Short version : I now use Chrome as my default browser.
The Long Version:
After discussions on this thread, I decided to try alternative browsers from my standard IE8 for one week each. I used each browser without plug-ins as I don't use any normally with IE8.
The Default : IE8. I use this because in most cases I prefer to use the default configuration of anything on the computer -- this makes it less of a struggle to work on a different PC as I'm already familiar with what's there. Moving away from the default for me has a level of inertia; there must be a certain level of increased benefit for me to move.
Week 1: Firefox.
Impression : Not much different from IE8. Screen drawing seemed somewhat faster, but sites I visit tend to be text based anyway so there's not that much in it.
Week 2 : Chrome.
Impression : Speed is comparable to Firefox, but I really like the cleaner UI. For a while I was concerned that I could not find a 'privacy mode' which is use for on-line banking, but then I Googled it and found that Ctrl-Shift-N starts 'incocnito' mode. So it has everything I need and a nicer UI. My original concerns about the EULA (Google own all data that you see) have gone as they revised it.
Week 3 : Opera
Impression : actually only lasted 10 minutes. I visited the Coffeehouse first and saw a large gap of empty space between the page header and the first thread title. As the Coffeehouse is my home-page, and this looks to me like a straightforward rendering layout, I decided that Opera fell at the first hurdle and un-installed it. Sorry Opera. I'll try again after they release the next major update.
I got bored before trying Maxathon.
With every browser an individuals mileage may vary -- but for me Chrome was the best.