Iron Browser vs. Firefox Review

Posted: August 3, 2009 in Product Reviews, Tech
Tags: , , , , ,

I recently downloaded Iron after trying Chrome and not really liking the privacy issues. I have to admit it is a pretty neat browser for casual browsing but it lacks a lot of tools that would make it the best. Yes, it’s new, so I hope that it will eventually gain the functionality of Firefox.

Pros:

1. It’s fast. Really fast. It boots up very quickly and pages load at lightning speed.

2. It maximizes the space used to view web pages with its minimalistic design. You can hide the bookmarks bar but I prefer to keep it there just for convenience sake.

3. You can drag downloaded items straight from the download bar at the bottom to anywhere you want.

4. You can use a version of AdBlock to block a good number of those pesky and often dangerous spam ads.

5. It is pretty simple and straight forward.

6. The omnibar. I really liked the idea of having one bar for both search and URL entry. I rarely enter URLs anyway so I get tired of tabbing to the search box.

7. Separate processes for each tab. That was a winner for me. My computer runs fast and it has no problem running each tab on its own. I have had times when a page would crash and the whole browser would go down. Fortunately with Iron I just had to shut down the tab’s process and continue on my merry way. This might be taxing on a slower system but worth it if your system can handle it.

Cons:

1. The AdBlock feature you can install isn’t up to par with AdBlock plus by a long shot. You can’t change the options and it doesn’t block nearly as much. If the ad blocker were up to par I would definitely consider using Iron as my main browser.

2. There are no ad-ons. That means you can’t use very useful tools such as element hiding helper.

3. The back button is very messed up. With some pages (usually those that were re-directed) the back button ended up creating several copies of that page making it impossible to go back to the previous page without accessing the history by either right clicking or holding the back button and selecting the previous page. This got very annoying, very fast. That’s one thing that’s really keeping me from using Iron as my main browser.

4. For some reason my spell checker won’t work. I couldn’t find out how to fix it. I know there’s got to be a way because there are people out there without this problem but I  just can’t figure out how. It is just irritating that this feature has problems with some users.

A lot of bugs have been resolved since it was first released and I’m still pretty impressed with the product. But I did some research on how to speed up Firefox and researched add-ons that would simulate the best features in Chrome and managed to find them.

Yes, I know there are people out there who have figured this out already but I never thought of looking for a list myself so this is my method. You could also download a theme that simulates the look but it serves no purpose. There is a Chrome add-on but it doesn’t seem to work well on my computer.

1. Downloader Status bar

2. Hide Menubar

3. Omnibar

There are other things you could look for but this is good enough for me. Also, there are plenty of ways to speed up Firefox. Just look it up on Google and change the settings according to the instructions. Be very careful when changing these settings because you could screw things up. You need broadband to make use of these changes and to decrease loading time you should make sure you have a fast computer.

Here’s a very blurry screencap to show you what it looks like with these changes.

Untitled

To do this just Google “How to speed up Firefox” and “How to make Firefox faster”. I would do some research and read all of the articles before making changes. Some are complicated, and some just require you to edit the shortcut’s target entry text. It is possible that some pages load a bit slower but for the most part you do get a general sense of increased page loading time.

Check out  this blog written by Maurice Cepeda, writing as Mauro Andrés, that gives you a comprehensive and relatively easy to follow set of instructions for improving the performance of your browser.

Le Blog de Maurice.

After tweaking Firefox I tested its speed with both a benchmark and some online testing sites and the difference was negligible. Sometimes Firefox was a couple milliseconds to a second slower and at times it was even faster than Iron. Until Iron has fixed the aforementioned problems, I will keep Firefox as my main browser. Yes, you can make changes to Iron with Greasemonkey, but it isn’t worth the trouble when Firefox has such a vast library of ad-ons. I love tweaking and optimizing as much as the next gal, but convenience will always win. I will probably mess around with Greasemonkey when I get bored enough but until then I don’t see any reason to use Iron as my main browser.

Functionality: 7/10

Speed: 10/10

Stability: 8.5/10

Visual Appeal: 10/10

Compatibility: 8.5/10

Innovation: 9.5/10

Average score: 8.9

Summary: In short, the browser is pretty cool to play with, but once the novelty wears off it just isn’t up to par with Firefox. But if you’re just a casual internet user and don’t care about all the bells and whistles then it’s just the thing you were looking for. It’s fast, pretty reliable, and it dumbs down browsing so even novices have an easier time finding what they want. It is a good browser — I just hope that they address the issues I covered and others that might come up, that I forgot, or that I’m not aware of.

Comments
  1. Mauro Andres says:

    Instead of AdBlock Plus on Firefox, try Stylish (sort of like GreaseMonkey but different) with “Ad Blocking FiltersetP”. It’s almost as good as AdBlock Plus, but takes a lot less resources and doesn’t interfere with NoScript –which I think AdBlock Plus does. I noticed Firefox/Flock speed up noticeably after this, which would affect your test results against Iron. Give it a try and let me know.

    • frannie84 says:

      Sounds interesting. I just recently started tweaking the browser after using Iron. A bit rusty with this stuff but will do some research on what you recommended and try that. I haven’t had time to mess around with NoScript but will do that as soon as I have time as well.
      Thanks!

  2. Mauro Andres says:

    Oh, and it’s Andrés with an “s” at the end.

    • frannie84 says:

      Oopsies, sorry. Trying to read and write on 1029×1080 res is a bit hard without my glasses on. I guess I should zoom in or bring my monitor closer, heh. Thanks for pointing it out — maybe I should hire an editor. Thanks for commenting!!!

  3. Mauro Andres says:

    The only problem I found with is that “Ad Blocking FiltersetP” doesn’t work with fb, but there a specific Style for fb, so no worries.

  4. Mauro Andres says:

    There is a difference between the two. Adblock Plus actually blocks connections to image/add/banner servers, while Ad Blocking FiltersetP only provides a cosmetic fix –meaning that you can still be tracked/stalked, only that banner are not shown, with the latter.

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