These days we spend most of our time online — from entertainment to education to employment — so choosing the best web browser for your needs can make a massive difference in your day-to-day life. We’ll compare the privacy, security, performance, and other features of different apps to find the best web browser to use in 2021.
Before we start
One of the most important elements we look for in a web browser is its speed. No one wants to go back to the slow crawl of dial-up speeds from the mid-90s. But if your browser is slow, you might be able to fix it by clearing out your RAM, rather than switching to a different app.
If you use a Mac, install MacKeeper and run the Memory Cleaner to free up your RAM. This will allow your browser to claim more RAM for itself, which should help speed it up when you’ve got lots of tabs and windows open at once.
Our research found that the best internet browsers in 2021 are:
1. Chrome — the most popular browser ever
Google Chrome is the most popular browser in the world, accounting for 69% of desktop internet browsers across the globe. With its slick interface, exhaustive catalog of extensions, and Google’s global dominance, it’s not hard to see how Chrome takes the top
Pros of Chrome
Chrome is stable, fast, and comes with thousands of useful extensions. With its top spot as the most popular web browser in the world, it should come as no surprise that it’s available on every platform — macOS, Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS — with new extensions and features releasing on these platforms all the time.
If the number of extensions gets too much for you, it’s easy to remove browser extensions as well.
Chrome’s synchronization is one of the best among web browsers. It doesn’t matter what device you switch to, or where you are, you can also pick up where you left off with your synced tabs and bookmarks. For the forgetful, Google even includes a password manager that syncs with your Google account across devices.
Cons of Chrome
Chrome is notoriously one of the most resource-hungry browsers out there. If your computer’s a little on the slow side, you might find that Chrome eats up almost all your available RAM, making it difficult to multitask with other apps while browsing the web at the same time.
Google has attempted to address this with later releases, by freezing tabs in the background, but Chrome is still pretty demanding on your hardware.
It’s also worth considering that Google’s entire business model is built around collecting and trading your data. You can disable different kinds of tracking in your Google account settings, but it still makes sense to opt for an alternative browser if privacy is your top concern.
2. Safari — the best browser for Apple enthusiasts
Safari is the default web browser for Apple products, like the Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. But, unlike a lot of default apps, Safari is no slouch and just might be the best web browser you could choose in 2021.
Upcoming Safari updates with macOS Monterey and iOS 15 promise to make this browser even more capable with tab grouping and other upgrades.
Pros of Safari
Chrome may be the most popular web browser around, but Safari still claims to be the fastest. Seeing as it’s only available on Apple products, Apple has optimized the hardware and software to work seamlessly with one another, allowing the performance of this browser to edge in front of the competition.
If you’re willing to fully embrace Apple’s ecosystem, you can also enjoy Apple Pay, Handoff, iCloud Keychain, AirDrop, and a variety of other features available across Apple devices.
As expected, Safari makes the experience of switching from your Mac to your iPhone more fluid than any other browser on this list.
What’s more, Apple’s dedication to privacy makes Safari one of the most secure and private web browsers you can choose, without ever needing to tweak any of the settings. Safari automatically blocks ads and trackers, warns you of insecure websites, and closely vets all extensions to ensure your Mac or iPhone is as secure as possible while browsing the web.
Cons of Safari
Easily the biggest downside to Safari is the fact that it’s only available on Apple devices. If you use an Android phone with a Mac, for example, you’ll still need to use a different browser on your phone, and you’ll lose out on a lot of great Safari features by doing so.
Apple’s dedication to security also results in a lot of brick walls and alerts getting in your way when downloading software or visiting insecure sites. That’s great for the average user, but if you already know what you’re doing it can get annoying pretty fast.
The added security also means you’ll have far fewer extensions to choose from if you want to enhance your browsing. Safari’s extension collection is very high quality, but far too limited compared to other browsers.
3. Firefox — the perfect middle ground
Mozilla Firefox is another veteran on the list of the best web browsers. It offers strong privacy features alongside a range of customization options, thanks to its broad collection of compatible extensions and add-ons. But it’s a little slow compared to the competition.
Pros of Firefox
Firefox is available on macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android, and it offers great customization options and extensions, allowing you to really make it your own.
For instance, the Multi-Account Containers extension allows you to create separate containers for each of your online accounts. That means you don’t need to constantly sign in or out of work and personal accounts when checking your email, making purchases, or signing on to social accounts. All you need to do is switch containers instead.
Safari offers decent syncing capabilities across any device you might own, and you can even make use of the password manager across any device to generate and securely store your account details.
All of this comes alongside Firefox’s solid privacy features, which are enabled by default to block tracking cookies, social trackers, and more.
Cons of Firefox
As we already mentioned, Firefox isn’t the fastest browser around, so if speed is your main concern then it’s probably not the best option for you. That said, if you're more interested in privacy — and keeping out of the Apple ecosystem — that dip in speed definitely shouldn’t be big enough to scare you away.
Really, the biggest factor working against Firefox is that it’s less popular with less name recognition than Chrome or Safari. As a result, most people simply don’t know about it, which means it might not get the support it needs to keep developing at pace with the competition.
