Best Windows 8.1 Browser: Chrome vs. Firefox vs. Internet Explorer

Lead_SF

When it comes to Web browsing on your Windows 8 tablet, chances are you’ve already picked your favorite browser for the job. But you might be missing out. The best browsers can enhance your surfing experience with fast speeds, comprehensive standards support and intuitive navigation. We put the three leading browsers for Windows 8′s “Metro” mode — Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer — to the test to see which one will serve you best.

Round 1: Interface (30 points)

From button placement to changing tabs, your browser’s layout is fundamental to how quickly and comfortably you can surf the Web.

Chrome for Windows 8′s Metro mode simulates a Chrome OS desktop, with the familiar browser layout open as a window accompanied by app icons for Gmail, Google search, Docs and YouTube in a taskbar at the bottom. Apart from the surrounding desktop, Google’s browser for Metro mode is no different from its desktop version, with navigation icons and the URL bar positioned at the top.

Chrome_Interface

MORE: 10 Must-Have Apps for 2014

Both Internet Explorer and Firefox in Metro mode place the navigation panel at the bottom for easier access with your thumbs. Internet Explorer’s navigation panel is somewhat cluttered, with buttons for Back, Refresh, Tabs, Favorites and Settings sitting along a URL and search bar. Firefox employs a cleaner approach, with just Back, Favorites, Pin and Options buttons next to its Awesome Bar (URL and Search field).

IE_Interface

These bottom panels in both Firefox and Internet Explorer auto-hide so you can enjoy full-screen viewing. However, Firefox goes a step further to make things easier and prettier by overlaying translucent Back and New Tab buttons on the left and right of the screen so you don’t have to leave a full screen just to open a new tab.

All three browsers support swiping left and right to move through back and forward through visited pages.

Internet Explorer and Firefox both helpfully suggest sites you might be looking for as you enter a URL or keyword in the address bar, and these results are tiled just above the field so you can easily tap them. But when it comes to scrolling through the tabs you have open, Internet Explorer has the edge, displaying them just above the address bar when you hit Tabs while Firefox docks them at the top of the screen.

Each time you open a new tab, Firefox displays a pretty speed dial of your recent, most visited pages and your most frequented bookmarks so you don’t have to waste time typing URLs. Internet Explorer suggests frequent sites, but only within a black panel above the keyboard, which affords it less space.

Firefox_Interface

When it comes to switching between Desktop and Metro modes, Firefox offers the most seamless transition. You can easily re-launch the browser in your preferred format by tapping the Options button next to the Awesome Bar, and your open tabs are preserved whenever you switch. Chrome provides easy access to the re-launch tool, but its tiny interface makes the option hard to find, and neither browser maintains your open tabs. Internet Explorer maintains two different and unrelated browsers at the same time, one for desktop and one for Metro.

Winner: Firefox. We love the simple navigation panel, the helpful new tab page and the seamless switching between desktop and Metro modes.

Round 2: Speed (30 points)

Though the performance of your Web connection and your CPU do more to determine your overall surfing speed, your browser also has a role to play.

Using the Numion website loading stopwatch tool, we measured how long it took each browser to load NYTimes.com and Laptopmag.com. Between each round of tests, carried out on the same Windows 8.1 tablet (Acer Iconia W4) over the same Wi-Fi connection, we cleared the cache for each browser.

Site_Load_Times_v3

Across all the different pages, Firefox consistently emerged as the speediest browser. It fully loaded NYTimes.com and Laptopmag.com in an average of 3.21 seconds and 4.85 seconds, respectively. Internet Explorer came in second overall, pushing the same sites through in an average of 4.17 seconds and 5.41 seconds. Chrome brought up the rear, displaying NYTimes.com and Laptopmag.com in 5.06 seconds and 6.94 seconds.

SunSpider_v1

Firefox also proved fastest in the SunSpider JavaScript speed test. Scoring 573.6 milliseconds on average, the open-source browser just barely beat Internet Explorer (576.8 ms average) and Chrome (598.6 ms average).

Chrome took the lead in HTML5 loading speeds, however, beating the others on Peacekeeper with its score of 1,156. Firefox followed with 879, while Internet Explorer delivered a poorer 672.

MORE: Top 25 Windows 8 Apps

On more taxing tasks, such as rendering a complex WebGL (Web Graphics Language) environment, Firefox lost its lead to Chrome. While Firefox maintained 45 fps with 50 fish and 41 fps with 100 fish in the tank simulation (Chrome got 40 / 39 fps), Google’s browser pulled ahead when 250 fish were thrown in the mix, providing 37 fps against Firefox’s 32 fps. Internet Explorer delivered a poorer 43 fps at 50 fish, 39 fps at 100 fps and a weak 29 fps with 250 fish.

