All right, so you’ve seen our recommendations — but if you still want to know more, check out our test results below.
You’ll notice we’ve dropped both Internet Explorer and Apple’s Safari web browser from our comparison. Microsoft’s aging browser has had some improvements over the years, but it’s no longer the default browser on Windows 10 and it doesn’t offer much beyond the bare minimum. It only exists today because some companies need it for legacy applications. While Apple’s Safari web browser is still used by many Mac users, it’s no longer updated on Windows, and so we’ve removed it from the main list too.
Most browsers are compatible with web standards and handle performance with relative ease. A casual user probably won’t notice a difference in the rendering speed between today’s modern browsers, as all six browsers are much faster and leaner than those of a few years ago.
We ran the following benchmarks on a desktop with an Intel Core i7-4770K processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. All browsers were clean installs of the most current production versions as of early 2019 and all were run at their default setings.
The Jetstream benchmark — which focuses on modern web applications — has the same (no longer surprising) winner: Edge, which has been well in the lead for many months. Microsoft continues to work hard on optimizing its new browser, and it shows with this test at least. Chrome is in second place, Firefox has taken over third place, and Opera has moved to last place.
Mozilla’s Kraken benchmark has Firefox in a strong first-place finish with Chrome coming in second. Edge and Opera have flipped places to round out the competition, and both are significantly slower than the leaders.
Google Chrome, currently at version 72, had long dominated the HTML5 compliance benchmark and it took back first place this time around, with Opera coming in second. Firefox is in third place, while Edge continues to be less compliant than the rest.
Finally, we also tested how much RAM each browser uses, both with no tabs open and then with 10 tabs open accessing the same popular sites. We made sure that each browser had no extensions running, and we let each browser settle in before looking at its memory use. For the test with 10 tabs open, we averaged memory use when all of the tabs were first opened and then five minutes later, to account for any variability.
It’s not a scientific test, but it should be sound enough to give an idea of which browsers are the most and least efficient in terms of taking up your RAM. We found Opera to use the least RAM both when first opened and with all 10 tabs loaded. Firefox used the most RAM when first opened with no tabs open, and Edge significantly more RAM with all 10 tabs open than any other browser in our tests.
Security and privacy
The most valuable tool for secure browsing is user discretion, especially when you consider that every web browser has encountered security breaches in the past. In particular, Internet Explorer and Chrome’s reputation for protecting users’ security and privacy credentials is spotty at best.
Chrome, Safari, Vivaldi, Opera, and Firefox all rely on Google’s Safe Browsing API to detect potentially dangerous sites. Thanks to constant updates, Mozilla, Chrome, and Opera all make constant security improvements.
All browsers offer a private session option, too. Private sessions prevent the storage of history, temporary internet files, and cookies. Browser support for Do Not Track remains spotty, and it’s worth noting that a 2013 NSS study showed only Internet Explorer blocking trackers used on more than 90 percent of potentially hazardous sites.
Mozilla has made some strides to try and differentiate itself from the others with a real focus on privacy in recent years. It even recently debuted a Facebook Container to make it harder for the social network to harvest a user’s information.