5 lesser-known browsers: Free, lightweight and low-maintenance

Are Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome slowing your machine -- or are they simply more than you need? We look at some alternatives.

Mainstream Web browsers such as IE, Firefox and Chrome provide a huge set of browsing and configuration features that make these browsers highly customizable. However, these features can have have a negative impact on the browser's speed and memory footprint.

In fact, many users do not require all those features -- especially developers, who want to work quickly and without unnecessary frills. Happily, there are alternative Web browsers that are simple, fast and light on memory resources.

In this article, I examine five lesser-known free Web browsers: Dillo, Epiphany, Konqueror, Lynx and Midori. While they are all Linux-based browsers, three (Konqueror, Lynx and Midori) are compatible with Windows systems, while three (Dillo, Konqueror and Lynx) can be used on Macs.

Each browser has its strengths and weaknesses, I've discovered. Some of them strip away too much functionality for my taste, but one strikes just the right balance and has now become my daily go-to browser.

How I tested

For this review, I tested the five browsers on a Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2GB RAM using Ubuntu 13.04. I used each browser for at least 4 to 5 hours, during which time I researched the browser I was using on the Web and also visited Google, Gmail, Facebook and YouTube.

In addition, I used two benchmarking applications: the Acid3 test, which checks a browser's compliance with JavaScript, Document Object Module (DOM) and other standards; and the HTML5 test to check the browser's compliance with the draft HTML5 specification.

To measure browser speed, I used the Speed-Battle test from U-Double-U.

(Note: Two of the browsers, Dillo and Lynx, could not be tested with any of the above applications because neither supports JavaScript.)

Finally, in order to test memory usage, I used the pmap command in Linux and reported the results after I opened one tab, opened nine more tabs (for a total of ten), closed five of the tabs and then closed four more tabs (leaving one left open).

In all the tests, I also included Chrome and Firefox so that the tested browsers could be compared to the two major browsers available for Linux.

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Browser memory usage

1 tab open 10 tabs open 5 tabs closed 9 tabs closed
Dillo 136,884 138,304 138,292 138,292
Epiphany 2,634,540 2,637,180 2,637,180 2,637,180
Konqueror 850,896 983,268 983,268 983,268
Lynx* 53,148 N/A N/A N/A
Midori 2,285,400 2,621,568 2,610,012 2,610,012
Chrome 891,368 896,092 896,092 896,092
Firefox 1,065,264 1,224,560 1,209,136 1,156,784
Note: Tested using pmap command. All results are in kilobytes. Smaller is better. *Lynx does not offer tabs.

Browser speed

Speed-Battle result
Dillo* N/A
Epiphany 358.24
Konqueror 27
Lynx* N/A
Midori 364.61
Chrome 309.45
Firefox 381.99
Note: Dillo and Lynx do not support JavaScript and so couldn't be tested. Higher numbers are better.

Browser compatibility

Acid3 HTML5
Dillo* N/A N/A
Epiphany 100/100 364/500
Konqueror 92/100 97/500
Lynx* N/A N/A
Midori 100/100 364/500
Chrome 100/100 463/500
Firefox 100/100 413/500
Note: Dillo and Lynx do not support JavaScript and so couldn't be tested. Higher numbers are better.
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