It’s the fastest browser I’ve ever used. That’s the kind of statement that doesn’t really mean much anymore in the browser world, mostly because the Big Four — Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera — keep dethroning each other in cycles. But for the first time in a while, we actually have a clear, longshot winner.
That winner’s name? Maxthon Nitro, sometimes referred to as MxNitro or simply Nitro. Though new, this slimmed-down browser is one to keep an eye on because it offers an experience that no other browser can currently replicate. But is it worth using? Let’s take a look.
Note: This article was written using Maxthon Nitro build 220.127.116.1100, which is the one released on April 10, 2015 and the latest one available at the time of writing. All forthcoming impressions are based on this build.
What Is Maxthon Nitro, Anyway?
Nitro is actually an offshoot of a much older freeware browser called Maxthon, which is actually developed by a Chinese company. It debuted in 2005 under the name MyIE2 and put itself out there as a strong alternative to Internet Explorer.
Unfortunately, Maxthon was quickly drowned out by the popularity of both Firefox and Chrome and, to a lesser extent, Opera.
But the browser persevered, continually adding new features and improving performance. It wasn’t until 2011 that it received a bit of public recognition thanks to PCWorld’s list of Best 100 Products of 2011. Maxthon came in at 97th.
In light of a perpetually shifting landscape, Maxthon discovered a portion of web-browsing users that remained ever unhappy with the lack of speedy browsers on the market:
“Our focus groups and longitudinal surveys detail a growing segment of users who want speed above all else. 80% of users say that speed is their #1 decision-making criteria and that they are willing to forego extensive features and add-ons to get more of it,” said Jeff Chen, CEO of Maxthon. “This product is dedicated solely to that important and growing consumer niche.”
In September 2014, the first open beta build was released to the public. And thus, Nitro was born.
5 Reasons Why I’m Keeping Nitro
Having installed Nitro simply to test it out, I was surprised that I decided to keep it installed on my system. Would I use it as my primary and only browser? Not yet, and we’ll go over the downsides in the next section, but it definitely has a lot of potential.
Faster startup. Upon first release, Maxthon claimed that Nitro was three-times faster than Chrome 37 when it came to starting cold. With Chrome 37 being the fastest at the time, this ended up being a significant point of comparison. No more twiddling your thumbs while waiting for the browser to start.
Faster page load. Nitro also beat out Chrome 37 in another metric: page load speed. How much faster is it? About 30% on average. You’ll notice it immediately. Open a new tab, browse to a web page, and it’ll be on your screen faster than you can blink.
Low resource usage. Right now with Firefox, Chrome, and Nitro all open with similar tabs, Nitro is winning in terms of CPU and RAM usage. While Firefox and Chrome constantly use a bit of CPU in the background, Nitro uses none. And Nitro’s 57MB beats out Chrome’s 61MB and Firefox’s 184MB.
This is great news for those who have old laptops, netbooks, and weak Windows tablets: Nitro will run better on your system than its competitors.
Portable. As a portable browser, Nitro can be used without having to install it. This means you download it and you’re good to go. Fast, no hoops to jump through, and no pollution of your Windows registry or disk space. Stick it on a USB thumb drive and carry it with you if you want.
Nitro is by no means the first or only portable browser, but it’s one of the better ones. After all, portability is often associated with speed and low resource usage — and Nitro delivers both. It’s one of the few browsers that feels like it was meant to be portable.
Minimal interface. Interface design is mostly a subjective matter so I don’t blame you if you disagree here, but I really like Nitro’s design. It incorporates elements from Firefox, Chrome, and Opera, but combines them in a way that makes it its own. Simple, sleek, and modern.
And while it’s not immediately clear, Nitro does have full bookmark support. Unfortunately, it is missing a few important features that some might consider dealbreakers.
But Nitro Is Still Immature
No adblock. While I personally try to avoid using adblock except in the direst of circumstances, I realize that a lot of people can’t live without it. Maxthon recently added built-in adblock functionality to its main browser but Nitro still remains without.
Will it get adblock? Yes, but no one knows when. Maxthon has been saying “Coming soon!” since January 2015 so presumably the wait won’t be too much longer.
No saved tab sessions. The ability to close and reopen the browser without losing the open tabs is an important feature in this day and age, at least for me. Without it my productivity drops a considerable amount, plus it serves as an easy way to keep web pages open for later.
Nitro doesn’t have this feature.
No settings or options. One of the more interesting design decisions for Nitro is that there’s no way to customize the browser. In fact, there’s no settings page at all. Want to change fonts, download directories, or set browsing data to clear on exit? Nitro has none of that.
All that being said, Nitro’s purpose is crystal clear: it’s meant to be the perfect browser for fast, temporary sessions. It’s admittedly niche, but I think it’s a niche worth filling and I’m excited to see how it evolves over the next few months.
Want to give it a try? Download Maxthon Nitro.
What do you think about Nitro? Will you use it or are there too many dealbreakers? What would get you to use it? Does the Internet have room for a browser like this? Share your thoughts in the comments!