There was a time when people never cared about which browser they were using, let alone wondered if they had made the right choice. The best web browser used to be the one that worked.
But those days are long gone.
Best Web Browsers - Quicklinks
The already competitive market for web browsers went up a notch last year, with several significant changes from the big players like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. The smaller ones also made some impressive moves, as each piece of software vied for your attention.
Result? You now have a whole range of highly capable web browsers for Windows, and desktop users have several different choices — each with its strengths and weaknesses. Some are rich in features, while others steadfast in protecting your privacy.
We take a look at the 10 of the most popular ones and see which web browser is the best for you.
Fact is, there’s no clear winner here, no one size fits all solution. Unlike operating systems, which are idle between the handful of big camps like Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Linux, the world of web browsers is dynamically different.
Online users are now a more discerning and adventurous bunch.
Yes, some folks don’t give much thought to which browser they use, they pick and stick with one, or just use the default one on their system. But many are eager to try new software, and not afraid of making the switch to get the optimum online experience.
This past year was perhaps the clearest example of this.
Chrome may seem like the apparent champion, but that didn’t stop Firefox from rising from the ashes. More than 170 million people installed and tried its revamped Quantum version. Then you have the constant improvements that Microsoft rolls out for Edge, its default Windows 10 web browser.
And that’s not even mentioning the new and innovative browsers like Vivaldi and Brave, with their delightfully smart tools that come built into the programs. Choices like these are ideal for savvy web users, and these browsers are steadily gaining market share, each passing month.
All that said, let’s see what finest web browsers you can get your hands on right now are. Particular emphasis on recent enhancements that these companies rolled out last year, so you can get an idea of how your potential choice is improving.
Ease of Use
Maxthon Cloud Browser
Let’s start with the elephant in the room — both literal and proverbial. Simplicity has always been the strength of this Google creation, and the newer versions of Chrome take this to the next level. Rather than overloading it with all kinds of bells and whistles, you get to choose what to install.
Which is to say, most of the magic is available in the vast Chrome Web Store, which houses everything from extensions to themes. This reliance on third-party add-ons have made the browser itself less innovative in recent past, though, and the rapid release cycle only brings along minor changes.
That’s not to take anything away from many of the useful built-in tools that Google has baked into Chrome like a form filler, password manager, and spellchecker. These combined with features like voice control and automated translation give you one highly productive application.
Chrome also offers top performance and is the fastest browser on the list. It remains a memory hog, though, with its separate background process for each tab resulting in the voracious devouring of your RAM. Due to this, Chrome is also not as stable as other browsers due to pages hanging and crashing.
All things considered, this still is a web browser that is at the forefront of web technologies. Look beyond the privacy and memory issues, and Chrome is a program that will be entirely at ease in all your online adventures, even if other web browsers offer extra features.
Firefox reborn. The Quantum version of Firefox was perhaps the most significant story in the world of web browsers in 2017, and it was a rightly earned one too. To say that this new release is an improvement over the previous one is the understatement of the year.
Quantum makes use of a new CSS engine and runs on multiple processor cores. The former reduces memory and battery usage, and the latter helps load pages faster. Expect up to 30% improvements on the first front, while snappier page loads are also very much noticeable to the naked eye.
In addition to that, there are several tweak and tools scattered around that amp up the experience. For example, the tab you are working on is top priority over background tabs; there’s smoother video playback, the handy screenshot tool is excellent, as is the unified address and search bar.
Mozilla is also peddling the new WebExtensions, which are more secure. Though sadly, many of the legacy extensions have not made the transition, and no longer load. It is a bit of a dampen for longtime users of Firefox, mainly power users that rely on their favorite extensions.
And while Firefox is no longer the leader when it comes to privacy protection, you at least have Tracking Protection enabled by default. The rest can be handled by extensions, many of which help you stay safe online. Firefox is back, and it’s better than ever!
Microsoft Edge is the successor to Internet Explorer, and sadly, this new web browser is still as maligned as the one it has replaced. That’s because with IE you at least got something that felt complete. Edge, on the other hand, still seems like a work in progress. And an unexciting one, at that.
