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By Ian Paul, Independent Contributor, PCWorld | February 11, 2019 05:00 AM PT
We take a look at the performance and features of the big four internet browsers to see which one will serve you best.
The web browser is by far the most important piece of software on your PC—at least for most users. Unless you’re at a workstation crunching numbers or editing the next Star Wars you probably spend the majority of your computer time staring at a web app or a website.
That’s why it’s important to make sure you’ve always got the best tool for the job. In 2019 that does not include Internet Explorer. If you still want the built-in option for Windows, that would be Edge, though not for much longer as Microsoft plans to replace Edge (or at least its underlying technology) with a Chromium-based browser. Whatever happens with Edge there are so many other options out there including Google’s Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera.
Let’s take a look at the four major browsers (including Edge) to see how they stack up in early 2019. You might be surprised to find that our favorite overall this year is Opera. Read on to find out why.
A perennial favorite, Google Chrome tops the metrics charts of both StatCounter and NetMarketShare by a huge margin. Google’s browser has built a dedicated fan base thanks to its massive extensions library, and the fact that it just gets out of your way to put the focus on web content, not the browser’s trimmings.
Chrome isn’t quite as simplistic as it once was, but it’s still very easy to use. There isn’t much to Chrome except a huge URL bar—known as the OmniBar—plus a space for extensions, a bookmarking icon, tabs, and that’s it.
Yet Google still finds a way to hide all kinds of features inside the browser, including deep integration with Google’s services. This allows you to sync your bookmarks, passwords, open tabs, and more across devices. Chrome also has multi-account support if you need it on a family machine, a built-in PDF viewer, built-in Google Translate functionality, a task manager, and the always handy Paste and go context menu item.
If there’s one complaint people have about Chrome it’s that the browser eats up available memory. Our browser testing in 2015 showed that Chrome was definitely a memory beast, but a few years later it fared pretty well in our tests.
For users who love extensibility but want greater privacy than a Google-made browser can provide, the open-source Mozilla Firefox is a great choice. Firefox paved the way for other browsers to become extensible, and Firefox’s relatively new extensions architecture will hopefully help its catalog match Chrome’s Web Store one day. Firefox also has a sync feature to see your open and recent tabs, browsing history, and bookmarks across all your devices.
Firefox 64 continues the strong efforts to update Mozilla’s browser that we saw with Firefox 57, which brought a new and updated design with refreshed icons, and a new library section that houses your history, pocket reading list, downloads, and synced tabs. Firefox 64 adds to that with a new task manager, and the ability to use Windows 10’s native sharing tool—personally, I think the old copy-and-paste method is still superior.
Where Firefox has really stood out in recent years is with the browser’s incognito mode. All browsers have a private mode that lets you browse without any of your activity being logged in your saved history. But most of the time these private modes still allow websites to track your activity for that specific session. Firefox does away with this by including ad and tracker blockers when using incognito mode.
Opera’s also got a few unusual features like Turbo, which saves on load times and bandwidth by compressing webpages on Opera’s servers. It’s also got a nice security feature called domain highlighting that hides most of the URL so that users can see easily and clearly if they’re on Google.com or google.com.scam.com—with scam.com being the actual website.
Microsoft Edge has always been a work in progress and is about to be abandoned in its current form. Microsoft announced in December that Edge would become a Chromium-based browser. Once the switch happens, Edge will have similar underpinnings to Chrome and Opera. It’s not clear exactly when this transition will occur, but it’s expected before the end of 2019 or perhaps early 2020.
You’ll see below that performance for the current version of Edge is pretty good in some respects, but speed is just one important factor for a browser in 2019. The Edge extensions library is small and will likely stagnate now that its underlying technology is going away. Edge’s sync functionality is still restricted to favorites and the reading list, and the browser doesn’t get updates nearly fast enough. All of these issues should improve once Edge becomes a Chromium-based browser.
