The best web browser 2016

Fast, flexible and secure

The best web browser 2016

Are you getting the best of the web? We all have our preferred web browser, and generally won't even think about changing unless something goes disastrously wrong. According to the statistics, most of us opt for Google Chrome - but is it the best?

We've rounded up the best web browsers - Chrome among them, of course - to show that there's much more to viewing the web. Perhaps you're looking for raw speed, high levels of customization, or rock-solid privacy for your browsing exploits. Maybe you're just looking for a change for the sake of trying something new. Whatever your reason, read on.

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Download Google Chrome free

Chrome is a superb browser - fast and adaptable - if you aren't bothered by letting Google handle all your online activity

1. Google Chrome

Download Google Chrome free

Powerful and adaptable browser, if your PC has the resources, Chrome is 2016's best web browser

With Chrome, Google has built an extendable, efficient browser that deserves its place at the top of the browser rankings. According to w3schools' browser trend analysis its user base is only rising, even as Microsoft Edge's install numbers are presumably growing. Why? Well, it's cross-platform, incredibly stable, brilliantly presented to take up the minimum of screen space, and just about the nicest browser there is to use.

Its wide range of easily obtained and installed extensions mean you can really make it your own, and there's support for parental controls and a huge range of tweaks and settings to ensure maximum efficiency.

But there are downsides, and potentially big ones. It's among the heaviest browsers in terms of resource use, so it's not brilliant on machines with limited RAM, and its performance doesn't quite match up to others in benchmarking terms. And with Google's tentacles running through it, you might be uncomfortable with the ways in which your browsing data may be used.

Download here: Google Chrome

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Download Opera free

Opera is a superb browser with a clean interface and built-in ad-blocker, plus a Turbo mode that makes slow connections more useable

2. Opera

Download Opera free

An underrated browser, Opera's killer feature is a superb Turbo mode for slow connections

It's sad that Opera makes up only around 1% of the browser market, because it really is a quality browser. It launches fast, the UI is brilliantly clean, and it does everything its rivals can do with a couple of extras thrown in for good measure.

The key reason we'd at least recommend having Opera installed alongside your main browser is its Opera Turbo feature. This compresses your web traffic, routing it through Opera's servers, which makes a huge difference to browsing speed if you're stuck on rural dial-up or your broadband connection is having a moment.

It reduces the amount of data transferred too, handy if you're using a mobile connection, and this re-routing also dodges any content restrictions your ISP might place on your browsing, which can be mighty handy. Opera automatically ducks out of the way if you're using secure sites like banks so your traffic is free and clear of any potential privacy violation.

There's also an integrated ad-blocker - which can be switched off if you're morally inclined in that direction - and a battery-saving mode which promises to keep your laptop going for longer.

Download here: Opera

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Download Microsoft Edge free

Edge works on all your Windows 10 devices, with sandboxing for security and a special reading mode to isolate the important content on pages

3. Microsoft Edge

Download Microsoft Edge free

Edge - Microsoft's new, user-friendly browser - offers full integration with Windows 10

The default 'browsing experience' on Windows 10, Edge is an odd one. Quite why Microsoft needs to be running a pair of browser products in tandem is beyond us. The company's reason, it seems, is that Edge represents the more user-friendly end of Redmond's offering while Internet Explorer scales a little better for enterprise.

Integration with Windows 10's core gimmicks seems to be Edge's main strong point. It happily runs as a modern-skinned app on Windows 10's tablet mode, and works with Cortana. It's also highly streamlined for the current web age, doing away with insecure protocols like ActiveX and forcing you into Internet Explorer if you want to use them. We're more used to browsers failing to render newer pages than we are to being told off for visiting older corners of the web.

Curmudgeonly grumbles aside, actually using Edge is a perfectly pleasant experience. It's super-quick, hammers through benchmarks, its integrated reading mode makes complex sites more palatable, and by sandboxing it away from the rest of the operating system Microsoft has ensured that Edge won't suffer the security breaches of its older brother.

