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The best web browser of 2015: Firefox, Chrome, Edge, IE, and Opera compared

Mark Hachman | Aug. 24, 2015
We put the screws to all five modern browsers, testing them in all manner of scenarios. If you're looking for a fast, efficient, convenient browser, we've found two that we think you'll like.

It’s also interesting that, more and more, browsers are moving away from the concept of a “homepage” in favor of something like Edge or Opera, where the browser opens to an index page, with news and information curated by the browser company itself. But you still have options to set your own homepage in Chrome, Edge, and Firefox.

Honestly, all of the browsers we tested were relatively easy to set up and install, with features to import bookmarks and settings either from other browsers or other installations. You may have your own preferences, but it’s a relative dead heat.

Going beyond the web

Modern browsers, however, go beyond merely surfing the web. Most come with a number of intangible benefits that you might not know about.

Perhaps you’d like your browser to serve as a BitTorrent client, for example. In the early days, you’d need to download a separate, specific program for that. Today, those capabilities can be added via plugins or addons—which most browsers offer, but not Edge, yet. (This can be more than a convenience; Edge will store your passwords, but not in an encrypted password manager like LastPass.)

If there’s one reason to use Firefox, it’s because of the plugin capability. Mozilla has a site entirely dedicated to plugins, and they’re organized by type and popularity. Installing a plugin is as easy as clicking through a couple of notifications, then restarting your browser. And given the market share of Chrome—and the plugin popularity of Firefox—you’ll find developers who will focus on those two first. A good example is OneTab, which transforms all of your open tabs into a text-based list, dramatically cutting your browser’s memory consumption. Note that the more plugins you add and enable, the more memory and CPU power your browser will consume.

Opera doesn’t appear to have nearly the number of available plugins that Firefox does, but it does have a unique twist: a “sidebar” along the left hand side that can be used for widgets, like a calculator or even your Twitter feed. Opera is also extensible via wallpaper-like themes, but they’re far less impressive.

But you’ll also notice browsers adding more and more functionality right in the app itself. Firefox includes a Firefox-to-Firefox video conferencing service called Firefox Hello that works right in your browser, and you can save webpages to a Pocket service for later reading. And this is where Edge shines—its digital assistant, Cortana, is built right in, and there are Reading View options and a service to mark up webpages, called Web Notes. Cortana does an excellent job supplying context, and it’s certainly one of the reasons to give Edge a try.

 

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