We all know the usual browsing suspects: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and even Opera. One browser you may have missed is Maxthon 3, named MyIE2 in versions prior to 2004. The decade-old browser hails from China and offers a slew of enticing features.
Our favorite of these is Maxthon’s implementation of two display engines you can toggle between. The default engine is based on the opensource WebKit and is substantially faster than the alternative, Internet Explorer’s Trident. Maxthon calls these Ultra Mode and Retro Mode, respectively. In our weeks of usage, we found several Web pages, such as some Yahoo! News slide shows, that would not display properly in UltraMode. Usually, the problem would vanish in Retro Mode. Dig into the options, and you’ll find a checkbox for switching out the IE7 engine for IE9, provided you have IE9 installed.
Like most modern browsers, Maxthon 3 uses a tabbed interface; pressing CTRL while clicking a link will open the link in a new tab. Unlike in Chrome, you can’t drag off a tab to start a new Maxthonbrowser window, but Maxthon does offer a nifty feature called Super Drag and Drop. With this, you simply left-click alink or image and drag it for a short distance. Upon releasing the mouse button, the item will open in a new browser tab. Whereas some other browsers allow for mouse gestures via plug-ins, Maxthon 3 supports them natively. For example, just hold down the right mouse button, then drag down and right to close the current tab. Maxthon also supports screen capturing and manual download of any media element on a page (including YouTube videos) through its “Resource Sniffer.”
Maxthon lets you default to searching with Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and several others, as well as Maxthon’s own Multi Search. Multi Search sets up a shortcut bar across the top or down the left of your browser window, letting you quickly filter search strings not only by search provider but also search type, such as images, news, and reference.
Another perk here is Maxthon Online Favorites, which syncs your browser favorites to the cloud for duplication onto other machines. Maxthon also provides a Translate tool based on Google’s engine, but we had mixed results with this. Sometimes it worked flawlessly, sometimes it didn’t.
We benchmarked Maxthon against IE, Firefox, and Chrome and found that it delivers on its boast of being comparatively fast, perhaps thanks in part to Maxthon engineers working on accelerated GPU rendering. We tested with Futuremark’s Peacekeeper suite on two systems. The first is an older office machine based on an AMD Phenom II X4—a fair box, but heavily used and crammed with both applications andnumerous open windows. The other system was a clean and freshly patched install onto a Core i7-2600K config running nothing but that one browser window needed for testing.
Switching over to our Intel rig, it was immediately clear what a massive difference system specs and/or software configuration could make to browser performance. That said, it only changed the relative ranking of the browsers slightly. Chrome instead wins the day,with Maxthon taking home the silver by a nose, edging IE9 (which vaulted over Firefox 6).
Overall, Maxthon is a fair app with a handful of enticing features. Will they be enough to woo you away from your current browser?