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Your web browser's speed depends on a lot of factors, including computer processing speed and of course your connection type. Internet browsers should compliment your configured speed and let you access the web quickly and navigate fluidly from one site to another. But not all browsers are up to speed.  The major competitors have turned the browser war into a triathlon, racing for faster startup times, quicker page loads, and compatibility. And with Internet access shifting from traditional desktop computers to laptops and even cell phones, mobility matters.

Current Internet browsers boast higher surfing speed and better browsing compatibility than we’ve ever seen, but not all browsers facilitate completely fluid browsing.

Startup Time

Remember when logging on to the internet included entering a username, and listening to the sweet tones of dial-up? Waiting for your homepage to load was a test in patience, even a chore.  The Internet today can be accessed in a matter of seconds, and if browsers have their way, expect to see it soon be split-seconds.  While some browsers still take a few moments to initialize and get rolling, expect to be up and running almost instantaneously with a good Internet browser.

To test startup time we used our handy stopwatch and simply clocked how long it took for each browser to initialize for the first time and load our favorite homepage, Top Ten Reviews. After running this test a handful of times we took an average and found the fastest starters:

Opera took an early lead with an average startup time of only 7 seconds, followed by Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari. Firefox took a little more time to warm-up, but didn’t fall far behind from the get-go. Our other reviewed browsers got off to a rough start, with Avant Browser trailing in at over 25 seconds to get rolling.

The Internet browsers evened out a bit upon measuring average startup time after the first time. Internet Explorer and Chrome pulled ahead in opening up the second and third times, averaging under the 3 second mark. Firefox and Safari didn’t fall far behind, and while our other tested browsers increased speed, they still lagged behind.

Navigation

Moving from site to site should be a seamless transition, not a chore. While the amount of content and the server will affect how fast an individual page loads, different browsers are better suited to transfer from page to page than others. Our top-rated browsers optimize loading performance, utilizing technology to assure proper loading of all Internet content, regardless of code or origin.

The web continues to evolve, and web browsers aim to support advanced web technologies to benefit web developers as well as the end viewer. Some of the advanced technologies include CSS, ACID2, APNG (Animated Portable Network Graphics), and ECMAScript4. While HTML is the main markup language, many pages are utilizing JavaScript. And with more sites using Ajax technology to create interactive Internet applications, the best Internet browsers continue to accommodate. For the average user this additional support doesn’t mean a lot until a website doesn’t load properly or a graphic just doesn’t look quite right. Superior Internet browsers make it such that the average web surfer doesn’t have to worry about advanced technologies; they just know that it works, and it works well. With the right Internet browser, text is readable, graphics are clear and rendered properly, and applications run properly and quickly.

To test navigation speed and endurance of the Internet browsers, we again clocked our browsers performing a simple task. We timed each browser on how long it took to navigate from Google to NYTimes.com, then from NY to LA (LATimes.com).

Opera made it to NY in record time, but lost the lead to Firefox on the road to LA. Overall Firefox showed the best pace and smooth transitions while navigating from page to page. Again, our other browser made a decent showing, but couldn’t really compete.

Compatibility

The only thing worse than struggling to find the page you’re looking for is finally finding it and not being able to view it. A good Internet browser lets the end user see individual web pages the way they were intended to be seen. Some browsers are simply more likely to generate a website properly, while others lose something in translation. Oftentimes this is a result of poor browser compatibility. Granted, more often than not the blame can be placed on the website not being properly maintained to recognize a certain browser. But regardless of fault, the end result is that certain web pages won’t load on certain browsers, and that’s far from what we’ve come to expect from our Internet browsing.

Regardless of speed, an Internet browser needs a great deal of compatibility and load websites properly. A better browser doesn’t sacrifice compatibility to speed. Both speed and compatibility are essential in making a browser the best.

While we’re seeing higher performing browsers than we have before, some outperform others in many regards. And with all the browsers we reviewed being completely free, there’s no reason not to take advantage of the fastest Internet browser you can. Top ranked browsers are winning the speed war because they are loading quicker, performing faster, and finishing properly.

To read the methodology behind our time trials, read How We Tested Internet Browser Speed.

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