Despite its current shortcomings, Edge has several helpful features that will appeal to some users. Edge is deeply integrated with Windows 10’s inking capabilities, as well as with OneNote, making it easy to clip a webpage, annotate it, and save it to a notebook. Cortana is also a big part of Edge. You can use Microsoft’s digital assistant to quickly search for information, compare prices, or get a quick calculation.
Like Chrome, Edge has a casting feature. It also has a nifty set-aside tabs feature to stash a collection of websites. Other plusses included the ability to read and annotate ebooks (great for tablets) and PDFs, easily pin websites to the taskbar, edit URLs in your favorites list, browse in full screen, see and manage website permissions, and “read aloud” web content. Perhaps the best recent feature, however, is the “Continue on PC” option that lets you push webpages to your PC from your phone with the appropriate apps installed.
In the April 2018 Update, Edge got some small but significant feature boosts including the ability to mute tabs and automatic form fill, an updated flyout menu, and clutter-free printing that carves out all the web ads and other detritus you really don’t need on the printed page. Edge also boosted the ebook reading experience with support for narration in EPUB files and improved note taking.
Read on for our benchmark results and our pick for best browser.
With the overview of our four contestants out of the way, let’s get down to business. To see which browser is worthy of your bandwidth in 2019 we used a variety of testing
Finally, we took a look at CPU and RAM usage by loading a set of 20 websites in a single window in quick succession. Once all tabs began loading, we waited 45 seconds, and then checked the CPU and RAM usage. The idea was to see the amount of system resources the browser would use during a heavy workload.
For this test we ignored the Flash settings and left each browser in its default state. In recent years, most browser makers have de-emphasized Flash, enabling it as “click-to-play” and blocking nonessential website elements that use Flash. Since Flash is on its way out (and most users are unlikely to mess with Flash settings in the first place) we decided to leave everything as is. During the tests there are no extensions running, account sign-ups, or deliberate tinkering with settings: Just raw browser action.
Our test rig was an Acer Aspire E 15-575-33BM laptop loaded with Windows 10 Home. The October 2018 update hadn’t rolled out to this machine yet so it’s still rocking the April 2018 Update. The laptop also has a 1TB hard drive, 4GB RAM, and an Intel Core i3-7100U. Each browser was tested over an ethernet connection.
The performance picture
Looking at both JetStream and SunSpider, Edge 17 won top marks again just like in May 2018, and again by a wide margin. SunSpider has been deprecated for some time and is no longer supported, but the result was expected based on previous tests.
Firefox’s JetStream score (higher is better) keeps getting worse, dropping from 125.43 in November 2017 to 120.31 in May 2018 to 112.39 in January 2019. Its SunSpider score stayed within the margin of error at 331 in January compared to 330.4 last May. Lower is better for SunSpider, and Firefox’s recent scores are much worse compared to the 290 it scored in November 2017.
For Octane 2.0, which is also no longer supported, Firefox won the top spot this go-round, followed closely by Chrome and and then Opera, with Edge coming in at the bottom. That’s quite a difference from May 2018 when Opera was in the top spot with Firefox taking third place.
Moving on to the more modern Speedometer test, which quickly iterates through a bunch of HTML 5-based to-do lists, Chrome came out on top, with Google’s Blink-based cousin Opera a close second, the same as we saw in May 2018; however, the numbers were noticeably worse in this test for all browsers. Last time Chrome and Opera scored 110 and 106.7, respectively, while this time around the scores were 51.5 and 50.2. Firefox took third place at 42.8 and Edge was in the bottom at 30.2.
The numbers were much closer for WebXPRT 2015, and once again things stayed about the same as May 2018. WebXPRT 2015 uses a wide number of web apps, from photo collections to online note-taking to data sets. This test is kind of like a PCMark for browsers, and to my mind, one of the most significant tests. Firefox came out on top here, with Chrome and Opera quite close to each other, followed by a trailing Edge. Again, higher is better.
