Web browsers review and compare

Our browser showdown reveals performance winners.
 
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04.What to look for

Speed is important. Slow browsing will turn the worldwide web into the worldwide wait. All the browsers tested claim to render at lightning speed, but our testing shows Google Chrome and Apple Safari are neck and neck but streets ahead of the competition. 

Expandability is one reason browsers gain loyal users. The ability to personalise the look and feel of your browser and add extra abilities via themes or skins, add-ons and plug-ins can make it more attractive and easier to use and a lot more functional. Note, however, that loading up any browser with add-ons will likely slow it down, so exercise restraint and use only the ones you really want.

Shortcuts built into the browser can add up to big time savings over the course of a web surfing session. One of the simplest is Tabs, which let you open multiple sites in one browser window, reducing time and window clutter. Likewise for easily accessible thumbnails of websites you visit frequently, such as Opera’s Speed Dial, Safari’s Top Sites and Chrome’s Thumbnails. Both Opera and Chrome have a timesaving paste-and-go feature option which helps navigate quickly to new links with a single click. Some browsers, including Chrome, Firefox and Opera, also give you the option to automatically open previously opened web pages when the browser launches.

Security is vital because browsers are some of the most used PC programs, and are big targets for malware makers. Most browsers have built-in security features ranging from ad blocking to anti-phishing but it’s important to check the security settings of each browser you use.
Some browsers have a privacy mode that clears your tracks from the PC you use, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re browsing anonymously. Without specially configured tools, browsing still leaves tracks on the internet. It’s important to still exercise caution when browsing and to keep your browser up to date. Updates often include patches that fix security vulnerabilities.

Top tip

For information on the web browser you’re using, along with hints, tips and tests, go to the whatbrowser site.

Dictionary

  • HTTP HyperText Transfer Protocol, the language used to format and display web pages.
  • IP address The identification number for a computer or device on a TCP/IP network.
  • JavaScript An object-oriented scripting language often used to add interactivity to web pages. 
  • Plug-ins help your browser perform specific functions like viewing special graphic formats or playing multimedia files. Plug-ins are slightly different from extensions, which modify or add to existing functionality.
 

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