Firefox 4; an aborted review

The following brief post is about web browsers. If that’s not your thing, maybe go look at this beautiful photograph instead of reading on.

Just geeks left? Cool. I reluctantly jumped the Firefox train a year or so back, because Google Chrome has a faster javascript engine. That’s all really, but it is a lot faster at almost everything, and that makes a difference if you use the internet for stuff other than waiting for pages to load.

Time moves on, and Mozilla react to this by getting “super-duper fast” (their words not mine). So I decided to give it another go and get downloading. I installed beta 6, quite excited about getting back to grips with my previous favourite browser. And then I stopped. Didn’t even get as far as whipping out some JS heavy sites or anything. I had to stop, because the text anti-aliasing in the address bar is just… bad. 1999 bad. So bad that it hurts to look at tab titles. Or website addresses. #Fail bad.

Look at the horrific anti-aliasing!

Is anyone else getting this? Because I’m not even going to try the browser until they sort this out: Google 2, Mozilla 0 – sorry guys!

Note: A helpful commentor has pointed out that this aliasing bug is actually down to a glitch in the 2D hardware acceleration built into DirectX 10. So that means we need to revise the score. It’s now at Google 1, Mozilla 0, Microsoft -1. Much better!

8 Responses to “Firefox 4; an aborted review”

  1. 8
    Chris Says:

    Interesting. I loaded my firefox again, to see that it had updated to 4beta7.

    It still looked fine, and when I checked, hardware acceleration was still on. So I assumed it was sorted… but just to check, I turned acceleration off again, restarted FF, turned it on and restarted to discover [insert shock here]… it looked terrible again.

    So that’s a fail. Call me when beta 8 comes out…

  2. 7
    Matt Says:

    I just found your blog when searching for this font issue.
    I am running FF4 beta 7, and as you wrote it, I just can’t use it like this. I tried tweaking the options given above, but it doesn’t make the whole thing look any better, unless I completely deactivate hardware acceleration …

    I hope Mozilla/Microsoft will fix this before the final release, or it will be a disaster. For the time being, I’ll stick to FF3.6.

  3. 6
    Mike Says:

    Is this bug fixed? Because text still looks very blurry in Beta 7.

    I think it’s because Microsoft has tried to emulate Apple and make the fonts not fit the screen pixel grid, this making them look blurry.

    This is a terrible thing, if so. Means I can’t use any browser that does this.

  4. 5
    Chris Says:

    No problem, good to get the info. How did you find the blog?

  5. 4
    Mark Says:

    Wow, I apologize for that huge wall of text. :-O

  6. 3
    Mark Says:

    Beta 6 was renamed to Beta 7 and a new Beta 6, which only includes a small bugfix, was issued to Beta 5 users.
    https://developer.mozilla.org/devnews/index.php/2010/09/13/firefox-4-beta-6-renamed-to-beta-7-new-small-beta-6-inserted/

    There are a few issues with fonts + hardware acceleration, they are known to mozilla and they are trying to fix it. :)
    However, they aren’t even sure if they can fix them all because some are problems with the direct2d API. Microsoft will have to fix these issues itself. Microsoft will probably fix these issues because IE9 will be using direct2d as well. :)

    You can see on mozillazine (mozilla fansite) that other users have been experiencing similar issues with direct2d (blurry fonts, aliased fonts, black screen, etc). Many of these are related to bugs in hardware (the hardware doesn’t support direct2d adequately), or drivers (direct2d hasn’t been used by any applications before browsers started using it in their beta versions).

    Here is a screenshot of one font issue (look at the Minefield button): https://bug574976.bugzilla.mozilla.org/attachment.cgi?id=473985

    Bug for that font issue:
    https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=574976

    In comparison to beta6, some direct2d font issues have been fixed in the latest nightly (to be in beta7).

    However, you’re right to wait for the final release before reviewing it. Mozilla is still polishing a few features that have been added recently. Like tab progress bars, Link hover URL in the location bar, and the addons bar. They are still working out the kinks in javascript, direct2d, layers, rendering, and others.
    Speed in all areas is still being improved as well.

  7. 2
    Chris Says:

    Nice one, thanks for the explanation. Like I said, will definitely try the browser when its actually released rather than the betas.

    Has beta6 not got the new JS integrated – I thought 6 was meant to have it.

    If not then that’s impressive, since it seemed noticeably snappier already without it.

    I stick to my point: I couldn’t use it with the aliasing like that. Is everyone having that issue, or just some gfx cards/drivers? I’m up to date on all that. Have turned it off, but will still be waiting for the final release before I review.

    Bless,
    Chris

  8. 1
    Mark Says:

    1. If you are going to do JS benchmarks, wait for beta 7 (it has the new Jaegermonkey javascript engine) or use the Firefox JS Builds.

    2. The text aliasing is a bug with hardware acceleration. You can disable it completely in Firefox Button > Options > Advanced > General >”Use hardware acceleration when available”.
    If you don’t want to disable it completely then you can try disabling directwrite (new hardware accelerated fonts) in awesomebar > about:config > gfx.font_rendering.directwrite.enabled.
    Other acceleration options to try:
    gfx.direct2d.disabled
    layers.accelerate-all

    3. This isn’t Mozilla’s fault, it is a problem with drivers or Microsoft’s direct2d/directwrite infrastructure.

    4. When google chrome gets hardware acceleration by default, it will likely experience the same problem.

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