Speed and privacy are two of the main considerations that will guide you when choosing a browser
Choosing your browser will make a big difference in the way you experience the Internet, and if it’s been several years since you last tried a new one, you might be surprised at the impact it can have.
Speed and privacy are two of the main considerations that will guide you when choosing a browser; some require more resources from your system, while others are relatively lightweight, and some offer complete sets of security tools to protect your online identity, while others allow cookies and ads to run unhindered.
It is very close, but we believe that Firefox is the best browser that you can download today. It is not without flaws, but developer Mozilla is committed to backing up the privacy of its users and developing tools to prevent third parties from tracking you on the web.
The new Chromium-based Edge comes in second. It supports the same browser extensions as Google Chrome, but it is noticeably less RAM, allowing for faster performance.
However, these are far from the only options, and there are many reasons to look beyond the biggest names to more niche browsers. Read on for our complete guide and discover the best one for you.
The best browsers at a glance:
1. Mozilla Firefox
The best browser for advanced users and privacy protection.
- Incredibly flexible
- Cross-platform sync
- Good privacy protection
- A little slower than its rivals.
Firefox has long been the Swiss Army Knife of the Internet and our favorite browser. Version 72 is particularly good: It can alert you if your email address is included in a known data breach, block those annoying permission notification pop-up windows, block browser tracking of “fingerprints” and bring your image in mode video to Mac version. As before, it is infinitely customizable both in terms of its appearance and the range of extensions and plugins you can use. Last year’s review dramatically improved its performance, which was starting to lag behind Chrome, and it’s smooth and solid even on fairly modest hardware.
As much as we love Firefox, right now it is still our favorite browser, we are concerned about its future. 2019 was not a great year for Mozilla, with a further major crisis in May that Peter Saint-Andre and Matthew Miller claimed: “was the result of having a complex set of systems that were not well understood by the relevant teams.” The lack of in-house QA teams was also highlighted (much of Mozilla’s QC is outsourced) and, in early 2020, QA leaders were fired in a round of layoffs. Mozilla is struggling to earn an income, so if you value Firefox you can visit donate.mozilla.org to help secure your future.
2. Microsoft Edge
A really cool browser from the old browser baddies
- Very very fast
- Crystal clear privacy tools
- You can save sites as apps
- Windows really want it to be the default
Older readers will remember Microsoft as the villains of the Browser Wars that ultimately led to the rise of Firefox and Chrome. But Microsoft is now on the side of the angels and its Edge browser has been rebuilt with Chromium at its heart. It is the default Windows browser and there are also versions for iOS, Android, and Mac.
The new version powered by Chromium is considerably faster than its predecessor and includes some useful features including Read Out Loud, the ability to stream media like online video to Chromecast devices, an Opera-style home page, and good selection plugins like password managers, ad blockers, etc. You can also download web pages as applications that then run as separate applications without having to start the entire browser. That is useful for the likes of Google Docs or Twitter.
There are many customization options, and we especially liked the Privacy and Services page, which makes potentially confusing settings clear, and the site’s Permissions page. That gives you detailed control over what specific sites can do, including everything from pop-up windows and ad blocking to access to MIDI devices and automatic media playback.
Edge is similar to Chrome and works like Chrome, but we like it better than Chrome: it is noticeably faster on our Mac and the customization options are excellent.
3. Google Chrome
It is the world’s favorite browser, but it can be a reminder
- Fast performance
- Very expandable
- Can be resource hungry
If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, Microsoft’s adoption of the Chromium engine for its own Edge browser should make Google feel pretty good about itself.
But there are a few areas where the Microsoft contender really outperforms the big G, most notably in resource usage: Chrome is famous for its strong resource demands and can quite a bit affect low-power hardware with limited RAM.
The new tab freeze feature is designed to address that by automatically ‘freezing’ background tabs so they don’t waste resources unnecessarily, but Chrome is still pretty hungry for hardware.
Chrome 79 is not a bad browser at all. Quite the contrary: it’s a brilliant browser with a great plugin library, cross-platform sync and support, great auto-complete features, and some great tools for web developers. It can warn you if your email has been compromised, it has a secure DNS lookup for compatible providers (Google’s own public DNS is one of them), and it blocks a lot of dangerous mixed content like scripts and images on secure connections. It also enables the WebXR API for AR and VR. And don’t forget Chrome’s dark mode, which makes it easy to navigate your eyes at night.
This is all good, but we believe that Firefox beats privacy protection, Edge is more enjoyable to pass the time, and others, niche browsers don’t come with the lingering fear that Google is too involved in all of our lives.
A classy browser that’s particularly good at collecting content
- Built-in proxy
- Excellent security features.
- Very good interface
- No more Opera Turbo
Opera sets its stop the moment it is run for the first time: its home screen allows you to activate your built-in ad blocker, use your built-in VPN, activate your Crypto Wallet for cryptocurrencies, enable browser messaging from the sidebar and move between light or dark modes.
It’s a great introduction to a really good browser, though if you’re a gamer you should take a look at Opera GX – it’s designed specifically for gamers and features Twitch integration and Razer Chroma support.
Opera is another Chromium-based browser, so performance is fast and you can use plugins from the Chrome library. It also has some cool ideas of its own, like Flow, which is designed for people who often see things they want to come back to later: If you constantly send yourself emails or cool link messages, Flow lets you do it more elegantly by facilitating the exchange content from Opera on your phone to Opera on your computer.
There’s also Personal News, which is reminiscent of Feedly’s RSS reader, Apple News, or the Flipboard tablet app – lets you add your favorite news sources to create personalized online newspapers.
Opera is packed with useful features, but one of our favorites is no longer in the desktop browser: Opera Turbo, which compresses Internet data like images so things load faster on junk connections, is now only available for mobile browsers. However, you do get a handy battery saver mode, so when downloads are slow, at least you don’t have to worry about your laptop battery.