While Chrome delivered better Peacekeeper scores, the app’s performance was unfortunately clunky and glitchy during our testing. This means that while HTML5-heavy pages may load faster on Chrome, you’ll spend so much time trying to open tabs because the overall experience is frustratingly slow.

Winner: Firefox. Blazing page loading speeds and overall faster performance makes this app the Flash of the browser world.

Round 3: Special Features (20 points)

Since Chrome for Windows 8 is basically the desktop version of the browser bundled with Google’s OS, you get access to a world of more than 30,000 apps, extensions and add-ons that make your browser more feature-rich. You also get tab indicators to show you, at a glance, which of your pages is making noise or playing a video.

Special_features_CHROME

Given the mobile environment, though, the usefulness of these features is questionable. Each Chrome tab is tiny on an 8-inch tablet’s screen, and the indicator symbols become minuscule and hard to see. (The experience on larger screens is more comfortable.) You’re also less likely to use a Chrome Web app such as Pixlr Photo Editor when you can use Photoshop Express and other full-fledged programs on your device.

Both Internet Explorer and Firefox offer useful special features, such as Do Not Track to signal to servers not to record your presence. While all three browsers can be used in Windows 8.1′s split screen mode, only Internet Explorer can be docked side by side with another window of itself. This is especially useful for times when you want to compare two different cinema listings, for example. You can’t do this with Chrome or Firefox. 

Special_features_IEV2

Internet Explorer, not surprisingly, boasts comprehensive native integration. You can pin specific sites to your Start screen as a Live Tile to get notifications when the Web page is updated, split the display between up to four windows for side-by-side browsing and easily call numbers on websites with Skype Click to Call. A built-in Reading List app lets you save pages and read them when you have time later. Microsoft’s browser also boasts a Flip ahead feature that lets you scroll through parts of a multi-page article by swiping from the right side of the screen to go to the next page.

MORE: 8 Worst Windows 8 Annoyances and How to Fix Them

Internet Explorer 11 comes with Adobe Flash installed out-of-the-box so you don’t have to go through the troublesome process of loading the plug-in for yourself. The browser can also detect your gyroscope so you can use websites that make use of the hardware just like an app. However, few sites actually use this feature.

Winner: Internet Explorer. It’s no surprise that the default browser comes packed with excellent device integration, and we especially like being able to view two websites side by side.

Round 4: Standards Support (15 points)

The extent to which a browser supports various Web standards can greatly impact how much you enjoy your favorite sites. A good browser should be able to interpret and display most Web languages or plug-ins such as HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript so that you can experience a page the way a developer intended.

We put all three browsers through a series of tests to see how well they supported common Web standards.

HTML5

Chrome stood out when it came to HTML5 support, scoring 505 out of 555 on the HTML5test.com benchmark. This test checks to see if your browser is capable of displaying common HTML5 features, such as drag-and-drop, graphics rendering, geolocation and device orientation.

Firefox came in second with 458, while Internet Explorer delivered a mere 372. Internet Explorer also met just five of seven HTML5 capabilities on the Peacekeeper test where Firefox and Chrome both met all seven.

MORE: 8 Essential Tips for Your New Windows 8 PC

Chrome also did well on CSS3 support, scoring 60 percent on the CSS3 test and beating Firefox (58 percent) and Internet Explorer (53 percent).

Thanks to its support of the Lazyload tag, Internet Explorer 11 can also let developers lower the priority of an item, keeping unwanted items like ads from clogging up bandwidth while you load a site.

Winner: Chrome. Google’s browser better supports common Web standards, with Firefox coming in a close second.

Round 5: Syncability (15 points)

Often, you want to move from your mobile device to your desktop for a fuller reading experience, but transferring your many open tabs can be troublesome. Thankfully, all three browsers let you sync your content across devices so you won’t have to manually hunt down the specific site you were reading. Some browsers do this better, bookmarking your last position on the page so you can pick up right where you left off.

syncability_internetexv2

With Chrome, simply sign into your Google account to pull your open tabs across various linked devices. You can choose to open pages by clicking Recent Tabs under the Options button, which saves not only pages that are open on connected systems but also a full browsing history of the past four months. You can also search this log, arranged in chronological order, so hunting for that one page you visited that one time about an obscure topic is easy.

syncability_chrome

Firefox Sync’s setup process is somewhat tedious. You’ll have to sign in to your Firefox account via the browser in the desktop environment. The browser generates three sets of short codes, which you’ll have to enter into the device you want to link to your account. Getting to the page to input these codes takes quite a few steps, which is troublesome.