Download here: Microsoft Edge

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Download Firefox free

Firefox is updated on a six-week schedule, which means bugs are fixed quickly, but its performance lags behind its main rivals these days

4. Mozilla Firefox

Download Mozilla Firefox free

A divisive choice these days - Firefox is very flexible, but can feel sluggish with lots of plugins installed

Once the leader in overall popularity in the browser war, Firefox is now now a slightly sad third place. It's not clear why; while it lags behind its main competitors in terms of design, keeping the search and URL boxes separate and leaving buttons on display where others have removed them, it's regularly updated on a six-week schedule and has a raft of extensions available.

Firefox tends to hit the middle-to-bottom end of benchmark tests, however, and we did find it a little sluggish to a barely noticeable extent. Recent additions like built-in support for Pocket and Hello aren't going to be to everyone's taste, but some will love them. And that about sums up the Firefox of today; incredibly divisive, despite being a solid browser with a quality rendering engine.

If you're looking for an alternative take on the same structure, Waterfox may fit the bill. It's built on Firefox code, removes many of the restrictions and integrations of the main release, and purports to be one of the fastest browsers around.

Download here: Mozilla Firefox

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Download Vivaldi free

Vivaldi is a relatively new browser that's bound to see more development soon. Its interface is fully customizable, though it doesn't officially support extensions yet

5. Vivaldi

Download Vivaldi free

Build your own ideal browser with Vivaldi's unique docking and tab-stacking features

Here's something a bit different. We all spend probably far too much time sitting in front of our web browsers, and up-and-comer Vivaldi wants to make that as pleasant and personal an experience as possible. Itself build out of web technologies like Javascript and node.js, Vivaldi can adapt its colour scheme to the sites you're using, and indeed the structure of its interface is entirely up to you.

There's a built-in note-taking system, you can dock websites as side panels while using the main window to do your main browsing, and we love its innovative tab stacking tech, which allows you to group up tabs and move them around to avoid the crowding that so often plagues other browsers.

It's not the fastest and it's not the most fully featured, lacking any official support for extensions, but Vivaldi is relatively new and we don't doubt it'll receive further expansion as time goes on. It's a refreshing and creative take on web browsing, and one to watch in the next couple of years.

Download here: Vivaldi

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Download Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 free

Microsoft Internet Explorer is fast and powerful, and makes modest use of your system resources, though it lacks the flexibility of Firefox and Chrome

6. Microsoft Internet Explorer

Download Internet Explorer 11 free

Internet Explorer is fast and efficient, but less expandable than Firefox and Chrome

Microsoft's browser has seen some ups and downs in its long tenure, from dominating the browser charts to languishing behind its main two competitors. This is partly an issue of choice - particularly the browser choice that Microsoft was forced to give customers after a court ruling - and partially because older versions fell behind the rendering and compatibility curve.

There are no such issues with Internet Explorer 11. It's clean, powerful, highly compatible, and it demands less of your RAM and CPU than equivalent pages would on Chrome or Firefox. Plus it one-ups both of them on WebKit's Sunspider benchmark.

That's not to say it's perfect. Google's V8 benchmark sees it struggling, and IE isn't quite as able to handle addons and extensions as many of its competitors. So while there's no reason to avoid IE like there might once have been, if you're looking for a more customised browsing experience you're out of luck.

Download here: Microsoft Internet Explorer

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Download Tor free

Tor Browser is a heavily modified version of Firefox that re-routed web traffic via random nodes worldwide

7. Tor Browser

Download Tor free

Not just a browser - Tor offers a whole package of browsing tools with security at its heart

Tor is, perhaps unjustly, most regularly associated with the seedy underworld of the dark web. While it's true that you can use it to access otherwise unlisted sites, Tor's privacy aspects - where your traffic is routed through random nodes the world over, making it very hard to track - are its real asset.

Tor Browser is really a package of tools; Tor itself, a heavily modified version of the Firefox extended support release, and a number of other privacy packages that combine to make it the most secure browsing experience you're likely to find. Nothing is tracked, nothing is stored, and you can forget about bookmarks and cookies.

You'll need to alter your browsing habits to ensure that you don't perform actions online that reveal your identity - Tor is just a tool, after all - but for a secondary browser useful for those private moments it's a great choice. Run it from a USB stick and nobody need even know you have it at all.

Download here: Tor Browser