Web browsers review and compare

Our browser showdown reveals performance winners.
 
Learn more
 
 
 
 
 

02.The contenders

google-chrome

Chrome

  • Google’s open source browser, released in late 2008. Chrome’s emphasis is on speed, simplicity and style, using layout themes and an uncluttered look.
  • Like Safari, Chrome uses the open source WebKit rendering engine originally developed as KHTML under Linux and later adopted by Apple. It borrows ideas from other open source projects and even from Firefox in a bid to bring the best features together in one browser. As of early December 2009 it also comes in beta versions for Linux and Mac.
  • Google has also opened Chrome to developers to create third-party extensions.
  • A notable feature is its stability – each tab works independently, so if one crashes, the others don’t go down with it. Another is the Omnibox – Chrome’s address bar that doubles as a search box. It also has an “incognito” mode for private browsing.
  • Chrome still doesn’t have a print preview feature.

firefoxFirefox

  • Ranks a distant second behind IE for market share.
  • Offers a high level of customisability due to third-party support for its extensible architecture, which lets you install add-on programs to give the browser extra capabilities. This helps keep Firefox relatively lean, but allows individual users to add specific features that they like.  
  • Firefox’s developer, Mozilla, claims more than 6000 free add-ons are available to choose from. Popular Firefox extensions include ad blockers, appearance enhancers, toolbars, video downloaders, social networking tools and security enhancers.
  • You can search for Firefox add-ons using the menu on the Firefox home page (www.firefox.com) or via Add-ons in the Tools menu. Many Firefox extensions also work in the SeaMonkey and Flock web browsers, which are also developed by Mozilla. Firefox 3.5 also includes a private browsing mode.
  • Mozilla claims Firefox 3.5 is more than twice as fast as Firefox 3, and 10 times as fast as Firefox 2, but our testing shows it still lags behind Chrome, Safari and Opera.

operaOpera

  • More of an internet suite than just a browser (particularly the latest version).
  • Gives you tools to do a wide range of tasks besides browsing. This includes: email, managing contacts, chatting on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) clients, downloading files via BitTorrent, and reading Web feeds.
  • Has its own widgets – small web applications that start from within Opera - and historically a trailblazer, leading the way with features that are now common on modern browsers including tabbed browsing, speed dial (web page previews for navigation) and mobile browsing.
  • Widely cross-platform - it even has versions for the Nintendo DS and Wii games consoles. Two unique features are mouse gestures and voice control. The latest version, 10.10, was released after we had finished testing, but is notable as it has several major improvements. These include Opera Unite, a platform for developers to include programs within the browser such as a web server, file and photo sharing, chat room hosting, and even media streaming.

safariSafari

  • Apple’s own browser is available for Mac OS X and for Windows, powered by the speedy WebKit engine and with mobile versions for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
  • Safari incorporates the look and feel of Mac OS X with the Cover Flow feature that lets you flip through pages of your browsing history and bookmarks and also includes tabbed browsing, page previews and private browsing.

internet-explorerInternet Explorer

  • With the Microsoft behemoth behind it, Internet Explorer is probably the baseline for web browsing.
  • Its massive market share means web developers have to take compatibility with IE into account when creating any website. Microsoft’s Mac version was discontinued several years ago, so IE is now made only for Windows. Like Chrome, the latest version of IE runs each tab as a separate process to boost stability and security and also features a secure mode for “private browsing”.

Did you know?

WorldWideWeb was the name of the first web browser, created by by British scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, in 1991. It was developed on and for the NeXTSTEP platform and later renamed Nexus to avoid confusion with the World Wide Web. Netscape Navigator hit the market three years later and quickly became the world’s most popular browser, accounting for 90% of all web use at its peak.
 

Sign up to our free
e-Newsletter

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

 
 
Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments