Browser

Which browser is best optimized for the Android tablet?

Jack Wallen conducted a test of five popular browsers to see which one was best suited for the Android tablet. Find out which one came out on top.

It's is a tough question to answer, but of the many browsers available for the Android tablet, which one should find its way as your default? How can this possibly be measured when opinions differ so greatly? And with the built-in browser already optimized for the platform, how could any other browser stand a chance?

I wound up putting the best Android browsers to the test, and the conclusion actually surprised me. But before I get on with this, let me explain which browsers I tested and the criteria I used to test them.

The browsers

Chrome is also a fantastic browser, but since it isn't available for the majority of Android tablets (it requires Android 4.0 and up), I opted to leave it out of the mix.

The criteria

  • Speed of opening application
  • Speed of rendering pages
  • Ease of use
  • Interface
  • Overall experience

I want to preface the rest of this by saying that I used real-world testing. In other words, I approached this from the perspective of an average user, who typically isn't concerned with benchmark test results. Instead, I simply experienced the browsers on my Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy Tab and judged them accordingly. The individual criteria above was awarded a score between 1 and 5 for each browser, and the highest total score at the end was deemed the winner.

Built-in Android browser

This is the browser all Android tablets ship with, and it's the most-used browser for these devices. It isn't nearly as feature rich as some of the other browsers on the list, but it does the job admirably. Here are the end results for the built-in Android browser:

  • Speed of opening application: 5
  • Speed of rendering pages: 4
  • Ease of use: 4
  • Interface: 2
  • Overall experience: 4
  • Average Score: 3.8

Favorite feature of the built-in Android browser: Easy incognito mode.

Firefox

Firefox is far more feature-rich than the built-in Android browser, and the latest iteration of the open source flagship browser packs a power house punch.

  • Speed of opening application: 5
  • Speed of rendering pages: 4
  • Ease of use: 5
  • Interface: 4
  • Overall experience: 5
  • Average Score: 4.6

Favorite feature of Firefox: Incredibly easy bookmark tool.

Dolphin for Pad

Dolphin (Figure A) offers a number of interesting features (gestures, "Sonar," add-ons, and more). I should mention that, as of this writing, Dolphin For Pad is in beta. But even in beta, the browser is solid and a worthy contender for your Android tablet. Figure A

Dolphin has a simple, familiar tab interface.
  • Speed of opening application: 5
  • Speed of rendering pages: 4
  • Ease of use: 4
  • Interface: 4
  • Overall experience: 4
  • Average Score: 4.2

Favorite feature of Dolphin for Pad: The gesture system is amazing.

Skyfire Web Browser 4.0

Skyfire offers some really unique features, such as Facebook and Twitter integration, one of the easier tab managers (Figure B), and a paid video optimizer add-on. Skyfire also offers the easiest means for switching between mobile and desktop modes. Figure B

Skyfire's tab manager makes it much easier to handle numerous tabs.
  • Speed of opening application: 5
  • Speed of rendering pages: 4
  • Ease of use: 5
  • Interface: 5
  • Overall experience: 5
  • Average Score: 4.8

Favorite Skyfire feature: Social integration is, without question, the best in breed.

Opera Mobile web browser

Oddly enough, Opera (Figure C) has been around for quite some time, and it's been available for Android for longer than most people think. Opera has a unique feature called Opera Turbo that compresses images for faster loading. This is done using a system of proxy servers, so the speed increase is really marginal at best. Figure C

Even with numerous features, Opera offers a very clean interface.
  • Speed of opening applications: 3
  • Speed of rendering pages: 3
  • Ease of use: 4
  • Interface: 4
  • Overall experience: 4
  • Average Score: 3.6

Final verdict

In order, from best to worst, the browsers score:

  1. Skyfire Web Browser 4.0
  2. Firefox
  3. Dolphin for Pad
  4. Built-in Android browser
  5. Opera Mobile web browser

Surprisingly, Skyfire came out on top. Not only did the app load more quickly, but it rendered pages noticeably faster. Couple that with the extra features offered by the browser, and Skyfire is the hands-down winner.

