The Best Internet Browsers of 2021

Get our recommendations for the best browsing experience possible.

  • Best overall
    Google Chrome
    Chrome
    • Works natively with Google services
    • Syncs across multiple devices
    • Supports dark modes and themes
    • Free
  • Best for security
    Firefox
    • Blocks cryptominers
    • Prevents fingerprinting
    • Stores passwords locally
    • Free
  • Best for customization
    Vivaldi
    • Provides high customization
    • Protects against phishing
    • Syncs data between devices
    • Free

Our pick: Which browser is best?

Google Chrome is our pick for the most well-rounded internet browser you can get. It’s fast and natively supports your favorite Google services like Gmail and Google Drive. You can perform a search within the address bar, group your browser tabs, and more. Want to go dark? Chrome supports themes too.

We spent many hours comparing the best browsers in terms of speed using a handful of tests on Windows and macOS. We provide the results in our Methodology section to show which is the fastest browser on your favorite desktop platform.

Pro tip:

You need a fast internet connection to complement the best browsers. Enter your zip code below to see if a better internet plan is available in your area.

The 6 best browsers

Best browsers

Best forBrowserAvailabilityBest featuresGet it
Best overallChromeDesktop, mobile
  • Supports Google services
  • Includes tab group management
  • Get Chrome
    Best for securityFirefoxDesktop, mobile
  • Prevents tracking
  • Blocks cryptominers
  • Get Firefox
    Best for customizationVivaldiDesktop, Android
  • Provides high customization
  • Protects against phishing
  • Get Vivaldi
    Best for social mediaOperaDesktop, mobile
  • Includes a built-in VPN
  • Provides built-in social apps
  • Get Opera
    Best for macOSSafariDesktop, mobile
  • Supports extensions
  • Displays tab previews
  • Included on Apple devices
    Best for WindowsMicrosoft EdgeDesktop, mobile
  • Installs web apps
  • Stacks tabs vertically
  • Get Microsoft Edge

    What should you look for in a browser?

    A great web browser should be fast and clean. You don’t want a browser that’s so bloated in features that it hogs your system’s resources and loads pages so slowly that you swear you’re on a dial-up connection.

    And while speed is great, security should be a priority too. Browsers should protect you from trackers, hackers, and internet eavesdroppers.

    Ultimately, a browser should be your interactive window looking out into the World Wide Web—a picture frame that should never distract you from the view at hand.

    Best overall—Chrome

    Best overall
    Google Chrome

    Price: Free

    Features

    • Supports Google services
    • Includes tab group management

    Availability

    • Desktop: Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome OS
    • Mobile: iOS, iPadOS, Android

    Base code

    • Chromium

    Data this browser collects from you

    • User ID
    • Device ID
    • Location
    • Audio data

    And more (see App Privacy)

    Chrome is the fastest browser you can get on a Windows machine. It surpassed the competition in three out of four tests, outranking even Microsoft’s latest Edge browser—which is now based on Chromium—in all but one test.

    On Macs, Chrome is a heavy hitter in performance, outranking Safari in two out of four tests. It’s a good alternative to Safari, but Chrome’s data collection issues are a little disconcerting.1 If you’re worried about how Google uses your data, Safari or Microsoft Edge may be your better alternative.


    Pro tip: Chrome’s Incognito Mode doesn’t completely protect you from Google’s data collection. The company confirmed in a court filing in March 2021 that users are not “invisible” when using Incognito Mode. The company said user activity might be visible to websites and third-party analytics and ads.2


    Still, despite privacy concerns, Chrome is a great browser overall if you use Google’s services. It’s probably the ideal default browser if you shift between Windows, Android, and iOS.

    Bottom line: Chrome is the fastest browser on Windows and an excellent alternative to Safari on macOS in terms of speed. However, you agree to Google’s excessive data collection in exchange for that speed and convenience.

    Pros

    • Supports a huge extensions library
    • Syncs across devices

    Cons

    • Collects lots of data
    • Uses lots of memory

    Best for security—Firefox

    Best for security

    Price: Free

    Features

    • Blocks cryptominers
    • Prevents fingerprinting
    • Stores passwords locally

    Availability

    • Desktop: Windows, macOS, Linux
    • Mobile: iOS, iPadOS, Android

    Base code

    • Quantum

    Data this browser collects from you

    • Contact info
    • User ID
    • Device ID

    Mozilla’s Firefox browser isn’t known for speed. It fell into last place in most of our tests for Windows and macOS, and that’s okay. Firefox is more about security than speed, which is ideal if you’re more concerned about blocking malware than loading pages quickly.


    Pro tip: Want to improve your home network’s security? Check out our list of the best routers for security. We also offer a guide on how to keep your router secure if you don’t need a new one.


    Firefox received a facelift in 2021. Mozilla redesigned the tabs, prompts, menus, and overall look, giving Firefox a new modern interface. Under the hood, Firefox strives to keep you safe online with tools like DNS-over-HTTPS, which encrypts browser requests versus sending the information in plaintext.

    Bottom line: If you want a browser that puts security first, not data collection, then Firefox is your best bet. However, it’s not the fastest browser available.

    Pros

    • Protects against spyware
    • Blocks almost all pop-ups

    Cons

    • Consumes high memory
    • Falls behind other browsers in speed

    Best for customization—Vivaldi

    Best for customization

    Price: Free

    Features

    • Provides high customization
    • Protects against phishing
    • Syncs data between devices

    Availability

    • Desktop: Windows, macOS, Linux
    • Mobile: Android

    Base code

    • Chromium

    Data this browser collects from you

    • User ID
    • Device ID

    Vivaldi breathes new life into the tired, repetitive browser design. Here you can customize the start page, create and use a custom theme, customize and move the menu, customize the toolbar, and so on. You can also assign browser commands to keyboard shortcuts, map commands to gestures, and assign quick commands to the Function keys.

    In terms of speed, it’s not the fastest browser on the planet—at least, not yet. It’s the youngest in the batch, so there’s room for improvement. It ranked fourth in all four tests we ran on Windows, while its performance jumped between third and last in the same tests on macOS. That said, Vivaldi is an excellent middle-ground browser in terms of performance.

    Bottom line: Vivaldi is great for customizing your browser experience, but it doesn’t match the speed of Chrome or Safari.

    Pros

    • Offers plenty of customization
    • Syncs data across devices

    Cons

    • Lacks iPhone, iPad versions
    • Consumes high memory

    Best for social media—Opera

    Best for social media
    Opera browser logo

    Price: Free

    Features

    • Includes a built-in VPN
    • Includes social tools
    • Verifies all websites

    Availability

    • Desktop: Windows, macOS, Linux
    • Mobile: iOS, iPadOS, Android

    Base code

    • Chromium

    Data this browser collects from you

    • Device ID
    • Location
    • Diagnostics

    Opera is a great browser if you want built-in social network tools. The browser’s sidebar includes shortcuts to Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, and three others you can pin to the browser window. Opera also provides a built-in VPN component, so you can prevent third-party companies from tracking you across the internet.


    Pro tip: The fastest VPNs currently available include ExpressVPN, IPVanish, and Hotspot Shield.


    On Windows, Opera kept its seat as the third-fastest browser in our tests, falling behind Chrome and Microsoft Edge. It experienced a similar performance level on macOS, falling behind Safari, Chrome, and Microsoft Edge in our four tests. Opera has a “battery saver” mode that reduces background activity and pauses animations, but we verified it was disabled before running our tests.

    Bottom line: Opera is a good browser if you want a built-in VPN and social tools. It provides middle-ground performance in terms of speed.

    Pros

    • Includes a built-in VPN
    • Includes built-in social tools

    Cons

    • Loads some websites incorrectly
    • Updates less frequently than Chrome

    Best for macOS—Safari

    Best for macOS
    Apple Safari logo

    Price: Free

    Features

    • Provides a clean privacy report
    • Supports extensions
    • Displays tab previews

    Availability

    • Desktop: macOS
    • Mobile: iOS, iPadOS

    Base code

    • Nitro, WebKit

    Data this browser collects from you

    • Device ID
    • User ID
    • Diagnostics

    Safari is an excellent example of how Apple optimizes its software for Macs. It’s fast, simply designed, and somewhat customizable. It supports Chrome extensions, tab previews for power users, and easy translations using the menu bar. And while we will always recommend Firefox as the best browser for security, Safari does include a privacy report panel that displays all the websites that have tracked you across the internet.


    Pro tip: Safari 5.1.7 was the last version released on Windows. While you can find links to the download online, Apple discontinued Windows support in 2012. We do not recommend this browser for Windows users due to the lack of updates and customer support.


    The drawback with Safari is that you can’t install it on anything but Apple devices. That means we could measure its performance only on macOS, so there are no numbers for Windows-based PCs. That said, Safari and Chrome duked it out for the fastest browser, both taking the top spots in two out of four tests. If you want speed, either browser will do.

    Bottom line: Safari is the best browser for Macs, hands down. Stick with Safari if you also have an iPhone or iPad. However, if you use other platforms like Windows and Android, Chrome is the better multiplatform solution—if you can ignore Chrome’s data collection woes.

    Pros

    • Runs superfast on Macs
    • Uses low memory

    Cons

    • Isn’t available outside Apple’s ecosystem
    • Has a limited extensions library

    Best for Windows—Microsoft Edge

    Best for Windows

    Price: Free

    Features

    • Stacks tabs vertically
    • Groups websites into Collections
    • Supports Dolby Audio and 4K

    Availability

    • Desktop: Windows, macOS
    • Mobile: iOS, iPadOS, Android

    Base code

    • Chromium

    Data this browser collects from you

    • Device ID
    • Browsing history
    • Diagnostics

    The original Edge browser was a clunky mess despite Microsoft’s good intentions. It used the company’s in-house EdgeHTML engine and really couldn’t compete with Chrome. Microsoft scrapped its proprietary engine in early 2020 and chose Chromium instead, the browser foundation used in Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, Brave, and more.

    Now Microsoft Edge is available on most platforms and is highly competitive in terms of speed. On Windows, it gave Chrome a run for its money, falling just a hair behind Google’s browser in three of four of our tests. On macOS, Chrome and Microsoft Edge were nearly identical in performance, both falling behind Safari.

    Bottom line: Microsoft Edge is a great native browser for Windows and a good alternative to Safari on macOS if you need a browser that runs outside Apple’s ecosystem.

    Pros

    • Synchronizes across devices
    • Includes a PDF viewer

    Cons

    • Lacks a version for Linux
    • Collects your browser history

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    Which browsers are the fastest?

    To determine the fastest browser on our list, we ran four different tests three times per browser, determined the average, and compared the results.

    On Windows, we discovered that Chrome was the fastest browser, followed by the latest Chromium version of Microsoft Edge.

    On macOS, Safari and Chrome shared the top spot as the fastest browser, followed by Microsoft Edge.

    In all tests, Firefox was the slowest browser on our list.

    See the complete test results in the Methodology section.

    RankWindowsmacOS
    1stChromeSafari/Chrome
    2ndMicrosoft EdgeMicrosoft Edge
    3rdOperaOpera
    4thVivaldiVivaldi
    5thFirefoxFirefox

    Browser specs and features

    A web browser is software that downloads data from a remote server and pieces it all together on your screen. It’s your interactive window to the World Wide Web, a view that exists only when you open a tab and enter an address. All browsers provide this basic function, but there are five elements you should keep in mind while considering your browser options.

    Speed

    You want a browser that loads pages quickly and can run in-browser apps that won’t slow you down. A browser should have a relatively small footprint in your system memory, so it doesn’t affect the performance of your other programs and apps while you surf the internet.

    Security and privacy

    A browser should make secure connections to websites. They should also provide means to block malicious advertisements, cross-site trackers, cryptominers, and fingerprinters. Users should have tools to block and delete cookies, secure their passwords, and use the browser without worrying about how it collects their data.

    Learn more about the best internet browsers for security.

    Customization

    While you don’t want your window to the internet framed with a clunky interface, it’s a nice bonus to add a personal touch. Most of the browsers on our list provide means for customization.

