Firefox 4 Review

Codrut Nistor March 23, 2011 17

This world is clearly headed to Hell. Please don’t think of it in the religious way – I don’t give a single cent on religion, it’s only the “Hell of all-the-same” and nothing more. For example, let’s look at the popular Web browsers – until a few years ago, each one had its own personality (yes, I think that some software products can really have personality) and features, not to mention the fact that each of them seemed to have an individual path to follow. Now, it seems it’s all about stea creating about the same features and the layout of the best ones with the hope that some of those who left your product will jump back in your wagon…

… and, unfortunately, I am talking about Firefox 4 here. It’s just an impression I had for some time already – after all, Firefox 4 isn’t a surprise that just dropped in out of the blue, so people have been talking about it and even using its early versions for some time already. All in all, I am starting this review being really curious about this long-awaited Web browser – will it live up to the expectations or not?

Setup

To be honest, I expected for Mozilla not to make Firefox 4 available as an update to version 3, but provide it as a separate product, at least for now (see what’s happening with Maxthon, for example), since most Firefox 3.x.x-compatible addons don’t seem to work with this last version. Oh, well, since I don’t use Firefox as my primary browser, I decided to simply update my existing installation and see what happens…

As it usually happens, I played with this program on my desktop computer, so the fact that I got a maximum score of 3338 in the Peacekeeper benchmark is pretty bad (to check the results I got for Firefox 3, Opera 11 and a bunch of other browsers on the same computer, please check this article), but we should also consider that some optimizations only work on Windows Vista/7. Regarding that part… just keep an eye on PCTips3000, I’ll put Firefox 4 and IE 9 face to face on my Windows 7 laptop pretty soon!

Getting back to Firefox 4, I should say that Windows, Mac OS X and Linux versions are available, as well as mobile versions for Android devices and the Nokia N900. If that doesn’t get you high, knowing that you can sync your Firefox stuff between different computers/software platforms should, but we’ll get to that a bit later…

… since now I have to add that updating my Firefox 3.6.15 to Firefox 4 only took a few seconds, but I also noticed something really strange – the update needed to download 15.5 MB of data, while the downloadable setup package has 12 MB in size. Well, since I didn’t notice any spyware or toolbar in the meantime, I must say that this is only a minor detail. All in all, installing or updating to Firefox 4 shouldn’t give you any headaches, at least not as long as you’re not using too many plugins that won’t work with it. ;)

Interface

After updating my old Firefox 3 to the current version, the main window still had the menu bar, but Firefox 4′s default interface doesn’t have such a thing, since all tabs have been pushed up and the menus are accessible via that orange Firefox button. If this would be the first Web browser I ever used, then I should say we’re talking about a pretty cool idea. Unfortunately, Google Chrome and Opera have done it already, so Firefox is just following the trends now instead of leading the way. On the other hand, there are plenty of themes and personas available to help you personalize your Firefox 4, so I guess there’s nothing really bad to say about this browser’s looks, but there’s nothing out of this world, either.

Features

The list of Firefox 4 features present on the official page may seem pretty impressive at first sight but, if you take a closer look at it, you’ll figure out that only some of the goodies to be found there can be considered solid improvements. On the other hand, I would be a fool to deny the fact that there are quite a few Firefox 4 features that will improve your experience with it a lot, so please allow me to try to tell you about some of this browser’s highlights – just be sure that this is all a bit subjective, so if I think that the orange Firefox button is nothing but a ripoff of something Opera had for some time already, that’s also the truth… ;)

If you’re not a keyboard freak, I know for sure you’ll love the Home and Bookmark buttons located to the right of the search field but I really don’t get the hype surrounding the Awesome Bar – to me, it’s nothing but an address bar with integrated autocomplete based on the history of visited sites, so nothing new in 2011.

When it comes to tabs management, I must say things are looking very good, the Tab Groups (Mozilla’s approach to Opera’s Tab Stacking feature) and the ability to turn frequently used tabs into App Tabs are both awesome! Once you pin a tab as an App Tab, it turns into a little icon that glows when there’s new content in that page – this works great with your webmail, Web-based RSS readers or chat/forums.