4. Edge — the best new browser
After years of infamously bad browsers (we’re looking at you, Internet Explorer), Microsoft finally released Edge, and it was well worth the wait. This cross-platform browser was built on Chromium, the framework behind Google Chrome, and promises great performance, compatibility, and clear privacy tools.
Pros of Edge
Edge comes pre-installed as the default browser for Windows computers, but unlike Apple, Microsoft has also made this platform available for macOS, iOS, and Android users as well.
The browser is packed full of built-in features, allowing you to organize tabs, compare prices, and even download websites to run as standalone apps. And all of this comes without compromising Edge’s impressive speed — a far cry from using Internet Explorer.
On top of that, Microsoft offers security features, password monitoring, and private searches to let you take control of your privacy if that’s a major concern for you.
And last, but not least, since it’s built on Chromium, Edge works with all the extensions on the Google Chrome store, meaning this browser came out the gates with one of the biggest extension collections around.
Cons of Edge
Although Edge works with all of Chrome’s extensions, they have mostly been optimized for Chrome so may not run quite so well on Microsoft’s browser. For the most part, there won’t be any difference at all, but occasionally you might find extensions that are a little wobbly on this unfamiliar browser.
While Edge offers some great privacy features, privacy isn’t at the heart of the browser — as it is with alternatives like Safari or Firefox — so there could be more vulnerabilities than you might get elsewhere.
5. Opera — the browser with a free VPN
Opera is an impressive browser in that it packs some uniquely useful features while also being an incredibly light app that doesn’t use much processing power.
Pros of Opera
Opera was also built around Chromium — the framework behind Chrome and Edge — but designed with efficiency and privacy at its heart. This comes in strong contrast to Chrome, which is notoriously intensive and ultimately funded by ad tracking.
Alongside its power efficiency, Opera allows you to boost your privacy with ad blocking, private browsing, and — most exciting — a free built-in VPN. This makes it effortless to hide your online activities from your web provider, access region-blocked content, and keep your identity private online.
Opera even comes with a built-in Crypto Wallet for saving and spending various cryptocurrencies.
And this browser is available on macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android.
Cons of Opera
Opera offers a lot of different features, which can make your browsing experience feel cluttered and distracting. Various social media icons line the side of the window, which is great if you’re eager to maintain instant access at all times, but they also make it even harder to stay focused online.
Some users also question Opera’s privacy as it’s unclear how it offers premium services — like a VPN — for free without partnering with advertisers and tracking agencies in some way.
6. Brave — the alternative privacy browser
Brave puts privacy as its number one concern, but it manages to do so without compromising speed or power efficiency. If you’re looking for an alternative browser that protects your data, Brave is one of the best browsers to choose in 2021.
Pros of Brave
Brave is designed to block ads and trackers by default, delivering regular reports on how many ads and trackers it blocks. You can also use Tor in Brave to hide your browsing history and location from websites, allowing for truly anonymous browsing.
By blocking ads, Brave is able to load websites faster than much of the competition, including Chrome. And it’ll even use less power — saving your battery life — while doing so.
Alternatively, you can choose to view ads and actually profit from doing so. Brave will issue Brave Rewards points, which you can cash in to support various web creators. In the future, Brave plans to let you spend your points on premium content and gift cards as well.
Cons of Brave
Brave is still a relatively new and small browser compared to many other options on this list, which means it can suffer bigger performance issues from time to time as a result of the smaller team behind it.
If privacy is really your number one concern, you might also feel more secure going with a more established browser, like Firefox or Safari, as you’re more likely to hear about any security or privacy flaws because it would be bigger news.
7. Vivaldi — more options than you can shake a stick at
Vivaldi might be the newest browser in our list, but it’s certainly making some big waves. Founded by the former CEO of Opera, this exciting browser puts privacy front and center — like many other options — while offering a whole host of exciting built-in features.
Pros of Vivaldi
Vivaldi is incredibly customizable. You can tweak your browser to go from showing nothing but the page you’re on, to viewing split screen websites beneath a list of grouped tabs and jotting down your thoughts in the built-in Notes features while the built-in tracker blocker keeps your browser private.
Yes, Vivaldi seems to be going all out with the intention of letting you use your browser exactly how you want to, with as few limitations as possible, without needing to depend on third-party extensions to offer requested functionality.
Cons of Vivaldi
If you aren’t willing to get stuck in and learn how to make Vivaldi work for you, the sheer volume of features can easily feel overwhelming. Pairing that with the fact that Vivaldi is probably the ugliest browser on this list (depending on your personal tastes, of course), means most people would probably prefer a simpler and more stylish alternative.
Choose the best browser based on your needs
To sum up, choosing the best web browser in 2021 depends on what you value most. If you want speed, go for Safari. If you’re looking for the best compatibility, go with Chrome. And if you want customization, Vivaldi has what you want.
Luckily, all of these browsers are free, so it costs nothing but time for you to narrow down your options to one or two browsers and test each of them out for yourself.