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Looking for a New Browser? Maxthon Cloud Browser (Review for Windows)

Updated on July 27, 2017

Maxthon Browser is great for out-of-the-box usage. Super fast browsing, but lack of extensions and some basic functionalities make it good for limited use.

by Y. Mladenov a.k.a. ItKnol

Source

note: The rating score is considered if 5/5 goes for Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome

Overall Rating

4 stars for Maxthon Cloud Browser
Table of contents
Introduction (you are here)
Look and Feel
Page Load Speed
Reliability
- Downloading
- Web Page Code (HTML)
- Script Execution (JavaScript)
- Other User-Reported Issues
Browser Features
- Dual Display Engine
- Bookmarks Management
- Hotkeys
- The Context Menu
- The Settings Screen
- The ‘Advanced’ Tab
Extensions Support
Conclusion

Introduction to Maxthon Internet Browser

I found Maxthon while googling for a light-weight browser. If you are running a 1,5GHz machine with no more than 2 Gigs of RAM and a light-weight video graphics, then you will agree that your options are limited:

  • Mozilla Firefox is great but consumes way too much memory;
  • Google Chrome requires good graphics hardware to display pages in a fast manner;
  • Opera fails to provide adequate web standards support, crippling a lot of website functionality; and
  • Apple Safari… well it just seems to work as good only on a Mac.









What is Maxthon Cloud Browser

As the CEO, Jeff Chen, states in a press-release:

Our challenge to our team was to build a browser that is faster and lighter than Chrome

and with the catchy slogan “Traditionally Innovative” the guys at Maxthon USA Inc. set the bar cloud-high, but don’t worry – that’s not where the word “cloud” in the browser name comes from.

Since on the official page (maxthon.com) all you get are product endorsements such as an awards list and a number of bold press releases I will do my best to break down how this browser works. Please note that I am speaking from personal experience and just as any human being, I might not be 100% right.

And a last note before we begin – the browser I will be comparing with will be Google Chrome, as they give strong accent on speed, unlike Firefox which suggest reliability and functionality. All features mentioned below are the ones you cannot find on other browsers.

Look and Feel

The Maxthon Cloud Browser Windows, displaying the 'quick-start page'.
The Maxthon Cloud Browser Windows, displaying the 'quick-start page'. | Source

The interface is very clean and readable in a flat style, just like Windows 8. The main menu reminds of a tablet menu. On the header (where the address bar is located) you get everything you need while surfing the web – home page button, tool for displaying page components (resource sniffer), tools customization menu, button for transforming the page into ebook format. More discussed in later chapters.

As for the browsing experience, when you load pages the feeling is as if you are browsing through a personal Content-Delivery Network (CDN). For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a CDN is a network of servers that always strives to load web content from the server that is geographically closest to you, providing you the best load time.

I assume this is where the ‘Cloud’ in the title comes from. A ‘computer cloud’, besides being overused for sales purposes, is a network of computers that run the same application (the Maxthon Browser in this case) to combine resources (CPU, RAM) and deliver content to your screen faster. Hence, the CDN-like feeling when you are browsing. It’s as if a more powerful computer is doing the hard work instead of your own.
note: We can only guess if that is indeed the case, since an official statement behind its mechanics are nowhere to be found on the Web.

Source

Page Load Speed

When launched, the browser loads relatively faster than Chrome. Browsing sites like HubPages (mainly text) with 4 tabs opened up, memory usage remains at about 220 megabytes, which is great. Assuming you won’t install any extensions, hide the annoying ‘Maxthon bar’ on the left and don’t load up any toolbars (bookmarks included) odds are memory consumption will remain low at all times.

And now for the good part…

Loading pages is a breeze. Even script-intense sites such as Google Analytics, Yahoo! Mail and YouTube were handled relatively fast on my old netbook.

Good thing to note here is that in the Options page you can check whether web page displaying (rendering) is handled by your graphics hardware or not. If you are not with a high-end computer then it would be wise to test how a graphic-rich site loads with and without this option checked.

Speed Rating – 5/5

Just as advertised!

Source

Reliability

Downloading

A common bug in the current version of Maxton Cloud Browser (4.2.0.4000) is the ‘download bug’. When you download a file from a site like download.cnet.com the following issues are encountered:

  • When you Alt+Tab to another window and switch back, the ‘Download file’ dialog will disappear
  • In most cases when you complete the download the ‘Download file’ dialog will remain open prompting you to download the file again.

Web Page Code (HTML)

After a 10-hour browsing run, there were just a few super-minor issues encountered with how the browser renders HTML code. It can be said for good that this browser shows good compliance and support for web standards. Unlike Internet Explorer and Opera.

Script Execution (JavaScript)

Script execution is relatively fast, with no issues encountered. Unlike Google Chrome, shows no trouble displaying all kinds of modal windows and other types of website notifications, made with JavaScript.

Other User-Reported Issues

After a Google search, there were some other bugs reported but mainly when switching page (rendering) display modes, which is a bit uncommon for you to want to do.

On a zoomed page, there have been reported difficulties with the horizontal scroll.

Overall, it can be said that there are minor issues with this browser and, from the looks of it, they will be fixed soon enough. If you head over to the Maxthon Forum, you will see that their support is doing a good job at gathering feedback from people and organizing everything in order to get it fixed quickly.

Reliability Rating – 4/5

Despite of a few bugs, this browser is reliable.

Source

Browser Features

Dual Display Engine (the Ultra and Retro modes)

Firstly, I am giving this a separate section, because it is a somewhat major feature.

This allows you to switch between two layout engines (or simply put ‘browser cores’) that both have their own ups and downs.

The idea is that when you visit a web page, designed 8 years ago, it will switch to Retro mode in order to display older standard code accordingly.

Retro mode utilizes the Trident layout engine, used by all versions of Internet Explorer.
This brings you a nice smooth look of text and images on the page, however the downside is that some elements might display inappropriately.

For example, a text area that does not need to be scrolled yet, will have an inactive scrollbar added to it. Another downside is resource consumption – scrolling will bring more of a load on your graphics hardware, making it a bit laggy and overall the browser will use up a bit more resources on your system.

Ultra mode is based on the WebKit layout engine, used by Apple Safari*. A note on reliability here - according to this list on Wikipedia, WebKit has been developed by major brands such as Apple, Nokia and BlackBerry.

Things don’t look almost unnecessary smoothed out, like Retro mode, pages will load faster, your system resources will be freed up and browsing, scrolling the page will be easier and faster.

* thanks to Mike1996 for correcting me in the comments section

The 'Quick Tools' customization menu. Gives you a good idea of what tools you have at hand. Use the checkbox to add them next to your address bar.
The 'Quick Tools' customization menu. Gives you a good idea of what tools you have at hand. Use the checkbox to add them next to your address bar. | Source

The other features are mentioned in a list below, just those which are new in comparison to any major browser you might have encountered:

- nicely working and useful:

  • Magic Fill
    - identity and login manager
  • Snap
    - resizable webpage screenshot
  • Import from other browsers
    - unlike most browsers, you can do this at any time from your bookmarks manager, not just the installation process
  • External tools
    - this launches a menu for Windows-based tools such as the Calculator, My Computer and so on. It also has an “Add more” button, in order to extend its use. Handy.
  • SkyNote
    - this is an integrated notepad allowing you to take notes while researching something online. Nice one, although it’s a best practice to save those later to an external file.
  • New Session window
    - allows you to start a new browsing session
    - seems handy if you would like to test/use a website with 2 different users logged in at the same time
  • History button next to the address bar
    - giving you quick access to recently visited sites, so that you don’t have to pump-out the Back button

- in need of further development or fixing:

  • Reader mode
    - displays current webpage in a 1-column ebook format
    - trashes some webpages so definitely needs further development, still a good idea
  • Night mode
    -
    this is intended to change the color of Maxthon’s interface to dark, so that your eyes don’t burn out while reading with the lights out in your room
    - either a bug or bad implementation makes this mode to change the background color of the page breaking many color schemes; also doesn’t change the color of the scrollbar and the status bar, which feels like it works at a 90% rate

Alongside all these new features you will also find the standard settings and features such as page zoom, proxy settings, content delivery settings, privacy browsing mode and so on.

Bookmarks Management

The Maxthon bookmarks manager interface
The Maxthon bookmarks manager interface | Source

Great thing about the bookmark manager is that it allows you to import bookmarks from another browser you have installed with just a few clicks.

But that is just about it.

Using drag and drop from the address bar to your bookmarks bar does not work.