    For example, you can apply a theme in Chrome obtained from the Chrome Web Store. You can create themes in Vivaldi, reposition the menu, or create your own menu.

    Compatibility

    A browser should be compatible with the latest internet standards, like HTML5 and WebGL. A good way to benchmark a browser’s compatibility is to use the HTML5 Test website or AnTuTu’s HTML5 Test online utility. Plus, you don’t want to install a browser that can’t access all the modern functions of a website, like web apps.

    Easy navigation

    While customization is great, you want a browser that’s easy to use. Most browsers we list here are just that, with the address bar headlining your window to the internet. Menus should be tucked away and easily accessible. Settings should be just a click away, and bookmarks should be easy to save and load.

    Pro tip:

    Do you need a new internet connection that’s fast, secure, and doesn’t let you down? Enter your zip code below to see if a better plan is available in your area.

    Our verdict: Google Chrome is the best internet browser

    Google Chrome is fast, it supports Google services natively, and it’s available across all platforms. It’s our top pick in speed, as it went head to head with Safari on macOS and Microsoft Edge on Windows. It’s also a firm alternative if you don’t want to use those native browsers.

    But Microsoft Edge is an excellent third-place browser that’s accessible on nearly all platforms. It’s almost as fast as Chrome and Safari and includes a few features that make it stand out against the competition.

    However, if you want the most secure browser on the planet, Firefox is the way to go, although it’s the slowest browser on our list.

    Methodology

    To determine a browser’s speed, we did the following:

    • Installed a clean, current copy without any plugins or extensions
    • Closed all open programs and unnecessary processes
    • Ran four different tests three times
    • Calculated the average

    To test Microsoft Edge and Safari on their native platforms, we ran browser benchmarks on two separate laptops: Windows and macOS. We plugged both in for maximum power performance.

    Windows 10

    We used a Lenovo ThinkPad with Intel’s Core i7-10850H 6-core processor, 16 GB of system memory, and a 500 GB SSD for these tests.

    Chrome was our biggest performer, taking the top spot in three out of four tests. Microsoft Edge always came in at a close second, save for one test where it switched seats with Chrome. Firefox was our lowest performer of the browser batch.

    JetStream 2

    This test measures how fast a browser loads data and how quickly it executes code—higher numbers are better.

    Firefox Vivaldi Opera Edge Chrome
    101 152 155 163 168

    Speedometer

    This test measures the responsiveness of web applications by simulating user input.

    Firefox Vivaldi Opera Edge Chrome
    118 123 127 158 169

    Basemark Web 3.0

    This tool performs 20 tests—map scaling, drawing, and so on—in one sitting. It’s also popular for testing a laptop’s battery life, as it loops through all tests until the battery dies.

    Firefox Vivaldi Opera Chrome Edge
    689 737 771 924 929

    MotionMark 1.2

    This test benchmarks the browser’s capability to render and animate complex scenes within a set frame rate.

    Firefox Vivaldi Opera Edge Chrome
    541 566 581 745 761

    macOS Big Sur

    We used a 2018 MacBook Air (A1392) with Intel’s Core i5-8210Y 2-core CPU, 8 GB of system memory, and a 128 GB SSD for these tests. There’s a huge processor difference between this machine and the Lenovo notebook, so we reran the benchmarks to compare Safari against the competition on the same Core i5 CPU.

    Overall, Safari and Chrome went head to head for the fastest browser on macOS. Safari grabbed the top spot in two tests while Chrome dominated in the other two. Microsoft Edge was the best alternative to Safari and Chrome, while Firefox had the lowest performance of the six.

    JetStream 2

    This test measures how fast a browser loads data and how quickly it executes code—higher numbers are better.

    Firefox Vivaldi Opera Edge Chrome Safari
    60 85 88 89 89 105

    Speedometer

    This test measures the responsiveness of web applications by simulating user input.

    Firefox Opera Vivaldi Edge Safari Chrome
    64 71 71 82 82 83

    Basemark Web 3.0

    This tool performs 20 tests—map scaling, drawing, and so on—in one sitting.

