A First Overview of Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 Beta Browser

Make no mistake, Microsoft is back in the game with IE9 and back with a vengeance and we like what we are seeing.

IE9 is a tweaked version of IE8 at least when it comes to the user interface; the icons are slightly different from the previous one and there's a new Onebox, which is not unlike Google's Omnibox.

Microsoft has deliberately chosen a minimalist approach that might confuse existing users. By default, you do not get the favourite, status and command bars and the overall usable area is a smidgen bigger than on other browsers.

We were also greeted by an add-on performance manager which allows you to disable any add-ons to shave some precious milliseconds on startup. Given that we start our browser once a week (roughly), this wouldn't help much.

IE9 follows Chrome (which in turn copied Opera) by putting the most visited websites on "new tab" and you can now "drag and tear" webpages like Chrome.

Other features include the ability to pin sites to the Windows 7 taskbar and the native support for Windows 7's Aero snap.

What really sets it apart from IE8 though is its blistering speed from startup onwards. Microsoft has managed to cut the fat off its latest browser through the same process that turned Vista into Windows 7.

GPU acceleration means that defacto, most recent PCs - with the notable exception of netbooks - will offer some sort of speed gain and this will only increase as Microsoft implements more tweaks and GPU support (and performance) improves.

Will that be enough to tempt us away from Chrome, our main browser? Well, we will be swapping the latter for IE9 beta for 24 hours and see how it goes.