There’s a feeling of walking on the wild side when installing a browser without a familiar logo splashed all over it. Foregoing the comforts of Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer in favour of Flock, K-Meleon and company is like striking out into the digital wilderness, their names as exotic as those far-flung African capitals that so enamoured Victorian explorers.
It comes as something of a disappointment then to read that Maxthon already has 300 million downloads under its belt and is built on Internet Explorer’s Trident rendering engine. Not so much striking into the wilderness as jumping in the car and driving to Croydon, it turns out.
Of course, familiarity need not necessarily breed contempt, and unlike Croydon, Maxthon at least makes a good first impression. The Trident engine doesn’t offer Chrome’s terrifying performance, with Google’s browser outscoring it by a factor of ten in the SunSpider test, but Maxthon still slides across the web like butter melting over hot toast – even if a 20/100 score on the Acid3 test might leave a bitter taste in the mouth of anybody interested in the proliferation of web standards.
Actually, proliferation is the perfect word to describe Maxthon. It’s stuffed with features, and many of them are rather good. The browser’s start page is bursting with information, including RSS feeds and favourites, and a list of recently visited and most visited sites. Multiple tabs can be saved and opened as a group and there’s a surprisingly extensive screen-grab utility that puts those free internet packages to shame. Maxthon also borrows Opera’s Speed Dial feature, which displays thumbnail views of the user’s nine most visited sites when they open a new tab.
The ability to assign keyboard shortcuts to webpages is handy, as is Split View, which opens two browsing windows side-by-side, each with their own tabs. File Sniffer lists Flash content on a webpage and allows you to download it with a single click, while Ad Hunter, Content Control and Filter make it easy to block Flash, scripts, pop-ups, webpages, keywords, or any combination of the above. These features can be furthered bolstered with addons, though our inability to read Chinese rather put paid to any attempts to test them.
Our absolute favourite Maxthon party trick, though, is Magic Fill. This tool allows you to save the data you’ve recently entered into a form as a profile. If you encounter a new form that you want to enter the same data for, you can select the profile and Magic Fill will do the rest.
So, Maxthon’s brilliant then and we should all move to Croydon. Unfortunately, not. During our days in Maxthon’s embrace, it crashed more times than a blindfolded 16-year-old in a Ferrari. It’s not exactly pretty either – though anybody who thought Firefox 2 was the Mona Lisa of browser styling may disagree. We also enjoyed Maxthon’s personality crisis, with the options menu and bookmark manager continuing to refer to the browser as Internet Explorer.
We have mixed feelings about Maxthon. It’s got enough features to put a smile on even the poutiest of power users, but it’s not fast enough, reliable enough, or pretty enough for anybody else. It’s Croydon, basically.
|Software subcategory||Web browser|
Operating system support
|Operating system Windows Vista supported?||yes|
|Operating system Windows XP supported?||yes|