I know I should have started with this part, but it doesn’t really matter – even if I decide to put this in the last phrase of this article, it still remains an awesome feature – Firefox 4 can (finally!!!) sync your settings, including Bookmarks, Passwords, Preferences and even Tabs between computers/devices running it. Finally, no need for MozBackup anymore! ;)

While Firefox 4′s speed on my Windows XP computer is really disappointing when compared to Opera or Chrome, the new Add-ons manager alone can make me forget about it! Seriously, I even forgot about the many plugins and themes I had in Firefox 3.6.15 and don’t work with this new version, but I know one thing for sure: a lot of people won’t take that easy, so let’s move on to the final part of this review – after all, most people don’t care about the new technologies coming with the new version of their browser, they just want to get the job done like before… maybe faster, if possible!

Tips & Tricks

1. To bring up the old school menus, press Alt.

2. When you feel that the amount of open tabs is overwhelming, hit Ctrl+Shit+E and bring some order to this chaos!

3. If you want to sync your browser, there’s no keyboard shortcut to help you – just press the orange Firefox button and click on Sync Now or, in case you’re still using the old school menu, go to Tools and do the same thing.

4. Ctrl+J brings up the Downloads manager, while Ctrl+H will take you to your browsing history page. Not the first browser to use these shortcuts for these tasks and surely not the last, either… ;)

Strengths

Firefox 4 is, without a single doubt, the best Firefox ever – it’s faster and more reliable than Firefox 3, looks and feels great, it’s even available for Android devices and all the three major platforms for computers, but…

Weaknesses

… if you ask me, I still think it’s a memory hog that’s slower than both Chrome and Opera, but its greatest problem, at least for now, is lack of support for a lot of popular addons that will keep quite a few users with Firefox 3.6.x.

Final Thoughts

The best Firefox ever is not the best Web browser ever but, in my opinion, it’s one piece of code that will surely become a serious threat to Chrome, Opera and IE 9 on all those Windows 7 computers out there as soon as all those great Firefox 3 addons start to work properly on it. Until then, it’s black or white, depending on the type of user you are – if you’re not using a lot of Firefox addons, you should update as soon as possible, but if you do… no need to tell you what path to choose, right? That’s all, folks!

17 Comments »

  1. Nix March 28, 2011 at 4:16 am - Reply

    You didn’t mention the fact that when you close multiple tabs it long longer give your the option, by default, to save them.

    It saves the tabs automatically, but to get them back you have to go to Firefox (orange button) > History > Restore Previous Session.

    Alternately type about:config in the address search bat and hit enter then type showquit in the filter bar and double click on browser.showQuitWarning to change it from false to true. This will return the Save tabs option.

  2. M.A. April 25, 2011 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    Well, tired of not finding what I wanted in FF 4.0–I fixed it! Found my old download of 3.6–works for me.

  3. chrisgoat May 7, 2011 at 7:26 am - Reply

    Loaded Firefox 4 up after a reinstall today, man what peace of crap first thing right off it did not import my bookmarks or anything as a matter of fact.
    So that right there was stupid not sure if they feel they have lost the battle with MS or others or what but if your going to give up do not release crap like this just drop it all together.

    I back on IE 9 for now till something better comes along.
    Loaded Google Chrome and am very impressed with it so far.

  4. sam May 9, 2011 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Firefox 4 sucks, I went straight back to 3.6 after 1 day

  5. Codrut Nistor May 9, 2011 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    Do you mind getting a bit into it? Simply saying that FF 4 “sucks” or “rulz” doesn’t say much, don’t you think? ;)

  6. Firefox 3.6 rules June 1, 2011 at 6:45 am - Reply

    Firefox 4.0 problems:

    1.Higher memory usage about 150-200MB with one tab blank page.

    2.Higher CPU usage 40-50% on Wikipedia/Wired 80% on youtube standard quality video.

