Fed up with bloated, slow, buggy web browsers like Firefox? Yeah, me too. Just about every week now, I find myself wrestling with Firefox, and although I could switch to Chrome, it’s one Google step too far (I already owe too much of my life to the massive Google machine to be healthy). So for those who are in a similar predicament, I’ve brought together a sample of some alternative web browsers, plus one standout winner which I’ve switched to completely and is now my default browser.
Arora is a beautiful little Webkit browser, which is fast, elegant and sports a great interface. Things like session restore, private browsing and a blindingly fast start up time make this a really cool alternative to the bloat of the major browsers. Of course you don’t get extensions, but if you’re just after a good solid workhorse performer then this is a great choice. It’s fully open source too, so you can even hack it if you’ve got the programming smarts and are willing to roll up your sleeves.
nBrowser is another Webkit browser which also features the trademark lean footprint and speedy performance, but there the similarities end. Where Arora sports a very conventional interface, nBrowser goes out of its way to be a little different. The sparse interface and minimal feature set mean that this won’t be to everyone’s cup of tea, but the engine works excellently, and with no fuss. All you can alter is the color scheme, home page and search engine, so don’t expect any frills and you won’t be disappointed.
RockMelt is a completely new take on the web browser paradigm, since it is built around the idea that social networks like Facebook are the all-important part of online activity for a lot of people. The result is a browser which integrates completely into Facebook like an app. You literally log in to FB when the browser starts, and keep your networks open on the desk as you browse. In all other respects it’s a straight Google Chrome clone, which means it comes with a full set of features and clever bits built in. If you’re not into Facebook, this is probably not the browser for you.
Avant Browser is a strange hybrid in that it offers both Internet Explorer and Mozilla/Firefox browser engines in one, which means it’s the most flexible product in our round up. It sports a huge set of features including a form filler, ad blocker, proxies and online password/bookmark storage, but truth is the interface looks a little dated. It’s still a cracking browser, it boots up in a second or so, runs like the wind and is extremely stable, it’s just a shame that the interface looks so second class. If you’re in the market for a web browser that can cope with IE and Firefox compatibly seamlessly in one, then this is the ideal choice, no question.
Blackhawk comes with a snazzy name, but is basically just a re-worked Google Chrome with a slight lick of paint on the top. It’s so much a clone that it picks up any Chrome extensions you have installed and uses them automatically, which is a little disconcerting if you’re not expecting it. We have to be honest and say there’s nothing stunning about the browser at all, it’s a good enough port, but with no bells or whistles to speak of at all. If you’re going to run this you might as well run the full open source version of Google Chrome, called Chromium.
Red Ferret Editor’s Choice:
Maxthon 3 is part of a family of web browsers which have been around for a few years. Originally developed in China as an alternative to Internet Explorer, it has now become a huge star over there and in the US in its own right, and with good reason.
This latest incarnation has been completely re-written as a Webkit browser, and the speed and power of the product speaks volumes for the quality and experience of the development crew. What really stands out though, is the huge amount of integrated functionality built into the browser, this thing really does have it all.
It supports extensions, and although there aren’t that many at the moment, the list is growing steadily. It also comes with a free cloud data storage plan, a password manager, screen capture, dual browser mode (IE/Mozilla) for maximum compatibility, an integrated video download utility, fully integrated – and brilliant! – Google Translate functionality and a bunch of other useful tools.
Even something as simple as the mouse gestures, work perfectly. As does the night mode. It’s fast, there’s no memory leak at all, and it does it all in a very modest memory footprint. I made it my default browser after just 2 hours of testing, it impressed me that much. It’s not surprising that it’s been downloaded 1/2 billion times!