The Best Lightweight Browser

I just went through and reinstalling my system from a computer I hadn’t updated for a year and a half. For everything I needed, Gnome 2.22 and Firefox 3.0 did just fine. The computer is an iBook 300MHz that can use all the umphh it can get. Though it worked alright for a long time, I got a little picky and just wanted a lighterweight desktop (even a tricked out Gentoo can only do so much). The most important thing I needed was a web browser that was responsive. Firefox 3.0 actually didn’t do too bad… until it had been running a while. I was also hoping to get a few of the more popular features that modern browsers have like saving sessions and form-autofill.

Three Tries

I was all prepared to install Chromium on the iBook. I had planned to cross-compile on a faster computer (Chromium source code is like a 5GB download). Chromium really is the king of webkit browsers (and browsers in general) for resources and speed – so I really wanted to give it a try. I found out thought that the V8 javascript engine has a lot of x86 instructions built directly into it so that wasn’t an option. I decided to try the other lightweight browsers: Midori, Arora and Epiphany.


Midori runs fast, and seems to be well built. Unfortunately Midori wasn’t able to save login and password information and that ruled it out. To be fair though, the version of Midori in the Arch PPC repos is six months old and it probably has this feature by now.


I installed LXDE and OpenBox on my desktop to have a lightweight system. So with only the bare gtk libraries already installed, I wasn’t real crazy to install QT as well. Installing Arora though only required QT and one other dependency. From what I’ve been told, QT by itself can be good for lightweight desktops. Arora is coming along nicely. I tried the git version of Arora and it did pretty good. Arora is still in early in development though and there were glitches in the framework: tabs behaved unexpectedly when reaching the end of the window, the close tab button would disappear at times. Arora was fast but not as fast as Midori. Looks like webkit-qt is still playing a bit of catchup.


Epiphany is the same browser I had tried a couple years ago. Only more, and a bit less. When Epiphany used Gecko it was alright. It was a little bit better than it’s Firefox counterpart, but had the same problem after having run for a bit of time. I’m glad the Epiphany developers have decided to go with webkit. It renders fast, and the time I have been using it, it seems just as snappy even after I have been using it for awhile. There are webpages that Epiphany won’t know how to save a login and password, and it has no configuration option to remember your session. The Gnome Epiphany FAQ gives a nice phhhh and says that you can force kill the application (pkill epiphany) to get this behavior. I tested heavy pages like ESPN and Stack Overflow, and not a problem, even with multiple pages open.


Quite liking my new desktop now. Epiphany (for the most part) I am real happy with. Also for those that are interested: LXDE is a great choice for a lightweight desktop without many comprimises. I added stjerm to go along with the desktop because I do alot of my work from the terminal. I still like it quite a bit. I learned a couple more tricks about it and updated the webpage.

About Todd Partridge (Gently)

Good times, good people, good fun.

Posted on 2009-11-27, in Lightweight, Linux. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. i think there is a binary version of chrome browser on portage

  2. I hadn’t heard of Epiphany until now. Thanks I am excited

  3. Thanks for leading me to Epiphany, seems like a really nice lightweight browser, wonder how it travels on the Raspberry PI… Might test it out tomorrow

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