Saving an address by clicking on the Star icon to the left of it will shovel it at the end of the bookmarks bar.

Dragging a bookmark from the bookmarks bar to a folder will sometimes copy the bookmark to the new location while leaving it on the bar as well, giving you a duplicate.

In case you have plenty of bookmarks on the bar, a >> button will appear toggling a sub-menu with the rest of your bookmarks. When you move a bookmark from that submenu to the first few positions of the bookmark bar the bookmark will be saved, again, on both locations.

Overall, bookmark management is bad.

Source

Hotkeys

Keyboard hotkeys can be assigned along with mouse gestures. Fact is, you will definitely need to set the keyboard ones at least, because the default hotkeys are simply put… weird.

Brief example:

  • Pressing Ctrl+N will open a new tab instead of a new window.
  • Pressing Ctrl+Shift+N will not start a private browsing session in a new window but load the last visited page on your history
  • You cannot toggle tabs by pressing Ctrl+[number of the tab, example 1)

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Maxthon Cloud Browser context menu when activated over a link.The Maxthon Cloud Browser context menu when activated over a paragraph of text.The Maxthon Cloud Browser context menu when activated over an image.
The Maxthon Cloud Browser context menu when activated over a link.
The Maxthon Cloud Browser context menu when activated over a link. | Source
The Maxthon Cloud Browser context menu when activated over a paragraph of text.
The Maxthon Cloud Browser context menu when activated over a paragraph of text. | Source
The Maxthon Cloud Browser context menu when activated over an image.
The Maxthon Cloud Browser context menu when activated over an image. | Source

The (right-click) Context menu

Oh praise, the almighty context menu that allows us to complete basic tasks by just right-clicking!

While there are still sites that disable it, the context menu is a basic, yet vital functionality.

In Maxthon Cloud Browser, it has been brought to downright useless.

It begins with the “Cloud push to” option, accompanied by the “New!” label. Before you start thinking that they are trying to sell you something, let me point out that Maxthon comes prepackaged with its own Dropbox or Google Drive-like service. This option allows you ‘push’ any web page content to your personal cloud. While this is a cool feature (especially for stealing content) there is no way it can push-out the ‘Open in new tab’ option from its first place.

Another interesting feature is also the “Save all links” which saves all linked content from the page you are viewing along with external web pages. Why is it there? No idea.

And in case you would like to change page encoding, view source or print, you will need to navigate to the “More” submenu, as if those are uncommon things do with a web page.

When you right click on an image there is also the “Copy image” option, which does not copy the image URL, but the image itself, so that you can paste it to a graphics editor.
Another unusual option that should have been pushed down the “More” menu in favor of more common functions.

When it comes to right-clicking on links, the Internet Explorer-patented bad naming conventions come into action, starring:

  • “Save target as”, instead of “Save link as” and
  • “Copy shortcut”, instead of “Copy URL”.

Good option is to “Copy link text”. In case you need to save a number of link anchors (names) then your actions are stripped down to just right click and left click.

Overall, the context menu lacks basic functions, has bad naming conventions and there are a few others that could be considered ‘developer extras’ deserving a separate sub-menu. Considering usability being crippled in that menu, its implementation is bad.

The Browser Settings Screen

Maxthon's settings page.
Maxthon's settings page. | Source

When you click on “Settings” at the main menu you will be presented with the regular browser options for setting your browser along with options for customizing the features from the previous section.

Here is what options Maxthon gives you in a nutshell:

  • General settings (where most of the features are)
  • Search engine (for setting preferred search)
  • Tab bar (for modifying tab behavior)
  • Address bar (for adding shorter versions of your favorite sites; guess that explains the poorly functioning bookmarks)
  • Web content (for specifying how web content is handled; popups, videos, images, etc.)
  • MagicFill (for managing your identities and form auto-fill)
  • Proxy (self-explanatory here)
  • Mouse Gesture (in case you would like to set up and use mouse-driven shortcuts)
  • Shortcut Keys

The ‘Advanced’ tab

The Maxthon Browser advanced settings tab.
The Maxthon Browser advanced settings tab. | Source

Since the Advanced tab is not so advanced, I though it would be nice to move this out of the list and address a few potential concerns.

