The second-best browser for PPC Macs

Every time someone with a vintage G3/G4/G5 PowerPC Mac asks me what browser would be my preferred choice for such systems, I always suggests TenFourFox, because it’s stable, secure, and actively maintained. However, you may have a Mac that barely meets — or doesn’t meet at all — TenFourFox’s minimum system requirements:

TenFourFox requires a G3 Power Macintosh, Mac OS X 10.4.11, 200MB of free disk space and 512MB of RAM. 1GB of RAM and a G4 or G5 processor is strongly recommended. Video playback is likely to be poor on systems slower than 1.25GHz; a G5 is recommended. Mac OS X 10.5.8 is supported. Although the browser may run under Mac OS X Server, it is not currently supported.

For example, I have three machines I use from time to time:

  • A blueberry clamshell iBook G3/300, with 288MB of RAM, running Mac OS X 10.3.9;
  • A graphite clamshell iBook G3/466 SE, with 576MB of RAM, running Mac OS X 10.4.11;
  • A PowerBook G3/400 ‘Lombard’, with 256MB of RAM, running Mac OS X 10.4.11.

Of these, the only Mac that can (barely) run TenFourFox is the iBook G3/466.

So, which is the best alternative when your Mac isn’t powerful enough to smoothly run the excellent TenFourFox? In my opinion, it’s Camino.

Camino’s development ceased in 2012. Other alternatives, such as an older version of Opera, or the last version of Safari you can run under Panther or Tiger, are simply too old to be useful. Opera 10.63, the last version you can run under Tiger, was released in 2010. Camino is newer, and it also appears to be less resource-hungry.

Using my PowerBook G3/400 ‘Lombard’ as a test machine, I did an informal comparison between Safari 4.1.3 (the last version running under Tiger), Opera 10.63, and Camino 2.1.2. I’ve loaded some of the websites I visit most frequently, and assessed how each browser could render it. Camino always ended up serving the best or most usable version. As an example of a site that’s complex enough but not overly challenging, I’ll show here how the three browsers rendered the home page of Digital Photography Review.

This is Safari 4.1.3:

DPReview-Safari.png

Note the message in the status bar: 83 errors occurred in opening the page.

 

This is Opera 10.63:

DPReview-Opera.png

Not much different from Safari.

 

Finally, this is Camino 2.1.2:

DPReview-Camino.png

 

Definitely better. Admittedly, while loading the site in Camino, this warning appeared:

DPReview-Camino-warning.png

I just clicked on Continue and DPReview loaded without issues. The unresponsive script mentioned in the warning is probably the website’s Twitter widget (as you can see above, it didn’t load). Nothing major.

Here’s another couple of examples, Macworld and The New York Times:

MacWorld-Camino.png

(Yes, curiously the ‘Macworld’ logo didn’t load.)

 

NYT-Camino.png

 

It’s worth pointing out that web browsing on a G3 Mac with just 256MB of RAM generally isn’t much fun. Websites take a bit to load, even those that look simple on the surface. Camino’s speed on such a Mac is the most acceptable in my experience.

Download and links

  • Camino 2.1.2 can still be downloaded from the official website. It requires Mac OS X 10.4. If your Mac won’t go past Mac OS X 10.3.9 (Panther), you could try Camino 1.6.11.
  • You can download processor-specific optimised builds of Camino from this website. While you’re there, check the home page, and you’ll find optimised builds of Firefox, Thunderbird, and SeaMonkey for PPC Macs.
  • The Wikipedia page for Camino offers a good overview of its history, timeline, and version compatibility.
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6 thoughts on “The second-best browser for PPC Macs

  1. To Riccardo,
    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve got those browsers in my software archive and I always loved Camino.
    To James,
    Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it has no use or relevance. I’ve got a ti book 1ghz model in absolutely fab condition (all it needs is a new battery-current one does last but not as much as it should) It performs quite well for what is asked of it (office, occasional Internet) I just love sticking it to the insistence on the latest and greatest. Oddly enough, the same attitude (that’s out of date) was expressed to me at work (not to do with computers) but I stand by methods that still are effective even if they were created 25 years ago!

  2. Completely agree Rob! It’s an awesome machine and something I could not afford at the time so am super pleased. Got the original Install DVD from Macintosh Garden and after a clean install it’s been super speedy and will help me bridge a few gaps between OS9/X PowerPC/Intel. Give me an old TI over a MBP 2016 anyday for geek love factor. 🙂

  3. I simply loved Camino (and PimpMyCamino) and was really, really sad to see it gone … To me it was the best of both worlds … open development and great native interface.

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