Comparing popular browsers to find the best choice for Windows

Logos of the three most popular browsers

Every month we report browser statistics and share the latest data about the most popular browsers' market shares. Google Chrome is number one with the largest user base, Microsoft Edge is second, and Firefox is third. There are other "indie" projects, such as Vivaldi, that try hard to disrupt the market by offering more unique features. They are not as popular as Edge or Firefox, but their capabilities and fast development pace make them worth the shot.

Which one of these four browsers is the best to use on Windows?

Answering that question is difficult, if not impossible. Every user has their preference, taste, needs, and hardware configuration. What works the best for one will not do the job for another. This article looks at four popular browsers, compares their raw performance, and examines the pros and cons to find the best.

We tested Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Vivaldi on two systems with AMD and Intel processors. Keep in mind that performance on your system might be slightly different depending on how powerful your hardware is.

Raw Horsepower

An average consumer probably does not care how many points their browser gets in the Jetstream benchmark or similar tests. Still, raw performance values are a good indicator of how a browser handles demanding tasks. With websites getting more complicated and web apps more popular, fast JavaScript performance is the key to a satisfactory experience.

Jetstream 2 is a complex benchmark that measures performance in web apps. A browser that starts up quickly, executes code faster, and runs smoother gets a higher score.

Benchmark results of four most popular browsers

In Jetstream 2, all Chromium-based browsers received more or less identical scores. However, Firefox performs considerably worse, and its inability to keep up with Chromium may be notable in everyday browsing.

Motionmark is another benchmark that shows Chrome's Blink engine's dominance over other engines. This benchmark tests browsers' capabilities to render complex graphics and effects that become more and more popular.

Benchmark results of four most popular browsers

Chrome showed the best result, Edge came second, Vivaldi third, and Firefox finished fourth with a notably lower score. On our Intel machine, all Chromium browsers received similar results.

The third test measures responsiveness in web applications. The higher the score, the better your experience when running websites and web apps. On AMD, Firefox beats both Edge and Vivaldi and sits on par when tested on the Intel-based PC. Chrome finished first with a crushing dominance over its competitors on both systems.

Benchmark results of four most popular browsers

The final test we ran was less scientific and more true-to-life. We fired up ten web pages (a YouTube video, stores, large documentation pages, and websites with complex animations) to see how much RAM each browser consumes. Again, the results were slightly surprising.

Benchmark results of four most popular browsers

Contrary to popular belief, Chrome was not the most RAM-hungry browser. In fact, it consumed 350MB less memory than Edge and 10MB less than Firefox. Vivaldi surprised us with the best RAM efficiency: it needed only 960MB of RAM to display all ten tabs.

It is worth mentioning that Microsoft Edge has a feature for freezing inactive tabs to reduce RAM consumption. Sleeping Tabs in Edge can save about 30-40 MB of RAM per tab, but our testing showed no significant savings after putting nine tabs to sleep. You can get better results when working with "heavy" tabs that consume plenty of memory.

So Chrome is the best, right?

Not exactly. Although it is hard to ignore Chrome's consistently better raw performance, superior compatibility, and best-in-class cross-platform capabilities, Google's browser lags behind its competitors in several other aspects.

The Chrome browser with its official website open

Firefox is a better choice if you are ready to trade performance for privacy. You might encounter poorly designed websites that do not go well with Firefox, but others launch with no significant issues, albeit sometimes noticeably slower. Also, Firefox is your best friend if you root for the open web and want to break free from Chromium's dominance.

The latter is the unfortunate reason why Firefox and Apple's Safari have such a hard time keeping up with Chrome, Edge, Vivaldi, and other Chromium-based browsers. Most developers focus their efforts on optimizing for Chromium and sometimes neglect alternatives. And because Firefox and Safari have a relatively low user base compared to Chrome, things turn into a vicious circle.

Fortunately, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Mozilla, and others recently announced a joint effort to improve interoperability and ensure users get the same experience on all browsers. Hopefully, Firefox will yield positive results from this initiative. Until then, Firefox remains a decent browser with a big "but."

Microsoft Edge has several neat features that make it easier to recommend over Chrome. For example, Startup Boost in Edge makes the browser launch instantly. Edge also has arguably the best-in-class cross-platform password manager. Other notable features include performance optimization tools, a shopping assistant, collections, sleeping tabs, and many others.

The Edge browser with its official website open

Another thing worth pointing out is that Edge has arguably the best-looking UI on Windows. Of course, you do not pick a browser for its looks, but Chrome starts to feel like developers just do not care about the visuals.

On the flip side of the coin, some argue that the browser is too bloated, plus everyone hates user-hostile practices Microsoft refuses to quit. And, despite not having some of the controversial parts of Chrome, Microsoft Edge still harvests plenty of your data and annoys you with ads "recommendations."

Vivaldi is another Chrome derivative that tries to combine the best of everything. It puts privacy into focus and provides an impressive amount of customization. The latter might become a little problem for an unprepared user because it is too easy to get lost in Vivaldi's settings jungles. Still, if you are ready to invest some time into taming Vivaldi, you will have a solid browser that offers unique features without performance or compatibility tradeoffs.

The Vivaldi browser with its official website open

Of course, Vivaldi is not perfect. For example, there is no version for iOS, and some of its features are notably worse compared to Chrome or Edge (page translation, for example). Below, you'll find a tabulated list of some of the pros and cons of each browser:

Pros Cons
  • The best performance and compatibility
  • A massive library of third-party extensions
  • Seamless cross-platform experience and sync
  • Google is after your data
  • Bland and uninspiring design
  • Lacks some features found in other browsers
  • Provides unique productivity and performance-oriented features
  • No compatibility issues and overall good responsiveness
  • Better integrated with Windows in terms of capabilities and UI
  • Best-in-class password manager
  • Less data-hungry than Chrome but still wants to know much about you
  • Can consume more RAM than competitors
  • Lackluster mobile versions
  • It will annoy the living hell out of you with its constant notifications and prompts
  • Slightly bloated
  • Open-source browser
  • Chromium-free
  • Privacy and security are a cornerstone of Firefox
  • Chromium-free, hence worse compatibility
  • Notably slower performance
  • Customization and productivity cranked to 11 with tons of unique features
  • A solid balance between performance, features, and privacy
  • Solid efficiency
  • Can feel slightly overcomplicated
  • No version for iOS
  • The UI looks outdated

In the end, selecting the best browser for Windows comes to finding a balance between features, privacy, and performance. It is not that difficult to understand why Chrome is so popular. It is a fast and reliable no-frills browser that gets the job done. For a regular consumer, faster load speeds and no-exceptions compatibility are more important than privacy.

If you have slightly higher privacy standards, you can consider Edge or Vivaldi. Both will provide you with a more than satisfactory experience without Google's data probes, plus you will get some useful productivity features and capabilities. Finally, Firefox is the best choice for those who value privacy and open-source software more than performance.

Do you agree with the arguments in this article? What is more important to you in the browser you use? Share your thoughts and preferences in the comments.

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