Which Browser Should I Use for Watching Movies?

The best browsers for Netflix and other video streaming sites

Some web browsers are better equipped for streaming movies online than others. Determining the best browser for streaming depends on which factors are most important to you, such as speed, battery usage, and support for high-definition (HD).

To watch movies online, your device and internet connection must meet the minimum requirements for streaming video.

Best Browsers for Streaming in HD

Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer on Windows and Safari on Mac (Yosemite or later) are the only browsers that support 1080p resolution. Interestingly, Google Chrome does not qualify here, although it is by far the most popular browser. Chrome, Firefox, and Opera all stream at 720p.

To display HD, you also need a strong internet connection. Netflix recommends 5.0 megabits-per-second for HD quality. If you're viewing videos on a laptop, choosing between HD vs standard definition might not make much of a difference. However, if you have an HD monitor, then you will want to use Edge, Explorer, or Safari.

Browser desktop icons: Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer
Alexander Hassenstein / Getty Images

Best Browsers for Fast Internet Streaming

Google Chrome has long been considered the speed king of browsers and has always emphasized performance. It dominates the browser market, largely because of its minimalist design and superior speed in loading web pages. That said, Microsoft Edge matches or beats Chrome in some performance tests, while Firefox and Opera lag far behind.

There are many factors outside the browser itself that affect video performance including the amount of RAM in your computer, processor speed, and the speed of your internet connection.

Best Browsers for Battery Life

To promote the Edge browser, Microsoft conducted several web browser tests on battery usage. If you can believe the results, Edge came out on top, followed by Opera, Firefox, and then Chrome. For the record, Opera disagreed with the results, stating that the test's methods were not revealed. 

Chrome's last-place finish was not challenged. Chrome is well-known to be highly CPU-intensive. You can test this yourself by viewing several browsers in the Task Manager in Windows or the Activity Monitor on Mac. They will no doubt reveal Chrome uses the most RAM. Chrome continues to address this problem in updated releases, but its resource usage directly contributes to the speed of its browser, so tweaking Chrome's use of resources is a balancing act for the company.

Battery usage is important only if you are watching on a laptop with no connected power source.

Which Is the Best Browser for Watching Movies?

When it comes to streaming movies in HD, it's hard to go wrong with Edge on Windows or Safari on Mac. However, because all browsers continually roll out new updates, a new version could up-end previous benchmarks at any point. Since browsers are free, you can easily switch from one to another for different purposes.

Tips for Better Browser Streaming

Whichever browser you use, here are some tips you can follow for better streaming:

  • Close other applications and browser tabs. This decreases the load on memory so that your computer can focus on streaming.
  • Use a 5 GHz frequency if your router supports it. The common 2.4 GHz frequency is used by household appliances, so it is more crowded.
  • Use Ethernet instead of Wi-Fi if possible. If you're viewing a movie on your computer's large monitor, connect to​ the internet via an Ethernet cable rather than Wi-Fi.
  • Monitor your internet connection. If your ISP has promised you 5 MBps and you are getting only 1 MBps, make sure you're getting the internet speed you are paying for.