How does SRWare’s product stand up after two years into our ongoing field test?
When we first reviewed Iron Browser, we were very impressed with what it does, and what it doesn’t do. What it does is emulate Google’s popular and capable Chrome browser. What it doesn’t do is allow Google to snoop “big brother” style on your browsing habits and other internet goodies.
What Iron continues to do well:
The browser’s developers have remained true to the philosophy that started Iron, and it shows. It’s still everything the Chrome browser should be, with all of the functionality, but optimized for better security to include none of the notorious browser tracking and general creepiness that is appearing more and more in Chrome and other Google products. It disables Google’s search suggestions, so Google can’t snoop on your search requests, disabled Google’s URL tracker, disbled Google’s crash reporting features and removed Client ID reporting.
Iron keeps up to date with all the features being added to Chrome. It even contains all the latest developer tools that Chrome has, for more advanced users. They’re especially handy for web developers who are troubleshooting things, and it’s a feature that has saved this reviewer loads of time and headaches.
SR Ware has even tweaked Iron a little to make minor improvements, such as including 12 preview thumbnails of your favourite websites in new tabs, as opposed to Chrome’s 9 previews, making the thumbnails a little more useable for frequent users with a lot of favourite pages.
Chrome plugins (extensions) install seamlessly into Iron. Add-on products like Adblocker Plus (if Iron’s built-in adblocker isn’t enough for you) and FlashBlock work flawlessly. Even Google’s native Screen Capture extension works perfectly. You can dress it up or dress it down exactly the way you like.
All that, and it continues to consume fewer resources than its parent program (Chrome) and considerably less than Microsoft’s hog, Internet Explorer. I use Iron as the default browser on my relatively ancient Samsung netbook running XP without any kind of issues.
Really, what’s left to say here? Iron does it all. I could go on for hours about what Iron has gotten right (and sometimes I do).
Probably the biggest single complaint of users is that Iron has no automatic updater. There isn’t even an easy way to check the latest version and download the updated install file manually. Luckily, this shortcoming is addressed by one of the products reviewed later in this article. SRWare says this is not a mistake, it’s intentionally designed this way to increase security. I’m not actually sure how it’s a security risk, but these guys have done everything else right, so I’m okay with taking their word on this one.
For a few users (myself included) there were difficulties setting Iron as the default browser. The feature to do so from within the browser just didn’t work. This was only an issue on some Win7 PCs and on systems with limited rights, and has since been resolved for most users, but Iron now has a downloadable workaround for this that works very well.
In the ongoing push into mobile browsing, Iron has yet to unveil a “light” browser for phones and tablets. This is not surprising, given that Google’s Chrome Mobile just launched last month. There may be some complications with the name “MobileIron” being claimed by another company, but this is just speculation. At this time there is no indication of plans for a mobile browser from SRWare.
Honestly, that’s it. Iron remains solidly as my selection for default browser on my own PC and the browser I first recommend to friends.
Well, two things. One is a new portable version of Iron from SRWare, and the other is an “aftermarket” updater.
Iron Portable is a standalone version of Iron that you can use from a USB-stick. No admin rights are needed to use it, so you can use it on community or public computers without the hassles of installing. Another great feature of Portable is that it maintains your profiles on the USB stick, so bookmarks and preferences travel with you. The best part of all is that it uses all the same security optimizations of the full desktop version. I tested it on multiple desktops running a variety of Microsoft OSes from XP through 8 and the only limitation I found was a slight drop in speed, as one might expect from a USB device. Connected to a USB 3.0 port, however, there was little noticeable difference in speed. The world needs more USB 3.0. If you do a lot of computer-hopping, this may be for you. Download the zip file.
|SRWare Updater – this is as complicated as it gets.|
SRWare Updater takes care of that problem of no auto-update in Iron. The name is a bit misleading, as it’s not really an updater. It alerts you to new versions of Iron Browser and automates the install file’s download process. You still have to complete the update yourself, but it’s easier than manually locating and checking version numbers. Updater can be set to load on startup. I have mine set to ask permission to run each time, so I can decide whether or not it’s running in the background. Some may find that annoying and choose to auto-load. Updater checks your version of Iron browser against SRWare’s latest build and alerts you if there’s a newer version to download. Updater does the version check at a time interval you can specify (default is every 6 hours). You set the download folder (default is to desktop) and when it finds a new version, it asks you if you want to download the install file. Once the install file is downloaded, close your Iron browser, run the install (you won’t lose preferences or bookmarks) and you’re back in business. SRWare Updater is freeware, made by Scott Merryfield and available from softpedia. I use it, you may find it handy.
We try out a LOT of freeware around here, and with the nature of the freeware market, it’s always a disappointment to find a gem that loses its development support and disappears. Iron is a diamond that continues to deliver and keeps getting better.
Platforms: MacOS / Linux / Windows
Size: 389 KB
Platforms: Windows XP / Vista / XP 64 bit / Vista 64 bit / 7 / 7 64 bit