Firefox recently benefitted from a major interface redesign, and has made huge strides in memory consumption and startup speed. It's also a leader in new standards support and evolution. But Firefox's customization possibilities are what have endeared the browser to millions of users over the years, and the latest version is more easily customizable than ever. Its Customize mode lets you configure the browser toolbars, Personas let you change its appearance, and as always, a raft of extension can do more to make the browser your own than any other browser. To top everything off, Firefox is the leader in security and privacy.
Now available for Windows 7 as well as for Windows 8 (but not for Vista or XP), Microsoft's latest browser is faster, trimmer, far more compliant with HTML5—a major improvement over its predecessor. IE even now supports WebGL and SPDY, but not WebRTC. The browser brings some unique capabilities such as tab-pinning and leading hardware acceleration. Its excellent privacy tools include Do Not Track enabled by default and the more-powerful Tracking Protection feature.
Maxthon is the app in this roundup known and used by the fewest people, but it offers among the most in tools, and surprisingly good performance and HTML5 support. If the idea of being able to skip through video ads, take a screen capture of a webpage, download video, or switch to a dark view for night viewing appeals to you, give Maxthon a download. Site compatibility is pretty much guaranteed, since Maxthon uses both Chrome and IE's webpage rendering engines. Rich cloud services let you push sites to other devices and store downloads up in the cloud, but Maxthon trails in graphics hardware acceleration.
We're still fans of this browser from Norway, but it now offers fewer differentiators, since it uses Google's underlying code. Like the other current browsers, Opera is fast, compliant with HTML5, and spare of interface. Long an innovator, its main distinction is its Speed Dial, which offers Windows 8-like live tiles of information on new-tab pages. Another is Off-road mode, which speeds up the Web on slow connections through caching and compression. Unfortunately Opera has dropped a few of its distinguishing plusses such as a built-in BitTorrent, Unite server functionality, and an email client. Even a bookmark manager awaits re-addition to the rebuilt browser.