Internet Explorer 9
Firefox zealots have always looked down on Microsoft’s browser, but the latest release is a big improvement.
Pros: Finally as fast as other browsers, ultra-compact new look, tracking protection to ward off ‘inquisitive’ marketing cookies.
Cons: Support for HTML5 and other standards still lagging, won’t run on XP, Linux or non-Windows mobiles.
Mobile version: The Windows Phone 7 browser is impressive, but there’s no IE for Android or iOS, natch.
Killer feature: Links can be pinned to the Windows 7 taskbar and accessed from jump lists.
Mozilla Firefox 4
The major competitor to IE, Firefox 3 was made to look bloated and slow by its new rivals. Can Mozilla keep up?
Pros: On a par with WebKit-based browsers for speed, 'do not track’ option stops marketing cookies from following you on the web, thousands of add-ons available, although Chrome is catching up.
Cons: Not as quick as Chrome, it looks clean, but it doesn’t look as slick as Safari or as simple as Chrome.
Mobile version: Fast and feature-full on Android and Maemo, but the iOS version is little more than a bookmark-syncing tool.
Killer feature: The new ‘Panorama’ feature for organising open tabs.
Google Chrome 9
Nine versions in three years shows how much effort Google is putting into its upstart young browser.
Pros: Chrome uses the WebKit rendering engine, so pages appear lightning fast, clean, menu-free interface still looks revolutionary, add-ons now work, plus there’s an app store.
Cons: Why give Google even more free info about you? Add-on is needed for tab grouping, organising and session saving, finding and configuring add-ons is confusing.
Mobile version: Buggy and basic compared to the desktop effort.
Killer feature: The Omnibox address bar doubles as a search field.
Apple’s default browser ships with OSX and iOS, and is also available for Windows as a download.
Pros: Fast WebKit rendering engine with DNS pre-caching loads pages quickly. ahead of other browsers with HTML5 support, Safari Reader removes ads and banners by default.
Cons: Starting to look dated compared to more pared-down browsers, limited add-on support, hideous updater for the PC version eats up background resources.
Mobile version: Quick and smooth, but lacks session resume features.
Killer feature: The 3D Cover Flow-style history/favourites browsing.
Nearly every cool browser feature premiered in Opera, but others have always made them popular.
Pros: Quick page load times and best Java performance, Opera Unite syncs open tabs and sessions across machines, turbo mode for fast access over public Wi-Fi and 3G.
Cons: No hardware acceleration for rendering webpages using a graphics card, feature heavy with too many toolbars by default.
Mobile version: Pre-cached pages makes Opera Mini fast on iOS, but the interface is complex.
Killer feature: Tab grouping isn’t as sophisticated as Firefox 4, but it’s more intuitive.