Choose a Web Browser for Windows
Edited by Batkingnz, Eng, Maria Quinney, Doug Collins
Choosing a web browser might be something that most people don't even consider, many people end up using the standard browser on their computer or downloading the same one that they're using in the office. The facts are though, your web browser can alter your online experience and no two (or the three we will look at today) browsers are the same. They have different customizations, use your hardware differently and they all run at different speeds. If you're looking to find the best browser for your own needs, read on below.
Microsoft Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer is the default browser for everyone using a Windows PC. Compared to the other browsers we will look at today, Internet Explorer is the most established and according to statistics it is the second most popular browser in use today having lost first place to Google Chrome. Microsoft has made a big push in recent years to not only gain back market share but to address the problems that pushed users away from Internet Explorer in the first place.
- 1Reasons for Internet Explorer.
- The latest version has multiple touch based features including pinch gestures, hover touch and drag and drop touch support. This means that if you are using a touch based Windows 8 device there's really no better alternative than Internet Explorer.
- Strong HTML5 and Flash support.
- The latest version has sync across multiple devices. This means that your history, tabs, passwords and settings are available on any Windows 8 device that you're logged in to.
- In various benchmarking tests, Internet Explorer has the fastest page load times as well as the fastest start up times for the application itself.
- 2Reasons against Internet Explorer.
- Syncing across devices only works reliably in Windows 8 with Internet Explorer 11. If you're using other versions of the browser on other computers or you are using Windows phone, the browsers will not sync.
Google Chrome Browser
- 1Reasons for Google Chrome.
- Google services work best with Chrome. Google uses their own browser engine to load pages and as expected, Google's own products perform best inside this browser. So if you are using Google Docs, Gmail, Google Drive, Google Maps or any of the other services provided by Google then running this browser should be your first choice.
- Syncing your favorites, history, tabs and logins, unlike in Internet explorer, works across multiple devices. So as long as you are running chrome on those devices and log in with your Google account, you are good to go.
- 2Reasons against Chrome.
- Chrome loves to use your RAM. Of the three browsers we are looking at here, Chrome uses the most resources of all. In a test of 40 identical tabs open across the three browsers, Chrome used a whopping 1512MB compared to the best performer at just 768MB. Single tab use was also resource heavy with Chrome using 122MB to show a simple page compared to the 40MB that Internet Explorer used. If you don't have a lot of RAM in your computer and you need to work with a lot of tabs then the general speediness of Chrome could be negated by overtaxing your system resources and slowing down your whole PC.
- Google is an advertising company and uses anonymous data collection to target advertisements as well as build advertising profiles for future use. Although they're open about what they do and the data collection is limited, some users are adverse to this type of behavior and if you're one of them you might be better looking at another browser.
Mozilla Firefox was the first notable challenger to Microsoft's Internet Explorer in the early 00s, gaining over 100 million users in the first year it was released. Firefox is mostly open sourced software that developers can build on with extensions and customizations but this also means that the browser is open to security and performance issues. When it's running well though, Firefox is a fast and popular browser choice.
- 1Reasons for Firefox.
- Extensions and Customization. The sheer number of add-ons for Firefox make it a browser worth looking at. The various password managers, gesture control plugins and user themes make it the favorite browser of many power users.
- Memory usage is minimal. Firefox uses the least memory of any browser under multi-tab browsing stress tests and is second only to Internet Explorer in single tab performance.
- Extensions and Customization are a double sided blade. For inexperienced users running incorrect or poorly coded extensions and themes or add-ons the performance and experience using the browser could drop significantly.
- In page load tests Firefox is often the slowest browser. That's not to call this browser slow, it's just that the above two are faster. In real world use you might not notice the difference but running multiple tabs and running productivity web applications may show up the speed difference even for the casual user.
Now that you have all the information, you can see that the choice is not always simple. The different browsers have their pros and cons, but at the end of the day the difference might not be all that noticeable for general use. If you're using Windows 8, especially with a touch screen or Tablet, then Internet Explorer is your obvious choice, mostly for the compatibility and user experience with touch controls. With the other two browsers, we recommend trying out each of them and seeing if you find a preference. Nothing is to stop you installing all three and taking the time to form your own opinion, so why not get downloading right away?
Tips, Tricks & Warnings
- All of the above browsers are free, so there's really nothing stopping you from trying them all.
- Most computers outside of the EU are running some version of Internet Explorer, but it's best to check that you are running the latest version. Ensure that you have checked for Windows Updates which will notify you of a new Internet Explorer version. Or you can go straight to this site to download the latest version.
- Browser performance varies based on the hardware that you are running. Just because you have the latest, fastest version of Internet Explorer running, it doesn't mean, as an example, that a 5 year old PC will suddenly get a new lease on life. Be realistic about your expectations from the browser, especially on older equipment.