Which Browser Should I Use for Watching Movies?

Learn how to pick the best browser for fast video streaming

Browser desktop icons: Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer
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When streaming movies online, browsers are not all created equal, and you can't point to a single browser and definitively declare it to be the best. Many factors complicate the race to the top: support for high-definition (HD), speed (loading time or lagging), and battery drain, among others.

Factors outside the browser itself weigh heavily on browser performance, such as the amount of RAM in your computer, processor speed, and the speed of your internet connection.

Standard Def vs. High Def 

If you're viewing videos on a laptop, this issue won't matter much, but if you have an expansive, big monitor, you want HD capability. Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer on Windows and Safari on a Mac (Yosemite or later) are the browsers that support HD or 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, however, your internet connection is critical: Netflix recommends 5.0 megabits per second for HD quality. So if you're using Edge on Windows 10 and your speed is under 5.0 MBps, you won't be able to stream HD successfully.

Speed

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.

Chrome's throne may be in jeopardy, however. Newcomer Microsoft Edge matches or beats Chrome in some performance tests, while Firefox and Opera lag far behind.

Battery Usage

Battery usage is important to you only if you are viewing on a laptop with no connected power source, as might occur if you're waiting at the airport for that delayed flight. 

Microsoft conducted a battery of web browser tests, among them one on battery usage. Tests were intended to promote its Edge browser. If you can believe the results — and several dependable outlets such as PC World and Digital Trends have cited them — Edge comes 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.

So, Which Browser Is Better?

Because all browsers continually roll out new versions and updates, it's impossible to point to a particular browser as "better." At any point, a new version could up-end any previous benchmarks. Further, because browsers are free, you can easily shift from one to another for different purposes.

It's hard to go wrong with Edge on Windows computers and Safari on Macs when streaming HD movies.

Tips for a Better Viewing Experience

Whatever browser you use, follow some tips for better streaming:

  • Close other applications and browser tabs. This decreases the load on memory so 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. Avoiding it is like getting into the carpool lane on a freeway: smooth sailing.
  • 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 its 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, it's time for a phone call to sort that out. Your connection speed is absolutely critical to streaming success.