What the best web browsers have
- Speed. A browser needs to be able to load pages easily and efficiently, and you should be able to navigate websites and your tabs quickly.
- Pinned tabs. Most browsers offer tabs that enable you to open more than one website in a window. Pinned tabs create a small tab that won't close until you shut down the browser; they take about half the space of a traditional tab and are helpful for accessing frequently visited sites. Often these pinned tabs are restored the next time you relaunch your browser.
- Syncing. If you use more than one device you might like to sync your bookmarks and other features like passwords from one machine to the next. Most browsers offer this feature but make sure you're comfortable with the way the browser shares information between your devices. (For example if you need to be constantly logged in and have privacy concerns.)
- Privacy and security features. Users share tremendous amounts of information about themselves on the web, whether they realize it or not. A good browser should make it easy to clear your browsing history and personal data. A secure browser will display a warning when a user navigates to a questionable site or tries to download malicious content.
Know before you choose
Do you have a fast Internet connection? A good, steady Internet connection paves the way for using just about any web browser. If you have a slower connection, however, Google Chrome and Opera are probably your best bets. (Internet Explorer also performs well in some tests.)
How important is customization? Firefox leads the field in the number of available add-ons, plug-ins and other enhancements, according to reviewers. Users who value utter simplicity will find Chrome and Opera their browsers of choice.
How old is your computer? If you have an older computer or you haven't updated your operating system in a while, you may find it difficult running the latest versions of any browser. Reviews recommend Opera (using its "Off-Road" mode) if you have a slow connection or a shortage of memory. This is a better option than running an outdated version of a browser like Firefox or Chrome, as you could run into problems loading some web pages, streaming videos or running other applications. You'll also miss out on security updates.
How much web surfing do you do? If you only use your computer to check email, shop on Amazon.com and socialize on Facebook, you may not notice much difference between browsers. Speed and overall performance are crucial if you use run web-based software, stream video or visit Flash-heavy sites. For example, Opera's Off-Road mode, which compresses images and text, isn't compatible with some sites and some mobile browsers might not support Flash.