Best browser 2014: which should you be using?

The best browser for Windows, OS X, Android and iPads

Best browser for OS X

Safari on OS X hasn't suffered the same neglect as its ill-fated Windows sibling. On OS X we're currently on version 7.0.2, which offers iCloud bookmark syncing, shared links from your social media accounts and power optimisation that promises to get more life from your laptop.

That doesn't mean it's necessarily the best choice for Mac users, though. On Sunspider, our copy repeatedly took ten minutes to run (benchmarks normally execute in a matter of seconds) and returned a page full of errors. Here's how the other browsers stacked up:

  1. Chrome 191.8ms
  2. Opera 190.4ms
  3. Firefox 185.6ms

There are other reasons to consider alternatives to Safari. We've found it often chokes when we've got lots of tabs open or when we're browsing image-heavy sites such as Tumblr, and it's no stranger to the frustrated Force-Quit when it makes the entire system unresponsive. In this company we think Chrome has a narrow lead, although if it has the extensions you need the redesigned Opera is very nice on OS X too.

best browser Opera on OS
Opera 20 on OS X is a lovely thing, and less temperamental than Apple's own Safari.

Best for privacy

All the major browsers have private browsing modes to prevent your partner seeing what you've been surfing or shopping for. But if you're really serious about privacy you'll need to turn to the world of add-ons and extensions such as HTTPS Everywhere, Disconnect or AdBlock Plus.

Firefox and Chrome have the edge here, possibly because the kind of people who take security and privacy seriously are the kind of people who want more than just a basic browser. Opera's new Chromium-based extensions include our three examples too. IE isn't entirely extension-free, but its rivals do have a wider selection of tools to cover your tracks.

Best for HTML5

The HTML5test awards up to 555 points for standards compliance: the bigger the score, the more standards compliant the browser is. Chrome is head and shoulders above the competition here, while Safari limps in in sixth and last place.

  1. Chrome 505
  2. Firefox 448
  3. Opera 392
  4. Internet Explorer (modern) 376
  5. Internet Explorer (desktop) 372
  6. Safari 260

Best browser Chrome Score
Chrome's standards support is superb, ahead of even Firefox

Best browser for Android

If it's sheer power you're after then Dolphin is the winner here. It's fast, very expandable, packed with features and has a deserved four-and-a-half-star rating after a million and a half user reviews. But it's not the only option. If you don't need Dolphin's many options you'll be perfectly happy with Chrome, and if you're using Firefox on the desktop then Firefox Browser for Android's syncing will keep you happy.

Best browser for iPad

Our answer to this one would have been very different if Apple hadn't shipped iOS 7.1. The version of Safari in the previous iOS 7 release was incredibly and frustratingly prone to crashing, the updated one is much more stable (it hasn't bumped us once despite constant daily use).

Safari also has one feature rivals can't possibly offer: being the default handler for web links. While other apps have their joys - Dolphin is handy, Chrome ties in nicely with Google's other programs and services and Coast by Opera is nippy - Safari's OS integration gives it an unfair advantage.

best browser iOS7 Safari
System integration gives Safari an unfair advantage over other browsers, which can't be the default