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Final Placing And The Android Winner's Circle

Which Web Browser Should You Run On Your Android Device?
By

And the award goes to...

Dolphin!

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.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    aznshinobi , November 30, 2012 3:59 AM
    Quote:
    "Stock Android Browser" is a myth. There is NO "Stock" android browser.
    Each device manufacturer (Samsung, Asus, Lg, HTC) customise/modify the "stock" browser to match the SoC, the TDP, power saving, and specific browser benchmark targeted, for that device.

    So this "Stock" browser is actually a modified browser, customised by ASUS to work better with a Tegra3 SoC, in some specifc benchmarks which Asus thinks are more important than others. Its not a representative of all android devices.


    When you're running a Nexus device, it's a stock browser...
Other Comments
  • -5 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , November 30, 2012 3:36 AM
    "Stock Android Browser" is a myth. There is NO "Stock" android browser.
    Each device manufacturer (Samsung, Asus, Lg, HTC) customise/modify the "stock" browser to match the SoC, the TDP, power saving, and specific browser benchmark targeted, for that device.

    So this "Stock" browser is actually a modified browser, customised by ASUS to work better with a Tegra3 SoC, in some specifc benchmarks which Asus thinks are more important than others. Its not a representative of all android devices.
  • 3 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , November 30, 2012 3:37 AM
    Sunspider and Kraken are crap benchmarks. All browsers target these benchmarks for specifc optimisations, that are never actually used on the web.
  • 14 Hide
    aznshinobi , November 30, 2012 3:59 AM
    Quote:
    "Stock Android Browser" is a myth. There is NO "Stock" android browser.
    Each device manufacturer (Samsung, Asus, Lg, HTC) customise/modify the "stock" browser to match the SoC, the TDP, power saving, and specific browser benchmark targeted, for that device.

    So this "Stock" browser is actually a modified browser, customised by ASUS to work better with a Tegra3 SoC, in some specifc benchmarks which Asus thinks are more important than others. Its not a representative of all android devices.


    When you're running a Nexus device, it's a stock browser...
  • 4 Hide
    adamovera , November 30, 2012 4:02 AM
    mayankleoboy1Sunspider and Kraken are crap benchmarks. All browsers target these benchmarks for specifc optimisations, that are never actually used on the web.

    SunSpider is the next to go for sure, but I haven't heard a ton of criticism regarding Kraken yet. Between BrowserMark, Peacekeeper, and RIABench, we could withdraw all the vendor-developed JS tests.
  • 7 Hide
    tiret , November 30, 2012 4:57 AM
    give me a browser with flash support then we'll talk
  • 4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , November 30, 2012 5:03 AM
    ^ coming soon to firefox. Project Shumway.
  • 3 Hide
    tiret , November 30, 2012 5:10 AM
    ^ interesting. lets hope it works out... my gf is rather pissed that she can't play farmville on my galaxy tab.
  • 6 Hide
    fwupow , November 30, 2012 5:33 AM
    I've already figured out that Chrome isn't so hot, but the reason why Chrome still wins for me is that it synchronizes bookmarks, passwords, history and a bunch of other stuff across all my computers and devices. That is an indispensable feature for me.
  • 0 Hide
    wildkitten , November 30, 2012 6:56 AM
    tiretgive me a browser with flash support then we'll talk

    Since Adobe themselves has ended Flash development for all mobile platforms, I don't think you will see many browsers keeping support for it for long. Likely in a year, maybe 18 months, you won't see any support for Flash as, well, what's the point.
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , November 30, 2012 7:01 AM
    Firefox Beta has flash support once you download and install the flash apk - I have it working well on my Nexus 7
  • 8 Hide
    Anonymous , November 30, 2012 7:14 AM
    It is not benchmark results that counts when choosing my mobile browser. And what counts?
    - some kind of adblocking utility, like urlfilter.ini in Opera, adblock in firefox
    - minimum font size. On my 8" 160dpi screen fonts are too small to be read comfortably. In Opera I can declare a minimum font size and have all webpages readable and well formatted.
    - declare to be a desktop browser. I most browsers I have to declare this for every site I visit, in Opera I do it once and it is set
    - smoothness on any hardware, not only Quad-core. Try stock browser or firefox on a single-core A10 machine and it will freeze for 10s when composing your webpage. Opera won't be butter-smooth, but it will let you scroll througn the page from the beginning.
    So Opera is the worst browser according to Thg, but is the best for me, the average user.
  • 1 Hide
    Tomtompiper , November 30, 2012 7:15 AM
    Read this on Dolphin on my Galaxy Tab, Dolphin has been a fixture on the Tab for two years and for good reason. Forget the scores, even if it wasn't top I would still use it, the actual user experience is head and shoulders above the competition.
  • 4 Hide
    obarthelemy , November 30, 2012 8:23 AM
    piotrjakubIt is not benchmark results that counts when choosing my mobile browser. And what counts?- some kind of adblocking utility, like urlfilter.ini in Opera, adblock in firefox- minimum font size. On my 8" 160dpi screen fonts are too small to be read comfortably. In Opera I can declare a minimum font size and have all webpages readable and well formatted.- declare to be a desktop browser. I most browsers I have to declare this for every site I visit, in Opera I do it once and it is set- smoothness on any hardware, not only Quad-core. Try stock browser or firefox on a single-core A10 machine and it will freeze for 10s when composing your webpage. Opera won't be butter-smooth, but it will let you scroll througn the page from the beginning.So Opera is the worst browser according to Thg, but is the best for me, the average user.


    This. A review of performance only is useless. Features are more important.
  • 1 Hide
    obarthelemy , November 30, 2012 8:24 AM
    Also, Opera has a night mode that works, the only browser I could find with one. It's a little hacky though (http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1326434)
  • 2 Hide
    gilahacker , November 30, 2012 8:35 AM
    "Boat Browser" (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.boatbrowser.free) supports flash just fine. I've used it on a Galaxy S3 and a Nexus 10. Just go download the latest Flash apk from Adobe:

    http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/archived-flash-player-versions.html#main_Archived_Flash_Player_versions_for_developers

    Scroll down a bit to get to the Android listings.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , November 30, 2012 10:13 AM
    naked browser

    the ui is very minimal though so might not be newcomer friendly
    but the responsiveness is on par with dolphin
  • 1 Hide
    swyn01 , November 30, 2012 10:51 AM
    Chrome is the default browser for Nexus devices running Jellybean. Browser is not even installed on neither the Galaxy Nexus nor the Nexus 4.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , November 30, 2012 11:30 AM
    Chrome is not only the default for Nexus devices...Razr M, HD, and Maxx HD also come with Chrome as the only browser installed. It's been great for me and I especially like being able to swipe between tabs.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , November 30, 2012 11:59 AM
    so, according to real life browsing opera has fastest browsing, but because it scores last in syntethic benchmarks it comes last?
  • -2 Hide
    Mygind , November 30, 2012 1:06 PM
    I've had the TF300T for some month using Dolphin... And It is still slow, slow, slow.

    My next buy will be a labtop Core i5 / HD 4000 with a SSD and a mouse with a wire. It will be set up so it is always on standby - and wakes up in 2-4 sec.

    Tablets are for todlers and teens :-)
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