Once you’ve gone through the setup process, Firefox lets you sync your add-ons, bookmarks, history, tabs and preferences, and save passwords. It’s a nifty feature since you won’t have to retype passwords into pages you’ve already signed into – Firefox Sync remembers and fills those fields in for you. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to sync your open tabs. The feature also doesn’t work properly if you have beta and production versions of Firefox installed on the same device.

syncability_firefox

You can only sync content on Internet Explorer across Windows 8.1 devices, which limits the usefulness of this feature. It’s also tedious to set up; you’ll need to enable Web Browser in Sync Settings in each of your Windows 8.1 devices after you’ve signed into them. We would prefer being able to sign into and pull open tabs and preferences directly from Internet Explorer itself rather than having to dig into the pits of Microsoft’s settings.

Once your devices are set up, though, the interface for IE is fairly simple. Just click the drop-down arrow next to Tabs when you open a new tab and you can open any page from your connected devices.

Winner: Chrome. A simple sign-in process without the need to create a separate account if you already are a user of Google’s other services gives Chrome the edge. A comprehensive backlog of visited pages is another plus.

Verdict

ScoreChart

Speedy load times, a clean interface and good support for standards make Firefox our top browser for Windows 8.1′s Modern environment. While Chrome has better support for Web standards and simpler syncing capabilities, it desperately needs a touch-optimized interface. Also, throughout our testing, Chrome was by far the glitchiest browser, often crashing or refusing to register our touch.

Like Firefox, Internet Explorer has a touch-friendly interface and it adds the advantage of being able to launch more than one Metro window, but slower speeds, worse standards support and a completely separate desktop browser hold it back. Bottom line: You can’t go wrong with Mozilla’s browser for your Windows 8.1 device.

WINNERv2

 


AUTHOR BIO
Cherlynn Low
Cherlynn Low
Cherlynn joined the Laptopmag team in June 2013 and has since been writing about all things tech and digital with a focus on mobile and Internet software development. She also edits and reports occasionally on video. She graduated with a M.S. in Journalism (Broadcast) from Columbia University in May 2013 and has been designing personal websites since 2001.
Cherlynn Low on
Twitter Google+
LEAVE A REPLY
Name*
Email* (will not be published)
Website
*Indicates required field
Comments*
Submit Comments

  1. henry chen Says:

    It is hard to take the article serious when the scoring system make no sense. You can give winner of a category some points and give losers points proportionally.

  2. jim Says:

    you never state which version of Firefox you are using in this test, so I don’t know which to get. Please disclose. Thx

  3. Gerald Crawford Says:

    Personally I’m running HP laptops for the past year or so – but just how annoying must HP become to know that closing having to close umpteen ads in a row to read one article isn’t good business?

  4. Andrew Scott Says:

    You will have to do this over as Firefox has pulled out of Windows 8 modern programming. Now it’s just Internet Explorer 10 and Google Chrome.

  5. Stephen long-time User Says:

    I agree. Firefox’s add-ons are terrific & even accomdates my Wondershare Converter Downloads & Player Option. Their Speed Dial is the best. It can give unlimited Immediate website access. It is SO much better in providing pull down menus and icons. It is fast. The newest Version is fine; go with it.

  6. Simon Says:

    I like the design of the graphs and images you used. Good job.

  7. Nelson Gross Says:

    Like to have these new improvements

  8. cipnrkorvo Says:

    Yep Firefox is the best, but what will we do now that the idiot boss of Mozilla removed the support for touch screens?

  9. Sourav Bagchi Says:

    Firefox is the worst browser I have ever seen. I don’t understand why you like Mozilla Firefox. When a heavy page is loaded sometime Firefox don’t respond. But Internet Explorer never goes to not responding mode. I also don’t understand why do like the bookmark bar of Firefox. Just type the first letter of your preferred website address in address bar and it will show a list of website which you have visited frequently containing that letter at first. If the bars takes the maximum places, there will be a small place for browsing. Chrome & IE 11 is much faster than Firefox. I think Mozilla is busy for building their Mozilla OS not for firefox.

  10. echodelta Says:

    The change in Firefox yesterday had me dump it, I will check again but I could not find the way to remove icons and just have neat uncluttered TEXT and not candy blobs with or without TEXT. I am dyslexic enough to not need or want 2 ways of getting info. I am ready to scream ADA all the way to Washington. Opera is the only other browser I knew that has this option, I downloaded it same here. They want us to become illiterate finger pointing idiots. TEXT! Please.

  11. gfhdh Says:

    sferfef

  12. deV14nt Says:

    From the charts that have inconsistent scaling, where when Firefox wins the difference is made out to be huge, while when Chrome wins the scaling is changed to make the difference seem small…to the unexplained weighting of the results, favoring Firefox’s wins…to the times where Firefox and IE are discussed and Chrome is inexplicably left out of the discussion…it is clear that the author began this “test” preferring Firefox over Chrome. Anyone can make up a test to show their favorite browser is the “winner”. You know…just fudge the results.

