With so many features, the choice of which browser to use can be overwhelming. Fortunately, i’ve installed all three contenders to see which one deserves to be our default browser.
Installation & Updates
IE9 is still the most difficult of the three browsers to install, requiring massive download and full system restart to get it running. This is likely due to its reported use of hardware acceleration and other features. Chrome and Firefox both install relatively quickly and without a full machine reboot. If you’re a Windows, Mac, or Linux user, Chrome and Firefox are your best browser ever made. IE9 does not currently support any operating systems except Windows 7 and Vista.
All three browser keep on-screen “chrome” lookalike to be as minimum appearance as possible. Chrome is stripped back to the point of near invisibility, and Firefox 4 is the damn prettiest Firefox ever. After years of brick and block ugliness the new UI is a vast improvement, and this refined version is starting to grow on us.
Most of the browsers are compatible with Web standards, but how do they rank in speed? A casual user probably won’t notice a difference in the Web page rendering speed of Chrome 10, IE9, and Firefox 4. So, keep in mind that I timed the application open times for all three browsers on our DELL Inspiron and its 5,400 rpm hard drive.
Tests were conducted for both cold opens (first time opened after boot up) and warm opens (application in memory). The average results were as follows:
|Browser||website Open (sec)||Youtube Open (sec)|
As you can see, Firefox and Chrome are generally neck and neck in everyday performance, and IE9 lags narrowly behind. All three browsers are HTML5 friendly, but they support different video formats: Chrome and Firefox are playing WebM here while IE9 gets H.264.
Firefox has the edge here, its pinnable App Tabs tuck away opened tabs such as email and web apps, while Tab Groups make it easy to organise large collections of open pages. Firefox 4 also boasts some excellent synchronisation features. It doesn’t just sync your bookmarks across devices; it takes your history and even your currently open tabs. If you’re constantly moving from machine to machine you’ll love this feature.
Chrome has synchronisation too, but it doesn’t extend to open tabs. However, There’s also a Chrome-style new tab page and Chrome-style searching in the address bar. IE9 doesn’t have syncing at all, but it does enable you to pin sites to the Windows 7 taskbar as if they were applications and drag a tab out to Snap it for viewing side by side with another.
Chrome still probably offers the fastest and leanest overall browsing experience, but IE9 and Firefox 4 have narrowed its lead significantly, each offering new features that many users will find helpful and time-saving.
On paper Chrome and IE beats Mozilla’s browser, but in practice the differences are insignificant. However, Chrome’s ability to split tabs into individual processes should make it the more stable although at the time of writing there seems to be a horrible bug in its handling of Flash.
Still, Firefox’s Tab Groups and App Tabs are brilliant. If you use a lot of tabs and need lots of extensions then Firefox is the browser for you. But if you’re spending all day in a few web apps and your need for add-ons begins and ends with ad-blocking, then Google is your friend.