Finally, we come to the memory and CPU tests. Slamming an average PC with 20 tabs of mostly media-rich sites all at once is going to chew up a good chunk of CPU and memory. Most of these browsers did not disappoint in that respect. That said, most of the browsers scored better than just a few months ago in terms of CPU usage, and memory use was about the same. The exception to memory would be Chrome, which had an unusually low memory score in May 2018 but returned to its memory-munching antics in January.
Opera was the best performer in terms of CPU usage by quite a bit, with Chrome coming in second, followed by Edge, while Firefox was the biggest hog of them all this time around. That’s not to say that Firefox got worse. In fact, its CPU percentage isn’t that far off from the 86 percent it had in June 2018. All the other browsers, however, made noticeable improvements over their previous scores.
Second place went to Chrome, followed by Edge, and Firefox a little further out in the CPU stratosphere.
The results were a little different for memory. This time around Edge was kicking butt with the lowest score yet for Microsoft’s browser of death. Don’t get too excited, however, as Edge’s scores are always a little tricky to get. We had similar problems to last time, where the PC often froze from overloaded system resources once the tabs were loading. We managed to get the task manager front and center quick enough to jot down the scores, but the screenshot we took didn’t go off for a noticeably long time. The bottom line here is that power users with multiple tabs open in Edge are still going to feel some serious pain trying to get work done. The next lowest memory hog was Opera, followed closely by Chrome, with Firefox at the back, but with results not that far off from Opera and Chrome.
And the winner is…
So who wins? Here’s the way we see it.
Opera wins our top spot for a good showing in the stress test and winning out in a few other key measures.
Chrome earns second place this time. It performed well in the live stress test, and was close to Opera in many respects. Many people love Chrome, and don’t get us wrong, it’s a great browser. But if you want to get away from Chrome without losing all of its advantages, Opera is a great choice since it can support nearly all the same conveniences Chrome can. Plus the social sidebar is a unique feature that you won’t find in the other browsers.
As in May 2018, we had to give Mozilla’s browser the bronze. Performance scores for Firefox 64 weren’t all that different from last time, while the others had noticeable improvements. The new Quantum versions of Firefox are dramatically better than their predecessors, but the goods just weren’t there to move up in the rankings. The fact that Firefox is a top performer in WebXPRT is a great sign, and if the stress test had gone better it might have taken the top spot or at least second place.
As for Microsoft’s browser…well, this time around Edge doesn’t even get an honorable mention. These days Edge is more of a “well, who cares?” It has always been the lesser browser and while we’ve seen some performance improvements, they’re really unimportant at this point. Edge is serviceable at best as a day-to-day browser, and it’s doubtful anything will change now that Edge as we know it is headed for the dustbin. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Microsoft Edge (assuming the name stays the same) should be a dramatically different beast before the end of the year.
To sum up: Give Opera a try and see if it performs as well for you as it did for us. If you love Chrome too much to give it up, then stick with it. Firefox, meanwhile, is still a solid option if you want something that isn’t built with Chrome DNA. That’s no small matter either, because once Edge gets its overhaul in the coming months, a non-Chromium browser will be a rare thing to find.
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Following the announcement of phones from Samsung, Sony, LG, Nokia, and others, the first batch of 2019’s flashiest new handsets are going to be available soon, if they aren’t already. So which one should you get? And to make things even more daunting, with several phones pushing the $1,000 mark, making a hasty purchase could quickly turn into an expensive mistake.
But don’t worry, we’ve got your back because we’ve tested and reviewed all the most important phones so you don’t have to. So here are our top picks for the best phone you should buy right now.
Buying forecast for March 2019: The spring phone release season has just started, and while the Galaxy S10 has recently joined our list as the best phone on the market, if you’re looking for something different, you may want to hold off on buying a new phone right now.
