With Microsoft officially releasing Internet Explorer 9 tonight, Firefox 4 in release candidate stage, and Google Chrome recently updated to version 10, there’s never been a better time to surf the web. The latest versions of the big three desktop browsers provide speedy page rendering, support for the latest web standards, hardware acceleration, and unique features such as pinnable sites or cloud printing.
With so many features, the choice of which browser to use can be overwhelming. Fortunately, we’ve installed all three contenders through a no-hold-barred face-off to see which one deserves to be your default browser.
With the relatively low 1366 x 768 now the most common screen resolution on notebooks, every vertical pixel really counts. So the more screen real estate your browser toolbars take up, the less space for your web pages. fWhile Google recognized this need from the start, with Firefox 4 and IE 9, Microsoft and Mozilla have trimmed down their browser UIs as well. In fact, with its default settings, Internet Explorer 9 is now the most space-efficient browser on the market.
As you can see in the side-by-side image below, IE 9 uses just 54 pixels of vertical real estate, Chrome 10 uses 61, and Firefox 4 uses 64. While a delta of 7 to 10 pixels may not seem like much, it actually results in another line of text being visible above the fold and every line counts.
Of course, if you want to see more menus in any of these browsers, you can. In Firefox and IE 9, you can active traditional menu bars with File, View, Tools, and Bookmarks menus. In IE 9, you can also opt to put the list of tabs on their own line instead of in their default position next to the address bar. In Chrome, there’s no menu bar, but you can show a bar of bookmarks.
One drawback to having a thinner UI is less room for theming and user customization. IE 9 doesn’t have a theme gallery, though sites you pin to your taskbar can modify the colors of the buttons and insert their logos.
Chrome 10 allows for plenty of custom themes as shown in the screen shot below, but it doesn’t provide a good theme manager, only allowing you to switch off the current theme and return to the default look.
Firefox 4 has thousands of personas you can choose from and, in fact, has an entire site devoted to them at getpersonas.com. Better still, it Firefox gives you a persona management panel so you can switch between any number of personas you’ve installed.
Winner: Firefox 4. Although IE 9 lets you see just a little more of your web pages, Firefox has the best looking, most-customizable interface.
Application Open Time
There are few things more annoying than waiting for programs to load, particularly when that program is your web browser. Whether you need to check your work e-mail or post an update on Twitter, every second counts. So, with that in mind, we timed the application open times for all three browsers on our ASUS U36Jc 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||Cold Open (sec)||Warm Open (sec)|
As you can see, Chrome 10 blew away the competition, opening about twice as fast as IE 9 and even faster when compared to Firefox.
Winner: Chrome 10. IE 9 comes in second.
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