First the good:

  • you can access certificates
  • set cache location
  • Tell websites you do not want to be tracked

However, the rest shown here are features that have just been added to the good old horizontal drop down menu, right under the title bar, which you can trigger by pressing Alt on all Windows windows (that sounds weird).

It’s rather strange that such menu does not exist at all on Maxthon Cloud Browser.

So, for this reason you need to navigate to the deepest part of your Maxthon Settings screen in order to specify:

  • what translation tool to use,
  • what happens when you click the translation button,
  • whether the status bar shows tips and tricks

Issue #2 with this tab is the “Enable standard rendering in Retro Mode” with a tooltip after it “(this option is available on IE8 or higher versions)”.

What do we learn here?

For me, that I do not know what is “Retro Mode” and that Maxthon Internet Browser is in fact built on top of Internet Explorer since it uses your current version of Internet Explorer to render pages.

And if this “Retro Mode” version is available only on IE8 or higher versions, why there is a checkbox there at all? Can I check it if I am using Internet Explorer 7?

I refer to this as an “issue” because it requires unnecessary decisions from users.

Certainly, if there is something that can kill a good settings screen is providing switches for options that should have been made automatic.

Features Rating 2/5

Despite the fact that Maxthon presents some exciting new features, its poor implementation of basics such as hotkey shortcuts, bookmarks management and the context menu brings it down to this score.

Source

Extensions support

Currently (21-12-2013), the Maxthon Extension Center offers 449 extensions.

While this is a fair number, you will be surprised that quite a few of them are more ‘cool’ than ‘useful’. For web developers, there isn’t also a big number of addons to use.
At least, until FireBug gets ported for Maxthon.

Extensions Rating 4/5

Since this browser is not ‘main-stream’ it is OK to have no more than 500 extensions. What is troubling here that the developers have not taken the time to develop addons for one of the most popular services on the Web.

Conclusion

Maxthon Browser shows us some promising potential which, hopefully, we will see in future releases. However, as of the moment there are plenty of bugs and design faults to avoid. Making it best to be used right out-of-the-box, stripped down to its basics – a very fast browser with a point and click interface.

Comments

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    • itknol profile image
      Author

      ItKnol 3 years ago

      Mike1996,

      Thank you for the time you have spent on your in-depth comment. I read your comment carefully and corrected my mistake on the WebKit engine (in fact, used by Safari and not Firefox).

      This review caries out on reviewing functionality that can be compared to other major browsers and overall, how well will the browser perform if you just unpack it and start using it, in a very simple fashion. After all before adding a command line interface or whatever to your browser, as a developer, you should have aced the basics. Which is most certainly not the case. The two rendering modes are great, but the fact that the context menu is not as handy as in other major competitors is a big downside.

      I would also make a note on your objectivity here - using phrases such as 'due to the amount of faults (including but not limited to' and 'not a bad function for those who like it' does not resemble constructive criticism.

      I have taken note on your comment and further edits will be made in an eventual future. Thanks.

    • itknol profile image
      Author

      ItKnol 3 years ago

      Hi, Kiaoto and thank you for your comments.

      I just installed Maxthon (again) so that I can check on the 'remove private data on browser exit' as you say. Sorry, at least on the most recent version, this option is missing.. once again.

      As for the switch between the two rendering engines - it is in the right-hand end of the address bar. You can use it to switch at any time. But really, with HTML standards is it really necessary to have this option presented to, us, simple users who just want to check email and hubpages comments? :)

      A good browser leaves people worry about content and input, not page rendering and similar options.

      Kind regards,

      ItKnol

    • profile image

      Mike1996 3 years ago

      Sorry just one mistake: I meant Online-Banking not baking ;)

      And I forgot to mention two other functions: split screen (F10) as in TotalCommander, and customised UserAgent settings in advanced settings. Both minor but useful.

    • profile image

      Mike1996 3 years ago

      First of all, I would say it is a decent piece of review - from a normal user, which should somehow resemble a quick impression for the majority. Anyhow it's almost the only recent review of this "domestic product" (I'm from China) with a history of more than 10 years.

      However, due to the amount of faults (including but not limited to marking WebKit as "from Mozilla") in your review I'm to question the credibility of your report. Probably they fixed some of the bugs recently, but it's by no means an inmature product as far as I know. Its loss of users in China is caused by the malady of Chinese software industry, filled with copied functions and bloatware sales strategies. Maxthon is a role model for its Chinese rivals by focusing on pure browsing functionalities, but does not achieve that much due to its Beijing-based minimal team size (in regards to that of all other comparable products, i.e. Google, Mozilla, Microsoft as well as Tencent, Qihoo and Kingsoft from China).

