.6 dialup Internet connection nothing (HTML-based) beats iCab.

iCab is currently freeware, but it will soon cost US$29 to purchase the Pro version. They will still offer iCab free, if you don't mind having its email and kiosk mode unavailable to you. (I've never missed them, as they'd defeat the purpose of having a lean, agile application.)

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