K-Meleon review

12 Mar 2010

A browser that looks and performs like the software of yesteryear. Only an option for those running equally aged hardware

2

K-Meleon may have a cute animal icon, but it’s certainly not the most user-friendly browser we’ve ever come across. Right from the get-go, this old-fashioned browser will leave even experienced users bewildered – let alone the computing novices who may stumble across K-Meleon in the EU browser ballot.

K-Meleon PC Pro homepage

There’s no easy way to import your bookmarks from other browsers, for instance: you can manually point K-Meleon at Firefox’s bookmarks folder, but there’s a dire warning of data corruption if you happen to have Firefox open at the same time, which hardly inspires confidence. Just to add to the confusion, K-Meleon includes a link to Bookmark Add-ons, but this simply redirects to the Firefox Add-Ons homepage, which implores you to download Firefox if you try and install any of them.

That’s far from the only problem with this open-source browser. It offers tabbed browsing, but the tabs are bizarrely hidden away unless you manually rejig the toolbars. And because K-Meleon is running the Gecko 1.8 rendering engine – which Firefox ditched back in June 2008 with the release of Firefox 3 – websites such as Google Docs warn that support for your browser has come to an end because it’s too old. A new version of K-Meleon with the updated Gecko 1.9 engine is in the works.

The ageing rendering engine may explain why the browser feels a little sluggish in day-to-day use. Its JavaScript performance is also risible: it was at least twice as slow as any other browser using the SunSpider benchmark, rather undermining its claim to be “an extremely fast” web browser. On the plus side, an ACID 3 test score of 53 is respectable, it’s one of the most memory efficient browsers on test, and the 5.7MB installer wouldn’t trouble even those on dial-up connections, making it a decent choice for those on old or limited hardware.

If you are running K-Meleon on a decrepit PC then you’ll feel right at home, because the grey-heavy interface and old-fashioned icons remind us of browsers born in the Windows XP era.

The browser does have a few nice touches. The mouse gestures – which allow you to perform actions such as Back and Forward by holding down the right-click button and shuffling the mouse – work surprisingly well. And the one-click options to block adverts, cookies and Flash will please people who don’t want to be distracted while they browse. Indeed, with the adverts switched off, K-Meleon suddenly turns into a browsing gazelle.

But K-Meleon is both deliberately and desperately short of features. Even the few innovations that do make it into the browser are plain odd. Take the search button, for instance, that brings up a pop-up box to enter your Google search. Why not just link straight to the Google homepage, where features such as suggested searches and advanced search come into play? True, you can type a search term into the address bar and then press the search button to bring up Google results, but then Chrome lets you type search queries straight into the address bar.

If you want a lightweight browser that will run happily on pretty much any PC, you could do worse than K-Meleon. But in the modern browsing world, you could also do much, much better.

Details

Price ex VAT £0
Price inc VAT £0
Overall rating 2
Ease of Use rating 2
Features & Design 2
Software subcategory Web browser

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? no