    Firefox Safari Vivaldi Opera Edge Chrome
    436 437 441 454 476 476

    MotionMark 1.2

    This test benchmarks the browser’s capability to render and animate complex scenes within a set frame rate.

    Vivaldi Firefox Opera Chrome Edge Safari
    176 219 231 258 264 484

    FAQ about the best internet browsers

    What is a virtual private network (VPN)?

    A virtual private network creates a secure, private connection between your device and the destination. It requires software installed on your device that encrypts your data and establishes a direct, encrypted connection to a VPN server. The server then decrypts your data and sends it as plaintext to the destination.

    Overall, a VPN prevents the destination from seeing your geological location, IP address, and operating system.

    Pro tip:

    Want to see how a VPN affects your internet speed? Run our internet speed test with a VPN enabled and disabled and then compare the results.

    Run a Speed Test

    What is a Device ID?

    A Device Identifier (ID) is a unique string of numbers derived from other hardware-identifying numbers stored on your device. Browsers use this information to identify your device.

    What is a User ID?

    A User Identifier (User ID) is a unique profile created by the browser and stored locally as a cookie. This profile includes information such as your processor, storage, screen resolution, and operating system.

    What is Chromium

    Chromium is Google’s free, open-source code that it provides to all internet browser developers. These developers can compile Google’s code with proprietary components and unique designs (Microsoft Edge) or compile the code “as is” (Chromium).

    What is HTML5?

    HTML5 is the fifth generation of HyperText Markup Language (HTML), the programming language that creates websites you see in your browser. There are three components in HTML5: Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) that dictate how web page elements are displayed, JavaScript that executes interactive components, and HTML code that brings it all together.

    HTML5 eliminates the need for browser plugins, like Adobe Flash, Silverlight, and Java.

    What is WebGL?

    Web Graphics Library (or WebGL) is an application programming interface (API) that allows a browser to render 2D and 3D graphics. These elements are written in JavaScript and OpenGL ES for the web and are executed on your device’s graphics cores, not your processor. WebGL eliminates the need for a browser plugin, eliminating security risks and providing better animation.

    To see WebGL in action, visit the Get WebGL website to view a cube rotating in your browser without any additional software.

    What is HTTPS?

    Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (or HTTPS) is a secure version of the application layer protocol used to deliver HTML files, video, and more across the internet. 

    In a nutshell, the browser (client) sends a request to the server hosting a website. In turn, the server sends the appropriate files to your device that are pieced together within your browser. These files reside on your device as cache.

    Browsers and servers that support HTTPS communicate using the Transport Layer Security cryptographic protocol to encrypt the connection between the website and the browser, not the actual data. This encrypted connection prevents eavesdroppers from obtaining your data but only while it’s en route.

    What is DNS-over-HTTPS?

    DNS-over-HTTPS is a means of sending a browser query over a secure connection.

    Short for Domain Name System, DNS essentially translates alphabetic URLs into proper numeric ones. For instance, when you type “google.com” into your address bar, a DNS service consults its address book and sees that the numerical address is 172.217.2.110. It then sends your browser request accordingly.

    Typically this request speeds along the internet highways as plain text. A secure connection doesn’t happen until the website responds to your browser—a handshake, if you will. With DNS-over-HTTPS, a compatible browser sends your query to a compatible DNS server using an encrypted connection. This connection prevents eavesdroppers from viewing your browsing habits.

    Sources

    1. Apple, “Google Chrome,” June 3, 2021. Accessed July 22, 2021.
    2. Bloomberg, “Google Must Face Suit Over Snooping on ‘Incognito’ Browsing,” March 13, 2021. Accessed August 11, 2021.

    Author -

    Kevin Parrish has more than a decade of experience working as a writer, editor, and product tester. He began writing about computer hardware and soon branched out to other devices and services such as networking equipment, phones and tablets, game consoles, and other internet-connected devices. His work has appeared in Tom’s Hardware, Tom's Guide, Maximum PC, Digital Trends, Android Authority, How-To Geek, Lifewire, and others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on internet security.

    Editor - Cara Haynes

    Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.

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