Best Web browser? Google's Chrome beats Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer

Apr 07, 2011 By Mark W. Smith

There is no computer program used as often as a Web browser. Yet too many users never give the browser any thought, spending years with the default program installed on a once-new computer.

But users have options, some of which could open up the Web in a whole new way.

Each browser has its own list of features and some run faster than others, making the choice paramount to any frequent surfer.

It's a competitive time in the browser field, too, with both Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla's releasing new versions in the past few weeks.

So, with these two new top contenders, there hasn't been a better time to take a step back and decide which browser is best for you and your computer.

We'll help you out by taking a look at the top four browsers on the Web.

INTERNET EXPLORER 9

The Web's most used - and most beleaguered - browser sees a huge upgrade with Internet Explorer 9.

Long derided for being slow and clunky, IE 9 comes with a new, sleeker look and superfast performance.

And, in the most welcome change, IE 9 takes a design cue from Google Chrome that helps the browser fade into the background a bit. The new browser nests open tabs next to the address bar, so there is less wasted space.

Overall, I was pleasantly stunned by IE 9. It's been years since IE was worth anything but scorn, but this is definitely worth a look.

A wide adoption of IE 9 will be slowed considerably by its requirement of either Windows 7 or Vista, which many Web browsers don't have.

MOZILLA FIREFOX 4

Mozilla Firefox has long been the burgeoning underdog of Web browsers. But it's grown steadily, chipping away at IE's monster market share.

On its way, it built a loyal following of devotees, eager to shed the weight common in IE - the default browser installed on Windows PCs.

Much of the power of the Firefox browser lies in the add-ons available from third-party developers. These can allow users to do things like block Web ads, download videos from websites or integrate social media sites into their browsing.

Firefox 4 brings a new feature called app tabs that allow users to pin frequently visited sites - email, Facebook, etc. - to the top left of the browser so they're always available.

It also brings Firefox Sync, which allows users to keep bookmarks and Web history the same across machines.

GOOGLE CHROME 10

Just more than 2 years old, Google Chrome is the new kid on the block.

But it has seen its climb steadily to more than 17 percent in those two years, taking users from IE and Firefox along the way.

Chrome's power is in its simplicity. The browser window itself carries very little weight, with just enough room for the address bar and your tabs.

It introduced the time-saving Omnibox, which merges the search and address bar into one box. Just type in a Google search or full Web address and the browser will know what you're doing.

Chrome also allows users to sync bookmarks across computers.

APPLE SAFARI 5

Until 2003, Apple computers relied on Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the default browser. But then Apple decided to make one if its own.

The Safari browser was Mac-only at launch, but a Windows version was released in 2007, opening it up to the largest chunk of the computing world.

Safari's hallmark is its brushed aluminum finish and it includes a nice looking home screen that shows your most-visited sites in a thumbnail gallery.

Safari 5 includes a feature called Safari Reader that simplifies the view of any article to strip out content like ads.

Safari, though, lacks a must-have feature to give Chrome or Firefox users a reason to check it out.

SPEED TESTS

My speed tests were completed on a 64-bit Dell Latitude E6410 laptop with a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 8 GB of RAM running Windows 7.

For the first test, I used Peacemaker, a popular Web benchmarking tool that runs browsers through a series of automated tasks and grades them on their speed.

The Peacekeeper test doesn't depend on your Internet connection speed; it just measures how fast the browser performs certain tasks.

The clear winner here was Google Chrome 10, which scored 8,738 points - a figure that only serves to compare it against other browsers on the same machine.

The other three browsers had similar, but smaller scores with Firefox 4 at 4,973, IE 9 at 4,897 and Safari 5 at 4,652.

I also ran the browsers through the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark - another Web tool to measure browser speed that uses a different set of tasks.

Here, IE 9 was the winner, completing the test in 179.8 milliseconds. The other three browsers were close behind, but Safari finished last at 285.6 milliseconds.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Each browser has its own quirks and download-worthy features.

For your default browser, there isn't a better option than Chrome. With its speed and simplicity, Chrome is the best at fading away - the true test of a great browser.

But picking a browser doesn't mean you can't have several at your disposal. If a website doesn't load correctly in one, a switch to another will often fix the issue.

Take the time now to pick a faster browser. And spend those new milliseconds wisely.

THE TOP BROWSERS

- Microsoft 9

Key features: Streamlined look, faster performance and HTML5 support

System requirements: PC running Microsoft 7 or Vista

To download: beautyoftheweb.com

- Mozilla Firefox 4

Key features: New app tabs, new tab grouping feature and Firefox Sync integration

System requirements: PC running Windows 2000 or later; Mac running OS 10.5 or later

To download: mozilla.com

- 10

Key features: Simple look, Omnibox, bookmark syncing

System requirements: PC running Windows XP or later; Mac running OS 10.5.6 or later

To download: .com/chrome

- Apple Safari 5

Key features: Reader, most-visited sites gallery and HTML5 support

System requirements: PC running Windows XP or later; Mac running OS 10.5.8 or later

To download: apple.com/safari

Explore further: You don't need a fast car to rob a bank any more, just malware

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User comments : 7

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epsi00
not rated yet Apr 07, 2011
Well, Microsoft uses IE9 to sell you versions of windows that we have no use for. They are back at imposing conditions on what a user can or cannot do with their products. Before IE was part of of the windows operating system and now they want to go back to that era by preventing IE9 from being backward compatible with their own older versions of windows!!

A combination of Chrome and Firefox gives the user anything he/she wants.
tigger
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
Chrome wins hands down and has for a while now... even die hard Firefox users (some bordering on a 'Fanboi' irrational mentality) are waking up to it. Chrome is the second thing I install when people ask me to fix their PC's that are 'running slow'... right after Avast! antivirus and a boot time scan... with those two simple changes most problems are sorted.
Beard
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
I only have a tab and address bar visible in Firefox 4 as well.
Bob_Kob
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
Its funny to see firefox and IE copy chromes' tabs
Joe_Ney
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
Any info on the Opera browser?
frajo
not rated yet Apr 08, 2011
For your default browser, there isn't a better option than Chrome
An imprecise wording. The author wrongly assumes that all his readers are using OSs which are Chrome-enabled.
atomic1fire
not rated yet Apr 09, 2011
You can't expect microsoft to support every dated OS that it makes.
If you want to make the arguement about not supporting XP, fine.
but eventually it's going to be another 98/95, so I would much rather they devote full resources in making a better browser, then make some crappy ports that won't look right because the last browser that was really tailor made for XP was IE6.
IE7 had the vista glossy buttons, same with IE8, and they looked much better with the transparency.
IE9 is almost completely glossy, and trying to stare at that from Windows xp's Bland gui would just kill the look of the browser.
the fact that the browser uses newer API's means that microsoft isn't going to backport everything just to support someone who will eventually have to buy a new computer anyway.
Firefox and google chrome can't support XP forever either.
to do so would be a waste of resources because eventually the numbers will dwindle down enough that there won't be any point.