Safari 5: Best Choice for PowerPC Macs Running Leopard?

I leapfrog from browser to browser, checking out latest releases and trying to find the fastest and most stable version on my older PowerPC Macs (my current workhorse is a 500 MHz TiBook). But what about Safari, Apples offering to the browser market?In the last month I have been from Firefox to TenFourFox to Camino. However, all of these suffer from the same problem: They are all Gecko-based, and the future of PowerPC support is hanging by a thread.

Firefox already cut off support with version 4, and while TenFourFox is a successful port of Firefox 4 for PowerPC, it is doubtful future versions will be continued. Camino is trailing behind. Version 2.1, due to release in May, will use the same Gecko version as Firefox 3.6. After that it, is doubtful they will continue PowerPC versions.

This will be common throughout all Gecko-based browsers. So what’s the alternative? WebKit?

Safari: Early Impressions

Safari is WebKit-based, and I haven’t been too impressed with it in the past – or any other WebKit-based browsers (with the exception of Android’s browser).

Speed has always been one of Safari’s key selling points, but at the price of compatibility, rendering, and stability. With version 4, Apple seemed to make a massive leap. Speed was still amazingly fast – in fact it was noticeably faster than Safari 3 – and compatibility and rendering was improved, but it was still not up to the standard of other browsers. Safari 5 seems to have rectified this even further and is shaping up to be a great browser at long last.

Safari 5: You’ve Come a Long Way

Safari 5 is the first version I’ve used that I’ve thought I could use as my main browser. Low-end Mac users are always craving a little more speed out of their aging computers, and compared to heavyweights like Firefox and TenFourFox, Safari is a lot smoother on G3s and early G4s.

Safari 5 requires Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, so for G3 users and G4 users running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, I’m afraid you will be stuck with Safari 4, which, while it is good, is not as refined as Safari 5.

I’ve been using Safari 5.0.5 (the current version as I write this) for a few days and have had none of the problems I had encountered previously. I had no pages that didn’t load, no NSURL errors, and everything rendered as it should. I was even surprised to see eBay listing pages had the HTML editor option – something that put me off using previous versions of Safari.

Speedwise it is even faster than Camino. Pages load very quickly, and I have multiple tabs open with no slowdown whatsoever. I had tested Safari a while ago when I was checking out Camino, and it seemed to struggle after five tabs. However I just had over 10 tabs open at once, all in quick succession of each other, and it didn’t struggle.

Facebook and Twitter load quicker and with less lag than in Camino. YouTube didn’t seem any smoother, but I didn’t expect it too. On the whole, Safari is faster to load and faster at loading pages – and it renders them very well.

Looking to the Future

With Gecko – and therefore any Mozilla-based browser – being just about dead in the water for PowerPC users, WebKit-based browsers such as Safari and Shiira, as well as mobile versions such as the S60 Symbian and Android browsers, seem the way forward, at least for now.

There has been no definite news that PowerPC support is going to be dropped, however Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is due out soon, and I would guess it will ship with Safari 6, which will be Intel only and should be backward compatible with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. I doubt OS X 10.5 Leopard will support Safari 6 even for Intel users. I doubt very much Safari 6 will be available on the PowerPC platform.

Sooner or later – and I feel it is sooner – we PowerPC users are going to have to realise that our time has come in terms of web browsing, and we are going to have to settle for not having the latest browser. As long as sites support Firefox 3.6 (or Gecko 1.9.2) and Flash 10, we will be fine, but by the end of 2011 we will be cut out from the latest versions of Safari and WebKit.

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