This is especially true for people considering a new mid-range phone, because with the Moto G7 and Xperia 10 due out soon (and rumors of a Pixel 3 Lite later this spring), there should be a lot more potential handsets priced between $300 and $500.
After somewhat lackluster sales in 2018, there have been some big expectations hoisted upon the Galaxy S10. However, by adding a number of new features including a triple rear camera module for both the S10 and S10+, an in-screen fingerprint sensor, nifty punch-hole selfie camera, ridiculously good battery life, and Wireless PowerShare tech, Samsung has really delivered.
The Galaxy S10 is also one of the first phones sporting Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 chipset, and for 2019, Samsung even upped the S10’s base storage to 128GB across every model. With the new dynamic AMOLED screen on the new S10, Samsung has also once again proved its displays are without a doubt the best in the business.
That said, at $900 and $1,000, the new Galaxy S10 and S10+ aren’t cheap, but if you want one phone that has it all, Samsung’s latest flagship is the easy pick. And if you don’t mind having a smaller screen and one less rear camera, the $750 Galaxy S10e offers a great balance between high-end features and something with a more reasonable price tag.
What Google’s Pixel 3 lacks in sheer specs, it more than makes up for in software thanks to incredible features like Night Sight, a built-in call screener, and all the other Pixel-specific tweaks that make Google’s homegrown phones the smartest and most considerate handsets on the market. And with things like Google’s AI-powered appointment booking service Duplex, the Pixel 3 is only going to get better.
Thanks to an increasing number of $1,000 phones, mid-range handsets have never been more important. And year after year OnePlus keeps pumping out affordable devices that are far and away the best handsets you get for around $500. And with the 6T, OnePlus is actually pulling further ahead thanks to a partnership with T-Mobile that puts OnePlus phones in carrier stores for the first time ever. And unlike previous handsets, the OP6T is the company’s first device with support for Verizon’s network too. You also get specs that match the best flagships out right now, an in-screen fingerprint reader, and a gorgeous OLED display with a notch that isn’t offensively large.
If the OnePlus 6T doesn’t suit your fancy, consider theXperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact instead. With a Snapdragon 845 chip, 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, the standard XZ2 has all the specs you want in a flagship phone for just $500. And featuring Sony’s super powerful haptic vibration engine, the XZ2 has the power to add a rumble to pretty much any content you watch or listen to on your phone. Meanwhile, the XZ2 Compact might be the last bastion for people who still like small phones but don’t want to compromise on specs or performance. And unlike it’s bigger sibling, the XZ2 Compact is certified to work on GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile, and Verizon’s CDMA network as well.
Note: We considered putting the Pocophone F1 here as well due to its flagship specs and incredible value, we haven’t had a chance to spend as much time with it as we’d like. Also, due to its very limited support for 4G LTE here in the U.S., it’s difficult to recommend.
For years, Motorola’s G-series phones have been the kings of the budget phone world, and the G6 is a latest and greatest example of Moto’s dominance. Critically, the G6 boasts compatibility with all the major carriers, is available both unlocked and from brick-and-mortar wireless stores, and still retains important features like microSD card expandability and a headphone jack. Whether it’s for a young teen getting their first phone, or someone who just wants something simple and reliable the won’t blow your finances, the Moto G6 has got you.
Starting at $350, the Nokia 7.1 typically costs $100 more than the Moto G6, but it’s totally worth it. Because for the extra money, you get more base storage and RAM, better cameras, a bigger, brighter screen, and a much nicer design. And since the Nokia 7.1 is part of Google’s Android One program, that also means its software and security updates are managed by Google, and you won’t have to put up with any unwanted bloatware either. The major downsides to the Nokia 7.1 is that unlike the G6, it’s only available as an unlocked device from third-party retailers, and it doesn’t support CDMA networks like Verizon or Sprint.
