And the award goes to...
Maxthon, Sleipnir, and the stock Android browser round out the top four spots. Chrome places a distant fifth, with Firefox just two points behind in sixth place. Opera Mobile winds up in last place, nine points behind Firefox.
Interestingly, the big-three desktop browsers, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, all finish after second-string desktop brands and mobile-only browsers. Chrome underperforms in some basic areas where the Android browser excels, yet shines in the newer technologies where Android's browser definitely does not.
It makes sense that Google waited so long to release Chrome for Android, and why it was not immediately made the platform default. By the time Chrome becomes all that the Android browser is currently (and more), the transition should be seamless.
We're definitely bummed to see Firefox and Opera do so poorly, but Firefox for Android is still relatively new, and version 12 is a big disappointment for Opera on all platforms.
Browsing on an Android Tablet Versus the iPad
Since the test suite had to be further pared down to accommodate the Android browsers, we re-tabulated the iOS results from last month using only the tests ran here today. In order to do this, we removed all CSS and HWA tests, Asteroids, BrowserMark (which has since undergone a major upgrade), and everything from GUIMark except for the Text Columns test.
|Placing||Asus Transformer TF300T||iPad (third-gen)|
|1st||Dolphin w/Jetpack: 129 pts||Safari: 133 pts|
|2nd||Maxthon: 117 pts||Maxthon: 96 pts|
|3rd||Sleipnir: 115 pts||Dolphin: 92 pts|
|4th||Stock Android Browser: 110 pts||Chrome: 90 pts|
|5th||Chrome: 125 pts||Axis and Sleipnir: 89 pts|
|6th||Firefox: 109 pts||N/A|
|7th||Opera Mobile: 92 pts||N/A|
Asus' Transformer was launched at a comparable price point as the iPad, though its specs are somewhat different. While Safari's point total is higher than anything available for Android, it's interesting that nearly every browser on Android beats the other iOS-based contenders. The App Store's restrictive approach to third-party browsers is definitely a bad thing for iOS users. By restricting other companies to the old stock Safari engines, Apple is really doing those developers a disservice.
But don't let the results of this article determine your next tablet purchase. Outside of Web browsing, the difference between the two platforms is night and day. We found that the Transformer regularly crashed and bogged down with more than five or so apps open in the background. Meanwhile, none of that happened on the iPad. Benchmarks that wouldn't run on the iPad...well, they simply wouldn't run. In Android, they'll crash your browser. Throw in a lack of tablet-optimized apps in Google Play, and the situation only looks worse.
For the record, I do not own any Apple products other than the Magic Trackpad and a few copies of OS X. And while I do use an LG Android-based phone, Asus' Transformer gave me my first long-term experience on an Android tablet. The past two months were also my first using an iPad.
As an avid Linux user on the PC, I really wanted to like Android. Hardware-wise, I actually like the Transformer better than the iPad 3. Ironically, its cheap plastic construction makes it lighter and easier to grip. The problem is that, unlike in the smartphone space, Android still isn't on par with iOS for tablets.
The Closed-Door Future
When you take the App Store's rules into account (and now Microsoft's IE10-only advantage on Windows RT), the Android platform is the only fair game in town. The other two venues only host rigged events. We'll regularly be checking in on Web browser performance on Google's mobile operating system because, fortunately for consumers and developers, it actually matters here.
- Web Browser Grand Prix: Android Circuit
- Chrome, Dolphin, Firefox, Maxthon, Opera, Sleipnir
- Test Setup And Benchmark Suite
- Load Times
- HTML5 Performance
- Hardware Acceleration Performance
- Responsiveness And Security
- Standards Conformance
- Final Placing And The Android Winner's Circle