The right browser can make a massive difference to the way your
internet works. It can protect you from advertisers’ tracking and from
online irritations. It can sync all your stuff with your phone and/or
tablet. It can bring you the content you need and filter out the stuff
that you don’t.
Big news isn’t that common in the world of web
browsers, but in late 2019 there was a bit of an earthquake: Microsoft’s
Edge embraced Chromium, the same software that powers Google Chrome.
That means four of the five top browsers are Chromium-powered.
The best browsers at a glance
1. Mozilla Firefox
The best browser for power users and privacy protection
Firefox has long been the Swiss Army Knife of the internet and our
favourite browser. Version 72 is particularly good: it can alert you if
your email address is included in a known data breach, it blocks those
annoying allow-notifications popups, it blocks “fingerprinting” browser
tracking and it brings its picture in picture video mode to the Mac
version. As before it’s endlessly customisable both in terms of its
appearance and in the range of extensions and plugins you can use. Last
year’s overhaul dramatically improved its performance, which was
starting to lag behind the likes of Chrome, and it’s smooth and solid
even on fairly modest hardware.
2. Google Chrome
It’s the world’s favourite browser, but it can be a memory-muncher
imitation is the most sincere form of flattery then Microsoft’s
adoption of the Chromium engine for its own Edge browser must be making
Google feel pretty good about themselves.
But there are some areas
in which Microsoft’s contender actually beats the big G, most
noticeably in resource usage: Chrome is infamous for its hefty resource
demands and it can fairly chug along on low-powered hardware with
The new Tab Freezing feature is designed to address
that by automatically 'freezing' background tabs so they’re not using
resources unnecessarily, but Chrome remains pretty hardware-hungry.
3. Microsoft Edge
A genuinely great browser from the former browser bad guys
Operating system: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux coming soon
Very, very fast
Crystal clear privacy tools
Can save sites as apps
Windows really wants it to be the default
readers will remember Microsoft as the villains of the Browser Wars
that ultimately led to the rise of Firefox and Chrome. But Microsoft is
on the side of the angels now and its Edge browser has been rebuilt with
Chromium at its heart. It’s Windows’ default browser and there are also
versions for iOS, Android and Mac.
The new Chromium-powered
version is considerably faster than its predecessor and includes some
useful features including Read Aloud, the ability to cast media such as
inline videos to Chromecast
devices, an Opera-style start page and a good selection of add-ons such
as password managers, ad-blockers and so on. You can also download web
pages as apps which then run as stand-alone applications without having
to launch the whole browser. That’s useful for the likes of Google Docs
The main holdouts are Apple's Safari (not included here) which uses
WebKit, and Firefox, which uses Gecko. That’s had an interesting effect
on our top five, and demonstrates that browser tech can still surprise
No matter what kind of internet user you are, there’s a
browser out there that’s perfect for you – and chances are it’s one of
these top five.