Testing Gecko Browsers

Gecko is the third most-common layout engine on the web, obviously a popular option to power the online experience, but which browser is the best choice for you?  Browsers are actually quite personal. We all use them differently. We vary in what we require and our preferences. And we’re always looking for the best fit. Our Windows testers take on the task so you don’t have to, and hopefully the results will make it easier for you to choose your best options.

Pale Moon
Custom built and optimized, Pale Moon breezes through download, install and set up, and offers to import settings from other major browsers to make the switch a bit easier on you. It’s quite handsome with its simple, attractive native skin interface and drives quickly and well. While the build updates are always at least a beat or two behind, the browser is usually current enough to use most Firefox extensions, so you usually don’t have to give up the luxury of your most beloved add-ons.. It’s easy to use, faster than Firefox and uses less resources, but again it’s slow to get updates which could leave you with that “surfing the net not as protected as you could be” feeling. Uninstalls rather cleanly. But it takes a lot to crash this thing and that alone makes Pale Moon a solid browser for users who want the Firefox experience without the associated drag.

Many users are addicted to Firefox and balk at the mention of switching browsers. Often wedded to the mere idea, the standard is arguably a good one. Firefox 9, touted as smaller and faster, has a painless install and set up. While it’s far more spry than IE (what isn’t?) it’s not as speedy as Chrome, and the more add-ons you install, the slower it moves and the more resources it consumes. Users seem to report a bit of a quandry that, while Firefox starts out fast and sure in the beginning, it slowly develops a slightly bloated performance. Many seem to attribute this to the possible weight of multiple add-ons but I’m not sure I buy that explanation. While it may not be as attractive as other browsers with its squared tabs and somewhat vague interface, it’s customizable, drives well and uninstalls quickly and cleanly.

Confession? Everyone who tested CometBird fell in love with it. Easy to download and install, it imports settings and prompts to be the main browser. When it does, we advise you to say yes. Upon launch we discovered it comes fully loaded with add-ons, extensions and special features (like its own Download Media Files tool, CometMarks Boomarks Synchronizer, and built-in Software Checker) which both delighted and caused concern that this might slow down performance. Not so. CometBird is so much faster than a fresh-out-of-the-box bare Firefox that we had to wonder what Mozilla was doing wrong to be so weighty by comparison. It uses less resources than Pale Moon, SeaMonkey and Firefox, and easily uses any Firefox add-ons, themes or extensions. Always up to date, its good looks, ease of use, speed and solid performance made it a team favourite. None of us uninstalled it – we switched to CometBird thisfast – but we assume it’s a quick process.

This is a very, very fast browser, light and simple, and extremely easy on resources – all the things we look for and love – but while K-Meleon has so much potential, it never quite gets there. Fast download, easy install and set up with offer to import, the cartoon lizard.browser icon won’t work for anyone over the age of twelve and the alternative icons have the same “hurt your eyes” quality. But there’s more to a browser than its icon.  Although comparatively spartan, the actual browser is perhaps the naturally best looking of the bunch but it doesn’t take Firefox add-ons. While it offers its own skins and extensions, they can be difficult to install if you’re not code-savvy. As a default, tabbed browsing is available via right click, and the general lay out and functions are a bit different, too. Fast, clean uninstall. Developers and code-crunchers will fall in love with this browser and rightly so, but it may have too many potential drawbacks for the average users to feel comfortable with, even for the absolute speed K-Meleon so easily delivers. It’s a shame, but we’ll keep an eye on this one.

Billed as “Web-browser, advanced e-mail, newsgroup and feed client, IRC chat, and HTML editing made simple—all your Internet needs in one application” we tested it because 1) we couldn’t resist that plug and 2) it does indeed run on Gecko technology. Choosing the recent Beta release, it downloads and installs quickly, whistles through set up and prompts to import information to set you up for fast success. While it’s more attractive than Firefox, the icon’s a bit confusing. We expected a seamonkey and, although we’re not exactly sure what one really looks like, we’re not sure it looks like this either. But we like the way SeaMonkey drives. It’s easy to navigate and feature-friendly, using minimal to moderate resources. Uninstalls easily but you’ll find a few files here and there. With its own extensions and add-ons to help customize it, if you prefer an all-in-one package this is a good choice, and an alternative to the market Opera’s almost successfully cornered.

And the winner is… CometBird is so impressive we unanimously kept it. In fact, I’m editing this blog review using CometBird as my browser right now. And, yes, I am happy. But to be honest, there really aren’t any bad choices here depending on your preferences, needs, interests and skill levels. We hope this overview has been helpful, and we at Gen X Net wish you the happiest of holidays and the best browsing experience possible.

No computers, small animals, individuals, groups or houseplants were harmed in the making of this review. One tester accidentally dropped a gingerbread man cookie into her tea cup but it was considered a momentary lapse rather than a real setback, and the incident is not a reflection on any of the browsers or their testers. No eggnog or wassail was involved in the testing processes. – The Management. 

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