There’s a reason that is nearing three years on the market; Edge is no closer to toppling Firefox, let alone Chrome. It still is a perfectly reasonable browser, with many exciting built-in tools that rivals only offer as add-ons. But being the new kid on the block comes with its disadvantages, and there are several here.
For starters, the first year saw Edge hampered by a lack of extensions. Microsoft now lists more than 80 useful free tools for its browser, including some popular ad blockers, privacy protectors, password managers, and shopping assistants. A small amount, but it at least makes switching easier.
Things are also on the up when it comes to the built-in functionalities that Microsoft has baked into Edge. You get some excellent ebook reading capabilities, as well as the ability to add notes to web pages, a reading view, an option to save articles for reading later and converting pages into live tiles.
In fact, its integration with Windows 10 and Cortana is one of the biggest strengths. But that does nothing to alleviate slow performance, sluggish and cumbersome user interface, and glaring omissions like a full-screen mode, searching history for a specific website, or even saving a page as HTML.
Many consider Vivaldi to be bright new hope for the browser world, and they are not wrong. While most modern web browsers go for the Chrome philosophy, Vivaldi takes inspiration from Opera. No surprises here, as the co-founder of Opera has created it.
Now, while the default interface of Vivaldi is not earth-shattering in its originality, a deep dive reveals a whole range of smart features and customization options that set this new web browser apart. Plenty of neat tricks are available too that help you save time while you are browsing the web.
Upon the first start, Vivaldi asks you to choose from six attractive themes, pick a background wallpaper, and set the position of your tab bar. You can then display web pages in handy little pullout panels, navigate using mouse gestures, capture screenshots, annotate, and group them into stacks.
Customization is perhaps the most significant strength of this new browser, as Vivaldi lets you create your keyboard shortcuts, as well as add more search engines. You also get effective control over your privacy, including a handy little option to clear all your private data in one go.
No complaints regarding speed, and website rendering. Worth a mention that Vivaldi does not yet have its extension site, meaning you will have to make do with the Chrome Web Store to install the addons. They work perfectly fine, however, in what is one of the best browsers available right now.
One of the biggest mysteries of the online world is why Opera does not have a more significant user base, despite being on the market for some 22 years. On its best day, it just claimed a 6% slice of the browser market. This, despite having, what many consider, the most innovative package.
Fact is that Opera has introduced more innovations than pretty much all other browsers. Case in point, version 50 of the program comes packed with several useful tools bundled right in. For example, an ad blocker, screenshot capture, a power-saving mode for laptop users, even a pop-out video player.
And then there’s that handy sidebar for chatting with friends on Facebook and WhatsApp. Not to mention the free VPN that you get, which not only spoofs your IP address but also encrypts your data to keep you safe and anonymous on the web. It’s amazing what you get for free!
No other web browser comes close to offering this feature set. Same goes for extensions support, which is practically the best on the market. Not only can you use add-ons designed for Opera, but it is also possible to install Chrome extensions. Technically, this makes it the number one in this regard.
Where it falters a bit is that its user interface feels a tad dated. Old school, if you will. The various options are not here, and getting around is a little confusing. Then again, the fact that it consumes less memory than both Chrome and Firefox is only the icing on a very delicious cake. Try Opera.
Tor needs no introduction. Not for people that are concerned about their privacy, at least. The Tor network is for folks that want to stay relatively anonymous on the internet, and we can say same of the Tor Browser.
This lightweight program is the tool that you want to use if you're going to lurk in the shadows, and don’t want government agencies, social sites, advertisers, cybercriminals, hackers, and identity thieves to follow your every move.
The Tor Browser offers reliable protection via two powerful security tools that come preinstalled —NoScript and HTTPS Everywhere. It also routes your web traffic through a series of nodes to conceal your IP address and location. Nodes being servers and computers connected to the internet.
The base of its design is on Firefox 52, which is apparently a version before the Quantum update to that browser. This means that Tor Browser will feel instantly familiar to those that have used Firefox before. It also uses the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo search engine, which does not track your searches or targets you with ads.
The downside of this emphasis on privacy is that the Tor Browser is noticeably slower than other browsers when you have all its security settings turned on. Luckily, it is possible to whitelist your trusted websites. Still, be prepared for slower page load times when using this one.
