Review: Polarity combines two Web layout engines in one free browser

Surf fast and safe with two engines under the hood with this free Web browser.

Web browser aficionados will want to check out Polarity, which integrates Google's Chromium and Internet Explorer's Trident Web rendering engines in one program. Polarity packs most of the features users expect in an up-to-date Web browser, such as tabbed browsing and pop-up blocking, plus some new tools like speech recognition. It's easy to set up, too. Polarity grew out of the Simplicity browser project, and its motto is, "Browse the Web without clutter." However, it really doesn't offer anything special or unique enough to turn heads, and its emphasis on simplicity also means limited compatibility with add-ons and extensions.

When we first ran Polarity, a setup wizard had us select preferences such as a home page, a default search engine, ad-blocking options, and tab behavior. We opened Polarity's Preferences by clicking the familiar Settings icon, but the preferences sheet is configured rather differently from similar browsers, with a layout, buttons, and navigation controls that take visual cues from smartphone apps. The first thing we do when trying a new browser is to set a blank home page (a habit from the dial-up days) and then import bookmarks from another browser. We accomplished the first task by typing "blank" into the home page address field, but the only option we found for importing bookmarks was a tool for managing IE favorites in Trident tabs. Polarity's browsing performance is right up there with the latest browser releases, but then, it's built with the latest open-source engines. But it has some issues; for instance, we could open a new Trident tab but not access the IE favorites we supposedly imported.

There's little to dislike about Polarity, but it seems unfocused. It's neither simplified enough for inexperienced users nor sophisticated enough for geeks and tweaks.

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