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What’s the best browser to use on a netbook

By Andrei Girbea , updated on March 27, 2012

With netbooks not really impressing in terms of performance levels these days and browsing being one of the most common activities we do on these mini laptops, there’s a common debate on which is the best browser to use on a netbook.

I for one can’t actually say there’s a best one for everyone, but definitely there are some better than other. You can see below some of the main characteristics for each of the most important browsers available these days:

  • Internet Explorer – it’s the default browser on every Windows based netbook and that’s why most people use it. It’s a target for most hackers and hence not very safe, plus it’s pretty slow. The latest stable version (IE8) is decent, but i wouldn’t recommend it.
  • Firefox – probably the most popular between geeks, because it comes with lots of customization option, add-ons and extensions. However, it is memory hungry and takes a lot of time to load at start, thus it’s not really the best for the low-powered netbooks
  • Chrome – very quick to run and creates a different process for each tab/window, so if one website crashes your browser, the whole program won’t close, and you won’t lose the other tabs/windows. The latest version (still a beta) supports extensions so you can install add blocker, etc, but there aren’t as many options as on Firefox. It loads way faster but can also consume quite some memory if you have many tabs opened in the same time.
  • Opera – good and stable, with many useful and experimental features. Pretty fast and indicated for the ability to compress websites before sending them to your computer, thus loading content faster on slow connections
  • Safari – pretty slow and buggy, plus it comes with the standard Mac interface (which is completely different than the one used on the other browsers). Probably a choice only for Mac users getting a nettop .

As you can see, each has strong-points and bad-points. The good part is that they are all free and can be easily downloaded and installed.

However, most users still have the IE browser they get with the system. It works OK, but I do recommend them trying Chrome of Firefox. For a standard user, Chrome would be just perfect, being the fastest and most reliable. For a power-user migrating from a laptop/desktop, Firefox is still probably the best solution as it has all those customization options.

I for one have been using Firefox in the first months on my netbook, but as soon as Chrome introduced extensions, i switched towards it and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s just the best for the low-powered netbook and while not really loading sites faster than Firefox (i fail to see any actual difference between them at this), it certainly starts faster and consumes less resources than Firefox. So for me, the best browser for a netbook right now is Chrome.

But the best way to decide which one is better for you is to try them all for a couple of days.

I am pretty curios to see what are you guys using on your netbook, so please leave a comment!

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Andrei Girbea, Editor-in-Chief at This project was born as part of my search for capable mini-laptops that I could easily lug around to work, and still provide the performance that I'd need on a daily basis. I'm primarily using such ultracompact devices and have been testing them since 2006.


  1. John

    August 24, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    I have a Asus EeePC Netbook and have tried Chrome,Firefox,and Safari.They all work OK but I do think just for the sake of more usable Window area Chrome is hard to beat. Although Full Screen options certainly make IE8 and Firefox good options. I actually think IE8 does better with memory then Chrome.
    But Chrome still appears to load pages faster.

  2. Kakynologyst

    September 28, 2010 at 3:35 am

    I’d recommend using chrome for netbooks, it does what it does – browse!

    • Andrei Girbea

      September 28, 2010 at 4:05 am

      I agree, that’s what i usually use too

  3. Darko

    October 15, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Best combination for me would be style and graphic solutions of Opera, and customization of FF.

    I have Lenovo S10e, and I am using Opera. (and waiting FF4)

  4. Darin

    November 13, 2010 at 6:05 am

    I’ve used a few browsers on my Dell Mini-10 Netbook (including the Firefox4 beta)

    I use Safari v5 now – it doesn’t hog memory as much as Firefox or IE & has enough to please me without crashing or freezing up

    I don’t trust Google Chrome, tried it, didn’t get on with it. (will give it another try with latest version)

    I think once Google has it’s Chromium OS released (in full) – browsing will probably become as integrated as IE was (but still quicker than IE)

    I think benchmarks need to be set for the various browser on the same piece of hardware, looking at various websites & comparing their use – everyone has their own preference, and each to their own

  5. Connie

    November 21, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I started out with Chrome because it uses screen space best. I value my eyes so I used an extension to make the font size bigger on a small netbook screen. This took 5 seconds longer for a website to load. It often didn’t even work.
    I switched to Firefox and use it’s minimum font size function, it works instantly. I use small icons and hide the menu and bookmark bar. Still less screen space but a lot less annoying then waiting for the page to load.


    January 22, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    We have a Lenovo S10e and for the last 2 years have taken it backpacking through SE Asia. It is tough and came with IE. I added Chrome but hung onto IE. Good thing. Before leaving we used our Vista desktop with IE to make a few hotel reservations. While traveling we tried to access the same site on the netbook using Chrome. the website showed up with a zoom 10 times more than normal. Could not find a way on XP to reduce the zoom. Good thing we kept IE.
    There are some sites that send a pop up saying that they are optimized for FF or IE. They function, but little things like margins and drop down flags become unpredictable on Chrome. Otherwise it’s fine.BTW when we select the drop down help we are told Chrome is up to date.

  7. Barbara

    March 19, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    I have been using Firefox on my PCs for years and prefer it to any other browser I have tried but when I got my netbook I’d read that Opera uses less memory so I used that right from the start. I still prefer Firefox but as I believe it uses a lot more memory I haven’t changed from Opera yet. I always get a quick start with Opera.

  8. sim

    March 23, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    I prefer Opera because it have features that other browser can reach only with extensions, with the security and performance problems that this implies.
    It also is the browser with less bugs in the world, so it’s the most secure. Also it have a resize feauture, very usefull for netbook…

  9. Gloof

    April 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Safari 5 user here on an ASUS Eee PC Seashell series with Windows 7. I tested all the major browsers including IE8, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. When it came down to performance and memory use, Safari was the best closely followed by Chrome. While Chrome’s F11 fullscreen feature is nice, I tend to open a lot of tabs (I have about 8 open now even) and the navigation address functions/integrated search. In that regard, Safari can squeeze all that stuff in to a smaller footprint than Chrome.

  10. Hitesh K Haridevan

    May 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    I used to use Chrome but off late there is some problem (need to check whether it is my desktop). So, for now, I am switching between Firefox and Opera. Both seem fine and at times interchangeable.

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