Like hypercars, hyper phones are handsets that are big, fast, and defined by excess. But if you want a phone that can handle everything home and work can throw at you, the Note 9 is it. It’s got a big, gorgeous 6.4-inch display, ridiculous battery life that lasts upwards of upwards of 14 hours on a charge, built-in iris scanners and a secure folder to hide sensitive documents, and of course Samsung’s S-Pen. The phone even comes with 128GB of base storage (and a microSD card slot), which is twice what you get from a similarly priced iPhone XS. And just in case that’s not enough, you can even turn the Note 9 into a mini desktop by hooking up a USB-C to HDMI cable to a nearby monitor.
While this phone isn’t really an option for folks in the states since Huawei isn’t making a U.S. specific variant, the sheer technical superiority of the Mate 20 Pro can’t be denied. That’s because even though it lacks a stylus, it has pretty much every other feature you’d ever need, and maybe even a few tricks you didn’t even know you wanted. We’re talking about full-on 3D face scanning tech, a fingerprint sensor that’s built into the screen, a new 7-nanometer chipset with dual NPUs, and even wireless charging that can be reversed in order to power up other devices.
With three new iPhones for 2018 along with two older models still on sale, choosing the right phone from Apple is actually a bit trickier than normal. However, with a somewhat reasonable (for Apple) price of $750, the same A12 processor, FaceID tech, and 64GB of storage you get from its more expensive siblings, the iPhone XR is our top recommendation for people who want a new Apple handset. As an added bonus, the iPhone XR also boasts battery life that’s about an hour longer than the $1,000 iPhone XS, and it comes it a bunch of fun colors.
For people who want a little more, theiPhone XS or XS Max are the clear upgrades to the XR, just know that you’ll need to shell out at least an extra $250 to get one. The main benefits when moving up to the iPhone XS and XS Max is a significantly more vibrant and higher resolution OLED screen that’ll make all sorts of content look better, and a second rear camera with a 2x zoom to help bolster your mobile photo toolkit. Also, thanks to new stronger glass backs and an IP68 rating for water-resistance (versus the XR’s IP67 rating), Apple’s high-end iPhones should also be slightly more durable than the iPhone XR.
Experts gathered to share successes and aspirations around data, intelligent automation, security and more.
by Juliet Van Wagenen for BizTech
Juliet is the senior web editor for StateTech and HealthTech magazines. In her six years as a journalist she has covered everything from aerospace to indie music reviews — but she is unfailingly partial to covering technology.
Retail isn’t dead — far from it. But that doesn’t mean times aren’t changing for stores everywhere. Perhaps the most popular sentiment during The National Retail Federation’s Big Show this year was that customer demands are skyrocketing. With more choices than ever, shoppers expect retail stores to fire on all cylinders — online, in-store, mobile, across channels — and retailers are digging in to seek ways to deliver across all platforms.
“Twenty, even 10 years ago, retail interactions were so focused on the store. They still are today, but you then need to think about all the other places you need to meet your customer across every single touchpoint, whether that be on Instagram, on social media, whether that be on their mobile phone, whether that be in a marketing campaign,” Oracle’s Senior Director of Product Strategy Katrina Gosek tells BizTech.
Several retailers and experts at the conference shared stories that offer valuable insights into how they are tackling this new landscape. Here are three takeaways from the show:
1. Big Data and Analytics Take Retail to the Next Level
For retailers right now, no resource is more precious than data.
This is particularly true as brands seek to personalize customer experiences online. Gosek notes that collecting data across all touchpoints and bringing it together is key to crafting a personalized customer journey.
“Knowing where people are, where they go, and doing that in real time can be applied to a whole host of business problems,” said Bentinck.
2. The Big Data Boom Prompts the Need for Data Privacy
But with this data influx comes a number of concerns around how to use and secure it. For this reason, Sucharita Kodali, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, told attendees during a keynote presentation that data security is one of the most critical challenges facing retailers at the moment.
“Data security is hugely important, not just because of the compliance needs of retailers and brands, but also because of the legislation and the requirements of everything from the California Consumer Privacy Act to GDPR, and probably a lot more coming down the pike,” said Kodali.
