Google Earth 5.1 was released this week (download here). Thanks to feedback from many GEB readers, and my finally having a chance to really fly Google Earth 5.1 for a while this morning, I’ve got a few observations to make about the latest release:
Speed Improvements – As Google stated in their announcement post, 5.1 really does have some speed enhancements. The loading time is much improved, and the graphics performance is also much better. I did some tests on both Windows XP and Mac OS X (Snow Leopard). GE 5.1 was much more likely to hold faster frame rates while moving over the Earth than previous versions. Alex Chitu at Google Operating System did some speed measurements that also supports these points. On my MacBook Pro, the speed improvements seem much more dramatic. If you love the GE flight simulator, these performance enhancements really make a big difference. The flight simulator is even more smooth and fun to fly than ever. In general, I think the speed enhancements are quite dramatic considering the many previous speed improvements Google has made in the past 4 years.
MacBook Pro with Anti-aliasing – for the first time on my 1.5 year-old MacBook Pro, Google Earth has anti-aliasing working! This may be due to the upgrade of the OS to Snow Leopard. But, I’m really glad to see Google Earth without the jaggies. It makes the views – particularly with 3D scenes – look so much better. Now I won’t have to switch to Windows to take 3D screenshots!
Bug fixes – Lots of reports from readers about fixes to various bugs in 5.1 verses 5.0. Probably the most popular is that viewing Panoramio photos is much better on the Mac thanks to a bug fix. But, many other issues have been fixed as well. Of course, new problems are already being found as well. But, this is the first beta release for 5.1, expect an update to address the worst problems in the coming weeks or days.