Google Earth 5.1 Really Improved

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.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Being a long time GE user, the first experience of 5.1 was fantastic. Google avertised improved launc times – my experience beat even that – the application now launches instantly on even an old T40 laptop. The usage feels so light, wherever I go or at whatever angle I view things – they are just there, with much improved loading times.
    Best to describe the experience is to compare it to viewing a printout – its just that fast at least for me. Well done once more!

  2. I’m wondering if GE 5.1 is one of the first apps to take advantage of Snow Leopard’s Grand Central Dispatch or OpenCL? If the latter, performance may be optimized in new Macs with newer graphics cards running Snow Leopard.

  3. After a few hours of toying with the new version, I honestly fail to see any noticeable improvement besides the slightly faster startup. I am however appalled at Google still not being able/willing to fix what is IMO the most glaring omission and my #1 annoyance: Panoramio and Wikipedia links opening in IE and not in the default browser. When checking the option “open links in external browser”, it would seem common courtesy for the program to use the default browser or, if not, to ask which one to use. :/

  4. @Potato
    Things opens in my default browser (Chrome).

  5. Unfortunatly the imagery quality has declined. (And I still don’t notice any improvements in terms of speed.)

  6. Not sure if this is just my installation but it seems like picasa does not recognize the new version of google earth. I can no longer geotag 🙁 Picasa just tells me to download google earth, even though I have it!?

  7. I wish I had not updated – Picasa 3 now insists that I need to install Google Earth before using the geotagging features.
    Despite uninstalls/reinstalls of both prog’s the problem remains.
    Improvements – not for me!

  8. Hey!
    There is 3d gray buildings on all Mexico Df (mexico city)

  9. The ocean looks mottled with different colors when viewed close up. It’s terrible. Crispness is totally gone. The imagery in “Sky” is even worse. I assume these are the “bugs” that will be fixed in the coming weeks?

  10. Roger Harris says:

    Picasa 3.1.0 (Build 71.43 ,0) no longer recognizes GE 5.1.3506.3999 (beta), nor does Garmin Mapsource 6.15.6 recognize it. That makes Google Earth useless to me. Hope it gets fixed soon. How do I go back to a previous version of GE that works?

  11. @Potato – are you sure IE hasn’t silently taken over, ie. made itself the default browser? For being absolutely sure, I tested, putting IE, FF, Chrome as default browsers and the Panoramio links opened in whatever browser was set as default.

  12. @ Eric, Aulo – thanks for your input!
    I checked and tested many times – whichever browser is set as default, GE will only ever open links in IE. It’s been that way since day 1 and no amount of tinkering has ever helped. I’m surprised you guys don’t have this problem. Lucky you!
    I see many complaints similar to mine have been made on internet forums, but none of the proposed solutions has ever worked for me. :/

  13. gil gerhardt says:

    Help. G earth working for ages on my Macbook Pro just stopped. It opens briefly then vanishes. I’ve tried nearly all of the Apple, Google and forum fixes without success. Uninstalled and installed 5.1 updated version of GE too many times to count. Thought I had a fix when loaded on the hdd but when I moved the icon to desktop poof back to the old disappearing act. Running Panther happily. Any suggestions?

  14. I still can’t see my holiday house in Ubatuba, Brazil. Still missing some pieces of the map…

  15. I heard about a story that Google hide propositally some militar areas, principally the american ones around the world. Is it true?

  16. Hey Duck, it’s true! I know a militar base in Sardegna, Italy that’s not showed by Google! They call it “Passeggini Trio” and I don’t know why, don’t ask me! The USA gov has forbbidden for security reasons!

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.