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

Himanshu Arora | Nov. 7, 2013
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.

Developer: Jorge Arellano Cid
Reviewed version: dillo-3.0.3
OS support Linux, BSD, OS X, Cygwin
License: GPLv3

Dillo is a minimalistic graphical Web browser that was developed by Jorge Arellano Cid in 1999. His purpose was to allow users to gain access to the information on the Web without having to purchase high-end computer systems or install space-consuming Web browsers. Dillo is written in C/C++ and based on the Fast, Light Toolkit (FLTK) GUI library.

It has a bare minimum GUI framework that consists of a single toolbar with only standard options like back, forward, home, reload, save, stop, bookmark and tools. It supports only HTML/XHTML (with CSS rendering).


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