Brave is the creation of a former Mozilla CEO, who has designed this browser with a focus to keep you safe online. It is one of the most accessible browsers to use, and though not high on flexibility and customizability, its privacy and security features are second to none. Same goes for its overall speed.
First things first, this is a program that prefers to keep things compact and have the various settings locked down. The idea is to prevent slowdowns, as a light footprint ensures that the focus remains on fast and secure web browsing.
This lack of add-ons helps with usage, and keep things running breezily. But you do get nine preselected tools, including four different password managers. There’s also a torrent client packed in, as is a discount finder for those that like to hunt for bargains online.
But the most notable highlight of Brave is its powerful shield that automatically blocks all ads, cookies, and scripts that compromise your privacy and security. It also directs you to secure versions of websites, whenever available.
The browser also displays statistics for content that it blocks on your New Tab page, which also shows your photos, and shortcuts to your favorite sites. Easy to use, with a streamlined user interface, Brave does things differently and goes where few others dare to venture.
One of the more popular names in the browser world, Maxthon Cloud Browser is a program that not many have heard. Chances are that if you’re not one of its 670 million users, this may be your first introduction.
Its country of origin is China, which explains its massive user base and limited recognition outside the region. This is a browser that is available for both desktop and mobile, and people mostly use it on smartphones and tablets.
Still, the desktop version for Windows is packed with a number of innovative features that are not available elsewhere — including more than 800 extensions. That said, it’s in the native feature set that makes the Maxthon Web Browser shine and stands out from the competition.
Notable tools include a built-in ad blocker, cloud sync across the device, a screen capture utility, a video downloader, customizable skins, a night mode to protect your eyes, a password manager, a note-taking solution, as well as a virtual mailbox. Amazing, really.
All this means that you don’t get the simplicity of other browsers like Chrome or Firefox, but if you’re in for the bells and whistles, Maxthon doesn’t disappoint. It will take a while to delve into its various menus and settings, however. But once you’re comfortable, it’s smooth sailing from there on.
If your idea of epic is an extra-vigilant approach to privacy, then Epic Browser brings it. On most web browsers you’ll need to install and deploy several add-ons to avoid being tracked online. Epic, however, offers a lot of this functionality built-in.
This is a browser that is based on Chromium, similar to Chrome. But it has been custom-designed with some useful privacy features that go a long way towards offering a safer browsing experience — no matter your usage habits on the web.
Epic does all it can to ensure that whatever you do online remains private. This, it accomplishes by blocking all tracking, including third-party cookies and ads. It also redirects your searches through a proxy server, so that no one can see what you are looking.
Additionally, the browser also hides your IP address, and always uses an encrypted connection whenever possible. Epic Browser also goes the distance by automatically clearing your browsing data at the end of each session — an extreme measure, some may say, but necessary.
Do note that this browser occasionally has some issues with loading pages accurately. It also limits you to seven secure add-ons, meaning you can’t install your favorite extension. If you can live with its dull design, and lack of customization and personalization options, this one may be worth a look.
Pale Moon has long been a fan-favorite, but things have not been going too well for this one. Initially, based on Firefox, this web browser has taken a different route lately in its quest to maintain features that Mozilla opted to drop over the years. This made it a safe place for these Firefox users.
Of course, it also brought along several new additions and enhancements of its own. Including a customizable Start Page that displayed all manner of widgets for your favorite websites, services, and RSS feeds.
Same goes for the sync option that encrypts your data before uploading it to the web. Likewise, instead of Google or Bing, Pale Moon came with DuckDuckGo as the default search engine. Not to mention, an active and vibrant community with a forum for all kinds of discussions and tips.
That said, while this is still a competent web browser, high on customization potential and excellent ease of use, it has started to falter when it comes to performance and overall feature set. Many modern web browsers like Chrome, Vivaldi, and, of course, Firefox Quantum, has it beat these days.
To complicate matters further, Mozilla switching to the WebExtensions format means that the thousands of classic add-ons that were available on Firefox no longer work on Pale Moon. The browser does offer its extensions, themes, and search plugins, but it’s not quite that.
Luckily, the lead developer of Pale Moon hopes to address the extensions problem later this year. At the end of the day, Pale Moon is still an attractive browser if you like a lot of customization and personalization. It’s what Firefox could have been, had it stayed its path.