Which is the best browser?: Chrome vs Firefox vs Internet Explorer

We put the web's three best browsers head to head. So which one comes out on top?

Internet browsing has become an essential part of our day-to-day lives, but a lot of the time, we take for granted the software that we use to do it. Web browsers can have a huge impact on the way we perceive the internet, so choosing the right one is vital.

If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of choice on offer, don’t worry. We’ve collated the best options, and assessed them on all the most important criteria.

Note: We tested these browsers on a Windows 7 laptop with 4GB of RAM and an Intel Core-i5 CPU. We’ve also left Safari off this list, as Apple has discontinued Windows support for the browser. 

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Latest news

21/06/2016: Microsoft's Edge browser offers up to 53 per cent more battery life on portable devices running Windows 10 than Chrome, Firefox or Opera according to the company behind it.

"We designed Microsoft Edge from the ground up to prioritize power efficiency and deliver more battery life, without any special battery saving mode or changes to the default settings," the company said in a  blog post. "Our testing and data show that you can simply browse longer with Microsoft Edge than with Chrome, Firefox, or Opera on Windows 10 devices."

The company said it tested the leading browsers using three measures: power consumption in a controlled lab environment by launching the same websites in each browser and measuring the consumption using specialised equipment, real-world energy usage using "aggregated telemetry" on three Windows Phone devices and running time-lapse videos of repetitive tasks until the batteries died.

Apparently, Edge won every test, making it the best browser for power consumption. In fact, in the final video test, Microsoft Edge lasted three hours more than Google Chrome, which is long enough to watch three films in a trilogy without interruption, Microsoft said.

"We continue to focus on power efficiency with regular updates to Windows 10, and the Windows 10 Anniversary Update will include even more power-saving improvements, using fewer CPU cycles, consuming less memory, and minimizing the impact of background activity and peripheral content like Flash advertisements," the company said.

19/05/2016:  Firefox has overtaken Microsoft's share of the global desktop browser market for the first time ever.

According to StatCounter, which looks at usage data from three million websites, Mozilla's desktop browser overtook the combined market share of Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge for the first time ever last month.

Firefox has edged just in front of Microsoft's offerings, inching ahead by just 0.1 per cent, leaving Firefox with a 15.6 per cent share, and Microsoft with 15.5 per cent.

It marks the first time that Firefox has found itself in second place, but both browsers have been steadily losing ground to Google Chrome, which now controls over 60 per cent of the desktop browser market.

Interestingly, the UK results are much more evenly distributed. While Chrome still leads at over 54 per cent, Internet Explorer and Edge retain second place at 21.8 per cent. Firefox, meanwhile, is still bringing up the rear with a market share of just 13.2 per cent.

17/11/2015: Privacy and open source advocates rejoice - Mozilla Firefox has made it to iOS.

After a long absence, the popular browser has finally been released on Apple’s mobile platform, following a protracted spat regarding use of the latter company’s standards.

The Mozilla Foundation has now caved to Apple’s terms, meaning that iOS users can now enjoy the software’s much-lauded privacy features.

The app can be downloaded from the App Store, and is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

26/10/2015: Microsoft has pushed back the addition of browser add-ons for Microsoft Edge in Windows 10.

While fans were initially promised that the functionality would be delivered before the end of 2015, the company has now said it will not be included until new features start rolling out next year.

As well as ruling out everyday productivity extensions like Evernote and Pocket, the news also means that Edge fans craving adblocking or virus-scanning utilities are still out of luck for the moment. Those who require such features will have to stick to other web browsers. 

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft's once-mighty Internet Explorer has finally been put out to pasture. While it's still included with Windows 10, the venerable old browser has been taken out back and given the 'Old Yeller' treatment, replaced as the built-in default by the snazzy new Microsoft Edge.

It's really rather superb, too; an attractive redesign, streamlined functionality and just enough new features to be exciting have made Edge a genuine competitor with Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

We haven't put it through our full suite of benchmarks and stress tests yet, but if you're interested in exactly how is stacks up against its predecessor, here's our head-to-head: Internet Explorer vs Microsoft Edge.

Boot time

Sluggish web browsers can be one of the biggest irritations when you’re busy, so we put them through their paces to work out which one fires up the fastest. We used Passmark’s Apptimer software, opening each browser five times and then averaging out the results.

Chrome has a reputation for speed, and rightly so – it averaged a very nippy opening time of 0.05s. Interestingly enough, however, although Chrome was the fastest, Internet Explorer was hot on its heels, coming in just 0.002s slower. Firefox brought up the rear, with a time of 0.07s.

In practice, we’d defy anyone to notice a substantial difference between them. All of our browsers fired up almost instantly, with no significant lag when switching between pages; they’re basically identical in terms of speed.