    3. Addon manager is HUGE! and slow. goodbye windowed mode.

    Pc specs: core 2 duo E7500 2GB ram. Windows xp

    Maybe my pc it’s too old…

  7. Codrut Nistor June 1, 2011 at 6:59 am - Reply

    Come on, this is a damn browser, not a game! Overall, your computer seems to be slightly faster than mine, so that “too old” part has nothing to do with it. Anyway, I think the CPU usage you get is a bit too much – I usually get below 50%, no matter what I do… but I still consider that to be too much! ;)

  8. Dave June 24, 2011 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    Total crap, over hyped and bloated as hell, why 512mB RAM before it kicks off other browsers are not like that nor are other builds – just think any fixes or updates is going to use even more RAM.

    Think I’ll ditch all the main players and start using lesser known ones.

    BTW: Do you know about the WebGL flaw? This applies to Chrome, Opera and Safari as well as FF4 see-: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/05/11/chrome_firefox_security_threat/ if you don’t wanna be hacked, reading between the lines WebGL don’t care two hoots… you are advised to disable WebGL!

    Trouble is…. nowt ain’t free for nothing!

  9. Codrut Nistor June 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    Fully agree with that, but I don’t think it goes as high as 512 MB of memory without opening some tabs… quite a few of them, in fact! ;)

    No idea about the flaw you mentioned. Looks pretty scary. Seems like we should all move to IE… lol! :P

  10. Dave June 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    Requirement for Firefox 4 -:
    Quote:Recommended Hardware

    * Pentium 4 or newer processor that supports SSE2
    * 512MB of RAM
    * 200MB of hard drive space Unquote: Straight from the horses mouth (Mozzilla).

    The WebGL flaw is relating to the 3D rendering. NOTE: This relates to the latest versions of FF4, Safari, Chrome & Opera browsers, not just FF4.

    Microsoft won’t even touch WebGL so they say for security reasons! Now, I think we are man enough to KNOW the reasons why, simply… they want to ‘keep their hands on the pot’ so to speak with their products.

    A Google search ought to explain all on all matters raised, the complaints about FF4 can also be followed and it just ain’t one or two who are moaning we are talking about.

    Anyone noticed how FF4 phones home 24/7, a little more than usual.?

    Dave

  11. Karma June 26, 2011 at 7:51 am - Reply

    I can’t believe a company could put out such a piece of crap like Firefox 4. In the middle of emails, it leaves the website, pops off to other websites, or “website not found”, frequently have to click twice because “website not found”, even yahoo mail. It’s slow as hell. You close it and it “isn’t closed”. There is NOTHING even tolerable about it.

  12. Dave June 26, 2011 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    Just for information only…. Firefox 4 is dead and buried, it’s FF5 now. That was short n’ sweet…. but the WebGL warning still applies.

  13. The Truth June 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    FF4 = total garbage

  14. technogeist June 29, 2011 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    I wouldn’t mind so much, but it’s the default browser for many Linux distros. And it’s horrible.

    Scrambled or disappearing page elements in Hotmail & yahoo are the worst.

    Will we *ever* have an alternative open source browser worthy of competing with chrome? but isn’t chrome. ;)

  15. Truth June 30, 2011 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    If you thought Foxfire 4 was dog sht, don’t upgrade to Foxfire 5. I did and what a mistake! At least FF4 worked – moderately.
    With Foxfire 5, all pages load sssllloooowwwwwlllyyy. And it’s impossible to view You Tube or news video without waiting for multiple stops to refresh. I made no other changes to my system and none to the ISP / wifi. Only change was upgrading to FF5.

    Hello, Chrome!

  16. harold August 3, 2011 at 6:39 am - Reply

    FF3 – Use it daily.
    FF4 – Tab groups r-e-a-l-l-y slow on my machine (1GHZ) and slower in general.
    They should make it leaner and instead have followed the crowd and gone bloaty.
    FF5 – sounds like bad news.
    Recommend – SRware-Iron 11.

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