You really can't go wrong with any Web browser
choice these days. Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and
Safari, all are fast, standards compliant, and feature rich. A lot boils
down to what you're comfortable with and which features are most
important to you. For many people, the choice is moving to the product
offered their favorite search site. The last time we compared all five
major Web browsers Google Chrome had just over 12 percent of the market.
That's now doubled, and it looks like Chrome's market share will pass
But Chrome doesn't have a monopoly on unique
features or speed. Internet Explorer 9 brought Microsoft's fading
even started its own performance improving trend—graphics hardware
acceleration. Now Firefox and Chrome come along with their own graphics
hardware acceleration, and other browsers will surely follow. But IE
still offers some distinguishing points, most of which come from its
close integration with Windows 7. (IE 9 and up will only run on Windows 7
or Vista.) Pinned sites is a big one. This lets users keep a permanent
button for a site in the taskbar, which opens a browser with the site's
own branding, rather than IEs.
like to think the reason for this was my awarding Chrome the PCMag
Editors' Choice, but there are other possible good reasons for Chrome's
rise. Foremost among them is speed. Links to download the browser on the
leading search site, and bundles with PC makers doesn't hurt either.
But Chrome adds a few compelling features all its own: Chrome Instant
means you'll often see your page before you've even finished typing its
address or title. And it's the only browser with a built-in Flash player
and PDF reader.
many browsers offer ability to sync your bookmarks, settings, and
history Firefox offers perhaps the strongest, even syncing with its
mobile Android version. I've often been shocked to come home to a PC,
fire up the browser, and see the exact same group of tabs I'd left at
work. Speaking of Tabs, Firefox offers one of the most innovative way to
organize lots of tabs, with its Panorama tab-grouping feature. Lately,
Firefox has made progress in startup time and memory usage, longstanding
Perhaps the most innovative browser of all over the years has been
the Norwegian-made Opera. Opera introduce a good many of the standard
features we take for granted—built-in search, popup blocking, and even
tabs themselves. Recently, Amazon has taken a page from Opera by
emulating Opera Mini and Opera Turbo's Web caching speedup. Opera's bag
of tricks include Unite—which actually turns your browser into a Web
server, so that you can host your photos, or even a chat. Lately, the
Nordic company has added live tiles on its Speed Dial new-tab page, not
unlike those to be featured in Windows 8.
don't rule out Apple's Safari in your browser shopping. Though this
browser is mostly associated with Mac OS, the stylish tech company makes
a Windows version, too. Only Safari offers a Reader view, which lets
you focus on the text of publication styles sites. More recently,
Apple's added a Reading List feature, which saves sites you want to
peruse later. Safari also sports Apple's trademark design prowess,
particularly in its Top Sites gallery new-tab page and its Cover Flow
view of your history and bookmarks.
Other things you'll want to take into consideration when choosing a
browser include support for HTML5 and Privacy. Both of these are moving
targets, with Chrome leading the pack on the first and Internet Explorer
on the latter, with its Tracking Protection. In the reviews below,
you'll see appraisals of how each player performs in these areas, along
with several different types of speed tests and detailed feature
analyses. But remember, don't be afraid to try the browsers out for
yourself—they're all a free download away!
Google Chrome 15
Chrome Instant means your Web page is ready to read before you finish
typing the address. This, its speed, minimalist design, and advanced
support for HTML5 have deservedly been attracting more and more users to
the browser. New hardware acceleration makes Chrome a speed maven at
Firefox 4 got Mozilla back into the game, and the versions keep coming
at a much faster clip, now that Mozilla hews to a Chrome-like rapid
release schedule. These frequent versions haven't brought the kind of
earth-shattering changes we used to see in new full-number Firefox
updates, but the development teams have tackled issues of importance to a
lot of Web users—startup time, memory use, and of course security. This
lean, fast, customizable browser can hold its own against any
competitor, and it offers graphics hardware acceleration.
Internet Explorer 9
Microsoft's latest browser is faster, trimmer, more compliant with
HTML5—a major improvement over its predecessor. It also brings some
unique capabilities like tab-pinning and hardware acceleration, but only
Windows 7 and Vista users need apply.
Like the other current browsers Opera is fast, compliant with HTML5,
and spare of interface. Long an innovator, recently it's added unique
things like Unite, which turns the browser into a server, and Turbo,
which speeds up the Web on slow connections through caching. Extension
support actually followed other browsers, but Oslo still innovates with
tab stacking, visual mouse gestures, and live Speed Dial tiles.
Safari is a fast, beautiful browser, but the Reader view and Reading
List makes it even more enticing. Leading support for HTML 5 features
will also be important, but you can already get that in other browsers,
too. Safari's gorgeous styling, strong bookmarking, RSS reader, and
vivid new-tab page will also appeal to many.