      Now to the concrete critics. Frankly speaking, its speed should not be overly praised nor disregarded, leaving out the HTML5-Test cheating scandal. It's functionality, on the other hand, deserves a huge plus: it's called Cloud for a reason, and its bookmark sync dates back to the earliest releases of Maxthon2 in 2007, earlier than any of its competitors. Its (minor) lack of functions are only seen lately, such as spell check from Chrome. Your emphasis on "malfunctions" are, for me, really unjust:

      Bookmarks: by no means subpar: look at the latest design, Microsoft would thank for this deep understanding of Metro design. The duplicating issue of the bookmark bar does not exist, and the dropdown menu just repeats the last item in the bar in case it's too long, which is really to nuance. The Favorites Manager is meant to let the user manually reorder the bookmarks inside the interface, providing an alternative to dragging and dropping on the bar. Again, no duplicate issue.

      Context Menu: again very kind to separate the "advanced stuff" in case newbies don't understand about coding and object properties. I agree that print and find functions should be moved out of that submenu, but it's not crippled. The cloud push is not intended to steal anything, but to provide a tab sync for users with more devices running the same products, especially mobile phones. You can even manage them online. The nomenclature dates back to the time of the IE6-domination, providing a seamless migration curve (unlike a drastic one with Firefox, the bookmark-favorites confusions and stuff) and was again aimed at us Chinese.

      Hotkey: as the beginners in China learn how to use the mouse earlier than key combinations, they do not provide a full hotkey scheme out of the box, partially also being a courtesy to its former users to prevent confusion between IE and Firefox/Chrome styled hotkeys. They do preserve the Mouse Gesture, a pure Maxthon invention since 2007, existing in every Chinese browser along with the double-click close tab function (which you did not mention). And everything can be customised in the Settings page.

      Retro Mode Redering Choice: you probably don't know that many enterprises' pages (in China most crucially online-baking) utilise IE6 standards, which is why the compatible mode of IE is turned on in Retro Mode by default. If you just want to use IE engine for page viewing, tick the checkbox and enjoy - don't complain about a lower speed than Ultra Mode, and potentially deformed pages based on old standards.

      Other great functions include: left and right-click toolbar buttons (read the tooltips!), CSS-based skins (extremely powerful), rule-based Ad-blocker, status bar resource monitors, mute single page, choice between Omnibar (Chrome) and separate search bar (IE), Quick Dial (Opera), Hotkey Page Shortcuts (you only mentioned Keyword Shortcuts), Maxthon Multi-Search (merged searching interface for multiple search engines), a sidebar for addons being able to merge to desktop (you hid it in the beginning just as I did, but not a bad function for those who like it).

      I personally use Maxthon because it fits my browsing habits and sort of pity its poor reception now in China regarding its pioneering history. I appreciate your work to review it, but I just feel it necessary to correct its mistakes. I hope you don't feel offensed. Anyhow, if you have any issues, post in the forum, and the employees and enthusiasts should be able to find a solution for you.

    • profile image

      Kaioto 3 years ago

      Also...

      "Retro mode utilizes the Trident layout engine, used by all versions of Internet Explorer."

      ....

      "For me, that I do not know what is “Retro Mode”"

      Hmm? You said it earlier in the article..

      "I refer to this as an “issue” because it requires unnecessary decisions from users."

      It is in the "Advance" settings for a reason...

    • profile image

      Kaioto 3 years ago

      "Issue #3 is the missing option “Delete Cookies when browser closes”. "

      If you go under menu and under "clearing browser history", you can choose what you want to delete and also "auto delete on exit"

    • itknol profile image
      Author

      ItKnol 3 years ago

      Thanks! I'm flattered.

      I think you know what you mean - I encountered some delays on handling JS and streaming videos that appear without any specific pattern.

      See you around.

    • CyberFreak profile image

      CyberFreak 3 years ago

      Voted up, your review is awesome. I consider Maxthon a fast browser, but it has some issues with cpu handling - I don't know why, but once you load up something, it takes few milliseconds until it understands what you asked for and performs it. This kind of delay makes it annoying at times.