New life has been breathed into Internet Explorer, which boasts superior privacy protection and controls, excellent anti-malware and fast browsing to boot. On the downside, the browser only works with Windows 7 and above and it's at the bottom of the pack in phishing protection.
The comeback kid. Microsoft stunned the browser market with its release of Internet Explorer 10, which boasted superior privacy and anti-malware protection. The tech giant -- which like Google isn't exactly known as a champion of privacy -- built on its successful model by creating an even faster and more efficient browser with version 11. According to some metrics, IE has always held the greatest share of the browser market (about 50 percent) but Internet Explorer had fallen behind competitors in recent years, to put it mildly. (CNET's review of IE8 has a stern warning advising readers to use IE8 only as a "last resort" because of its "numerous security and stability flaws as a legacy browser.")
Fast, yes, but for features, Internet Explorer can't compete. Although IE has made strides in offering enhanced features and rebranding itself as a privacy protector, it's still behind Chrome, Firefox and Safari in many realms. IE can hold its own against the other leading browsers in terms of speed thanks in part to its graphics accelerator, but it is too restrictive by limiting IE10 and IE11 to Windows 7 and 8 users only, reviewers say. Microsoft's browser won't sync except on Windows 8 PCs, and while it now offers add-ons, they are limited. Given the performance and features of Chrome and Firefox, many reviewers recommend Internet Explorer only for those whose main concern is privacy.
Top in privacy and malware protection. Experts praise Internet Explorer for offering consumers unprecedented browsing privacy. The Do Not Track option is automatically turned on in Internet Explorer 10 and 11. In Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, Do Not Track needs to be turned on; in Google Chrome it's buried. Explorer also partially blocks third-party cookies, prompts for geographic locations and is the only major browser to offer tracking protection lists, which give consumers the option not to be tracked by advertising and marketing sites. Internet Explorer 10 and 11 scored highest on privacy in independent assessments of browsers by NSS Labs; both also had the highest malware catch rates (over 99 percent) but scored the lowest in guarding against phishing attempts (in which nefarious websites try to gain access to sensitive information like passwords and credit card details).
PCMag.com gives Internet Explorer 11 an excellent rating, citing its speed, simple design and security and privacy features. PCMag.com especially likes its graphics hardware acceleration, phishing protection and privacy features, stating that privacy "is where the new IE really shines."
Review: Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7, Michael Muchmore, Nov. 13, 2013
2. NSS Labs
The findings from research firm NSS Labs show Internet Explorer 10 comes out on top, with lots of built-in privacy protection including the use of tracking protection lists that stop certain sites from tracking your browsing.
Review: Browser Security Comparative Analysis: Privacy, Randy Abrams, Orlando Barrera and Jayendra Pathak, July 23, 2013
3. NSS Labs
Internet Explorer 11 catches 99.9 percent of more than 650 malware threats in tests run by NSS Labs over a 14-day period, well above competing browsers like Chrome and Firefox.
Review: Browser Security Comparative Analysis Report: Socially Engineered Malware, Randy Abrams, Orlando Barrera, Jayendra Pathak and Dipti Ghimire, March 31, 2014
4. NSS Labs
While IE 10 does really well in malware and privacy tests, it comes in last in 12 days of phishing tests run by NSS Labs, catching 83 percent compared to Firefox 19, which caught 96 percent.
Review: 2012 Browser Security Comparative Analysis: Phishing Protection, Randy Abrams, Orlando Barrera and Jayendra Pathak, Nov. 28, 2012
Buckler calls Internet Explorer 11 "awesome" because of its speed (it beat Chrome and Firefox in two benchmark tests), developers' tools and security. However, he's disappointed with its limited add-ons and support for just Windows 8 and 7.
Review: Internet Explorer 11: the Review, Craig Buckler, Nov. 7, 2013
Softpedia gives Internet Explorer 4 out of 5 stars. The reviewer praises its speed and the fact that its Do Not Track and SmartScreen options are on by default. Blurry fonts and the inability to pin tabs are weak spots. (In the comments section several users complain that IE is having trouble supporting Microsoft Outlook, a widely reported issue.)
Review: Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7 Review, Elena Opris, Nov. 8, 2013
CNET's Rosenblatt applauds Internet Explorer 10 as a "superb browser" but states that the browser falls short by not offering compatibility with earlier versions of Windows or tab syncing. He argues, "You can simply do more on more platforms with less hassle when you use Chrome or Firefox."
Review: Internet Explorer 10, Seth Rosenblatt, March 20, 2013
8. Laptop Magazine
Laptop Magazine gives Internet Explorer 10 a rating of 3.5 stars out of 5, citing its speedy page loads (the website runs numerous tests on the browser). This review weighs IE's Modern (full-screen mode) against its desktop version, noting that the two aren't synonymous (Modern doesn't have browsing history, for example) and that the desktop version "isn't as touch-friendly as its Modern counterpart."
Review: Internet Explorer 10 Review, Konrad Krawczyk, Sept. 13, 2012
This reviewer uses five benchmark tests to compare the speed of IE 10 and Chrome 25; Chrome wins. Oddly enough, it runs on more Windows platforms than IE11.
Review: The best Windows browser today: IE 10 or Chrome 25?, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, Feb. 26, 2013
Scott Gilbertson tries out the tablet and desktop versions of Internet Explorer 10. He likes the touch-screen functionality for tablets, but isn't very impressed with the desktop version.
Review: Review: Internet Explorer 10 Bests the Competition on Windows 8 Tablets, Scott Gilbertson, Oct. 26, 2012