Firefox 4 Beta is out with a revamped UI, Google Chrome continues to gain popularity and Opera has a slick new version. Let's take a look at which browser uses your screen the best without wasting space.
Note: You can do all kinds of tweaking in browsers like Firefox to maximise its viewing area. If you just want slim browser out of the box, this is what you've got to choose from.
For this comparison, we used the latest version of each browser: Firefox 4.0 Beta 2, Safari 5, Chrome 6.0 dev, Opera 10.60, and IE 8. (Even though the platform preview for IE9 is out, it doesn't have usable window chrome yet, so it wouldn't be fair to include it.)
To keep everything consistent, we made sure that the bookmarks bar was hidden and left the rest of the settings as default. The only major difference otherwise is that Internet Explorer, Opera and Firefox have status bars by default, but Chrome and Safari do not — though it's worth noting that Google Chrome shows a status bar at the bottom when you move your mouse over a link. We could have disabled the status bar in Internet Explorer, but then you lose the ability to highlight a link to see the source.
Firefox users will be quick to point out that you can maximise your viewing space with a few quick tweaks, and there's no question that the customisation abilities built into Firefox can yield a browser configuration that's tweaked for a small screen, but for the purposes of this comparison we used the default configuration — not to mention that many add-ons aren't working for Firefox 4 yet.
Regular Browser Winner: Chrome
When it comes to maximising the pixels on the screen, Google Chrome's simple interface has the edge over everybody else in the default configuration, and even if you hide the status bars on IE, Firefox or Opera, there's still a big difference in pixels.
Maximised Browser Winner: Chrome
Once you maximise the browsers, the gap between browsers becomes even more clear, with Google Chrome using just a little more than half of the pixels that Internet Explorer does.
Full-Screen Browser Winner: Firefox
In full-screen mode all the browsers maximise to fill 100 per cent of the height of the screen, but the clear winners are Firefox and Internet Explorer — since you can move your mouse to the top of the screen and the toolbars drop down to make browsing easier. Opera and Google Chrome don't do this, and it's worth noting that Safari doesn't even have a full-screen mode that we could find.
Browsers with Side Tabs Winner: Chrome
Opera and Google Chrome both come with built-in options to move the tabs over to the sidebar. Opera's is enabled by default, and on Chrome you'll have to use a command-line switch to enable it, but vertical tabs are a useful feature that can help maximise your screen space. If you're a Firefox user, you can use the Tree Style Tab extension to move your tabs to the side, though we had some issues in Firefox 4.0 — and it's not built in — so we didn't include it here.
It's pretty clear from the numbers that Google Chrome's interface is the best choice out of the box if you're using a smaller display, though if you wanted to spend the time to configure Firefox, you could probably come up with a setup that used even less pixels.
What about you? What browser do you use when you want to make the most of your netbook or smaller laptop screen?