She also points to a study in which 17 percent of consumers note they don’t want brands collecting or tracking any personal information.
“It’s important to recognize that and to make sure you’re not personalizing to those people,” said Kodali. “Often, as marketers, as retailers, we forget that consumers belong to different segments, and you have to adjust. That is the very heart of personalization.”
Artificial intelligence has begun infiltrating. In fact, 51 percent of retailers have already begun to use AI for customer intelligence, while 48 percent are using it for demand forecasting, and 38 percent are using the tech for pricing and promotion, according to a joint survey of 1,900 retail executives by NRF and IBM released at the show.
“We’re really at a transformation point where AI is fusing with machine learning capabilities so that people can really process all the data and information they have on customers, on their supply chain, and it’s really ready to sort of take off,” Katherine Cullen, director of retail and consumer insights for NRF tells BizTech.
Online retailer zulily has already started to tap intelligent automation in order to better craft personalized customer journeys and engage the customer “where she lives,” explained zulily Vice President of Engineering Bindu Thota at the show.
“Every place where we touch them, we personalize it for them. We are literally talking to them, and we leverage automation and machine learning to do that,” she said. “What you see when you come to the zulily site is very different from what I see, and that is part of our business model and in our DNA from day one.”
As corporate videoconferencing systems get more affordable and customizable, Logitech leads the way with Tap, a low-profile, software-agnostic, touch-screen console.
By Michael Muchmore
Lead analyst for software and web applications – PC Magazine
February 4, 2019 10:49AM EST
Forget searching for remote controls or trying to decipher their various buttons. Logitech’s Tap, its new touch-screen control unit is always at the ready in the conference room.
More than any other vendor, Logitech is leading the transformation of corporate videoconferencing systems from massive five-figure installations with software lock-ins to more affordable BYOD setups that let companies choose service and software. Its Group, Meetup, and SmartDock were earlier videoconferencing entries, and the Logitech Tap, coming this spring, is a similar but refined device in the tradition of the SmartDock, but with some important, basic differences.
The Tap ($999 standalone), introduced today at the AV-focused ISE trade show, can be considered a refinement of the Logitech SmartDock $2,399.00 at Dell, which used a Microsoft Surface Pro to control Skype Room Systems conferencing. It was sturdy and locked down so it wouldn’t be swiped by coworkers who wanted to use it as a standard tablet. Feedback to Logitech, however, noted that the SmartDock was a bit bulky, taking up valuable tabletop space, and was tied to a single conferencing software system.
In contrast, the Tap is low-slung and compact, at 2.3 by 9.6 by 7.0 inches (HWD), and works with multiple conferencing service providers. The device doesn’t have its own brains; it must be connected to a small-form-factor computer like an Intel NUC ($499.99 at Amazon) that runs software from (to start with) Google, Microsoft, or Zoom. Load that up via USB.
The table-top (or wall-mounted) device itself has just a single connector and a power cable. Other A/V components—microphones, cameras, displays—will instead connect to the controlling computer. Wireless connection between the Tap and the computer unfortunately isn’t yet an option, despite this being the age of everything going wireless.
SmartDock users also informed Logitech that cabling needed to longer and sturdier, so the company offers a 25m Strong USB cable for $499, which doesn’t require an extender or repeater. The cable is rated for 300 pounds of pull force, and is reinforced with Aramid. You can pick up the Tap by the cables and shake it with no harmful effects, since it’s so well secured, Logitech’s head of marketing, Joan Vandermate, told PCMag.
The Tap will be available in several packages. For $999 you can get the device alone, but it’s more useful in a bundle that includes the computer ($1,999). For $4,999, you get a full system including Tap, Rally Plus (which includes a hi-res camera, two speaker bars, and two mic units), Rally mounts, the computer, and a PC mount. Initial distributors include include Ingram, Tech Data, and Synnex.