  13. ahai pao Says:

    did you mean mozilla fire fox, ugly

  14. Mason Says:

    Hello. You are wrong. Bye

  15. David Says:

    I agree with Henry Chen, your scoring system should be a scaled sort of thing, at least offering the second place browser some of the points.

  16. David Says:

    And dev14nt’s comment about your suspiciously skewed section weighting is also prudent.

  17. Joani Says:

    Great post. However, the Google text adsense you have scattered through are showing in text with ads for sites like “free Malware a must”. While I completely understand the need for ads on a blog, placing them there discredits you as the writer and your post should anyone accidentally think it’s part of your writings and recommendation. Just sayin’.

  18. Matt Says:

    @Andrew Scott. Just because Mozilla isn’t making a Metro version of Firefox doesn’t mean the current version of Firefox doesn’t work with Windows 8, nor does it mean Mozilla won’t support Firefox for Windows 8. All it means is Firefox is not making a Metro version anymore, that’s it.

  19. Joao Says:

    So you compare 2 Browsers that works in Metro mode (Chrome and IE) to a browser that does not have Metro mode any more (Firefox) then how can we reproduce your results?
    This should be only between Chrome and IE as they are the only of the 3 that has Metro mode.

    And how can you dismiss Chrome in Metro mode UI as it is much more than a simple browser and give the points to Firefox?

    Totally biased, for what, I don’t know!

  20. Asok Asus Says:

    I want to thank all the folks who recommended Pale Moon. I’ve just been FED UP with FF because of the horrific memory leaks, sluggishness, constant pointless UI changes, arrogance of online “help”, etc. I’ve been running v16 forever because whenever I’ve tried to upgrade to newer versions, they’d all pretty much just crash after 30 minutes of heavy use, and not a single version of FF that I’ve ever used has ever fixed the memory leak problems. Not a single one.

    I actually installed a tiny batch file on quicklaunch so I could quickly kill FF at the point it’s consumed all of my RAM so I could then start over with “Restore Session” to automatically reload all of my previous tabs. After trying every “solution” to the leak problem, that’s the only one that ever did in any good for me. Apparently the arrogant tards at mozilla would rather tweak the UI to death rather than make a browser that actually works. They’re worse than even Microsoft because Microsoft has to listen to their customers sooner or later or go broke. Nonprofits can just drift along forever.

    At any rate, I just finished installing PM, including importing everything from FF with their little importer program, and everything went flawlessly, including all settings and the plethora of add-ons I use. The only difficulty was getting roboform attached, which I can’t live without. I did finally dumb around and got the roboform taskbar program to attach roboform to PM, which then worked flawlessly. It is, however, necessary for the roboform taskbar program to run all the time for roboform to continue to work on PM, but this is a very small price to pay to ditch FF forever.

    I’ve used PM for a month now, opening/closing/keeping hundreds of tabs a day, and I’ve been stunned at how much faster PM is than FF, as well as the VERY small memory footprint occupied by PM vs FF. Even after a week’s HEAVY usage, PM has not grown beyond 1 GB, and even better, when I close tabs, ALL of the RAM is given back.

    Basically, PM is what FF ought to be. Even better, the genius behind Pale Moon, Mark Straver, has committed to keeping the PM UI fundamentally unmolested. I’ll be installing PM instead of FF on all of my client’s computers in the future as well!

    (BTW, ALL of the “recommended fixes” for the firefox memory leak problems are a sick joke. Not one of them works. And plugins DO NOT cause the memory leaks! Firefox does! How do I know? Because I switched to Pale Moon, importing everything EXACTLY like it was in Firefox and guess what? No memory leaks in Pale Moon! Oh, and I use Adblock Plus, Flash, Java, DoNotTrackMe, BetterPrivacy CookieCuller, DownloadHelper, Element Hiding Helper, IE View, ViewAbout, Visited, and roboform. So NONE of those is causing the firefox memory leak problems!)

  21. sdfsdf Says:

    lmao what a test…

  22. Phil Says:

    You forgot to test Opera. It is the best browser!

  23. Josh Says:

    This is laughable. Those neat little graphics sure come in handy when Firefox ‘wins’ a round, but somehow you didn’t have time to make any when any other browser won out? You should have added “This is a paid advertisement brought to you by Mozilla.”

    I’m okay with whatever results you come up with. Just wishing that they were presented without your personal slant.

  24. mithun Says:

    lick

FIND A REVIEW
Laptops
All Product Types Accessories Cars Digital Camcorders Digital Cameras eReaders GPS Laptops MP3 & Video Players Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets / MIDs VoIP Wi-Fi
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Brand
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS Averatec BenQ CTL Corp. Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Sager Samsung Sony Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 4 5 6 7 8 9
Resolution
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1920x1080 1920x1200 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options
SUBSCRIBE