Pale Moon is a Belgian Beer. But it’s also a fork of Mozilla’s Firefox, aiming at providing a better user experience, refusing to move to the Australis UI interface change that Firefox recently went through (the one that sucked bad). On top of that, it’s surprisingly lightweight (interestingly, it was not a design goal of the project, more of a “collateral damage” if I may say) and what you need to know is that it runs great on the Pandora.
Recently PtitSeb has found a couple of cool browsers, Pale Moon and Otter. Otter is based on Qt5, inspired by Opera12. It is pretty fast too but has a couple of issues. I’ll do a full review of Otter once it’s less “beta” and more usable. Now, this is about Pale Moon.
Pale Moon was first released in 2009, and includes a number of changes under the hood vs the Firefox codebase, but the main reason why it’s so fast is because of the build optimizations:
A stock Firefox executable is built to run on, by today’s standards, ancient hardware (are you still running a first generation Pentium processor? I wouldn’t think so). The build environment used for Pale Moon allows for specific optimizations in the building process that actually uses the capabilities of the computer hardware it runs on (specifically: advanced processing instructions) and gears the machine code at the assembly level specifically towards certain generations of processors, as opposed to trying to compromise for different ways of working of old (read: museum-grade) hardware. This is the biggest contributor to the speed increase seen in Pale Moon, as it impacts every aspect of the browser, from loading pages to drawing graphics and running scripts.
There’s a ton of good additional info on the technical page of the Pale Moon project, it’s definitely a good read if you can spare 10 minutes. Note that while it is a fork of Firefox, it does not retain compatibility for all extensions. Extensions up to Firefox 24 should work without hitch, but beyond there may be issues due to the changes made in the code base of Pale Moon vs Firefox. This being said, I have installed a couple of recent plugins and they worked fine for me. This is Speed Dial in action below, and it works without a hitch.
Now, you know that my default browser on the Pandora has been QupZIlla for a while, so if you were already in the camp of those who think Firefox is unusable on the Pandora, you could count me in. Yet I was very surprised to see how fast Pale Moon was despite its Firefox origins. It does take a little bit longer to initialize and start up compared to Qupzilla, but it’s still very fast. Fast enough that I find it worth it to consider a “match” between Pale Moon and Qupzilla in terms of Browsing speed. I will come back on that in a couple of weeks, I think.
All in all, it’s impressive enough for me to consider Pale Moon as a viable alternative to QupZilla on the Pandora. That says a lot. The full screen mode works great, too, and makes it possible to use every pixel on your screen for browsing. With the limited resolution of the Pandora it’s always a welcome feature.
So, is Pale Moon the best browser for the Pandora yet? If you consider extensions to be vital, and need Flash Videos, I’d say this is clearly a resounding “yes”. If you don’t care too much about that, QupZilla is still a worthy contender and we will soon see how they compare in their latest respective versions.
Don’t forget to show your appreciation for this excellent port on the repo by leaving a comment, a rating or both.