Right then, I’ve spent over a month testing and hammering the main browsers with all manner of vile Internet crap (I’m looking at you Flash) using a Pentium M 1.5MHz 1GB RAM laptop and a fresh clean install of Windows XP slipstreamed with Service Pack 3.
From this, I have drawn the following conclusions:
1. Chrome 4.1 is the quickest at rendering hands down but is the worst CPU hog, even more so than Firefox. So whilst websites load very quick, even with just a couple of tabs open showing simple websites the CPU is maxed out for a few seconds every time a page loads which is unacceptable. Reliability is rock solid but the installation procedure is crap and Google wants to know everything about your browsing activities. Additionally, there are precious few configurable options and no extension to block ads at source although this can be done using a freely available hosts file or using something like Privoxy, both of which work with all browsers.
2. Opera 10.50 is the next quickest at rendering and quite powerful with plenty of under-the-hood settings to tinker with. Reliability is on par with Chrome along with great performance with lots of tabs open but no CPU hogging making this the best all rounder by miles. However, it’s annoyingly quirky with websites not working properly (Yahoo, eBay, etc.) and stupid shortcuts that are different from the other three browsers (e.g. opening a tab in the background that requires shift + ctrl instead of just ctrl). Additionally, content doesn’t always render the same as in Chrome, Firefox and IE which all show the same pages identically so another browser is a must for those few exceptions which unfortunately tend to be the main sites.
3. Firefox 3.6 has the most useful add-ons but has slid downhill since version 2.x and is a mere shadow of the former svelte app. Sadly, it’s now far too fat, bloated and heavyweight with application startup in particular being very slow. Gone is the speed and efficiency that’s been replaced with useless bullshit "features" nobody for asked like Themes and a bunch of spiv Microsoft plugins enabled by default. Rendering speed is quicker than Firefox 2 but lags far behind Chrome and Opera. However, it’s not as big a CPU hog as Chrome and capable of opening several tabs before it starts to waddle.
4. Internet Explorer 8 is surprisingly quick but reliability is a prob given IE is so closely tied in with the OS. Hence, if IE 8 crashes, it usually takes out something else on XP requiring a reboot. Also, IE is far too lazy with web standards and sloppy and forgiving with poorly written web pages. No proper ad blocking unless you use poxy proxies or add-ons and CPU hogging is marginally less than Internet Explorer 7 and even Chrome (more so than Firefox though) making this the best version of IE currently available then but that’s nothing to boast about.
So what choices does that leave?
Opera is currently my everyday browser at home and likely to remain so. Firefox 3.6 will be downgraded to version 3.5 which is less of a CPU hog and also remain installed so I can still use Firefox for those few sloppy websites that don’t like Opera.
Chrome is far too much of a CPU hog and nosy b*****d browser to be of any use and will be uninstalled. IE 8 will remain as is purely because trying to uninstall anything that closely tied to the OS would be a f*****g disaster.
And there you have it; Opera for now, Firefox as backup and will revisit Chrome if it loses the fat and stops snooping.