Again, this test was based on my personal experience, and so not everyone will agree or feel the same. However, Skyfire is built to perfectly suit the Android tablet and offers the speed and features that any user would be happy to have. Do you use Skyfire on your Android tablet? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

22 comments
Slayer_
Slayer_

You don't even get a friggen back button anymore, no way to mass close tabs. It doesn't zoom in when you fat finger several links (not as well as it did before anyways). It also won't auto launch the youtube app. And it's still slow. In short, don't use it now, its terrible.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Firefox, so bad you can't even set the home page. And it insists on showing you the mobile pages, you can keep clicking request desktop site, but like Chrome browser, it forget this on the very next website you visit. Making it extremely unfriendly. Opera, annoyingly slow, but has the best interface of the group so far. Only big issue is it's a pain to use the tabs. and its a chore to close tabs that sites create. Enabling the exit button provides a work around for this issue. Chrome has several of the same problems as firefox, but at least Chrome has a useful starting page that can be customized. Right now, I recommend Opera, its a bit slow but at least you don't want to throw your tablet across the room after 5 minutes of using it. (But then again that's only two webpages loaded after 5 minutes of browsing). Skyfire has a low rating on the google app store right now so I haven't tried it.

MEnonymous
MEnonymous

"Skyfire also offers the easiest means for switching between mobile and desktop modes." This isn't true, as Skyfire hides the bars per default, you have to press a menu button to display them again and then press the switch, same amount of presses as for example stock and firefox... dropdown menu > switch to desktop and switching between tabs becomes even more annoying in Skyfire, press menu at bottom > press tabs button at top and then select tab near middle. Where as Firefox f.ex lets you use lefthand thumb (easiest when holding tablet in two hands) to open tabs bar in left side of screen and then just select which tab to select with same finger (almost in same movement) and in stock browser on Note 10.1 it is even easier... simply press the tab you want at the top of the browser as in chrome on your desktop. Another thing that really annoys me in Skyfire is when I surf a site and see a link I think is interresting I like to open it in a new tab and then continue to browse the page I'm already on. Skyfire then opens a new tab, goes to that site and if I'm not quick I have to go through the annoying 3 presses mentioned above, just to go back and continue reading. Stock does the sam, but here I just press the tab and I'm back... easy peasy Oh and I think Skyfire looks clunky and have an amateurish look. My list would look like this: 1: Stock 2: Chrome 3: Firefox 4: Dolphin 5: Others

milpetrov
milpetrov

Weird that nobody has mentioned UC Browser, it works very very well for me on Android ICS on Prestigion 5197 Ultra

Slayer_
Slayer_

I just bought my mother a nexus 7. She likes it but scrolling through web pages is tough because of all the ad's. And ad block would be nice.

yooblues
yooblues

I downloaded SF based on this article. Not being a Facebooker or Twitterer, I was disappointed. Paying for video capability is not for me. I just want a browser that loads quickly, doesn't waste my time on the social stuff and is easy to navigate. At this stage I'll stick with Dolphin (4.0.3 ICS)

A-mantra
A-mantra

Opera is the best for me.

aroc
aroc

Skyfire?

aroc
aroc

I see some really odd renderings of web pages at times (with regular PC browsers, too, like Seamonkey and Firefox), so that is an issue in my usage on any platform. Stuff that "bugs" me includes misaligned sections of pages, including overlapping text and graphics, text that does not flow/wrap to fit window widths (even when full-screen'ed at 1920 pixels wide), color schemes that obscure parts of pages, and fonts that can be unreadably small or overwhelmingly big (and even bizarre mixtures on the same page). Various browsers on various platforms can exhibit these issues to various degrees. Of course, poorly designed web sites that assume Windows/IE 6/ActiveX, or other such silliness can be part of the problem from the server side, too, but there are plenty of examples I have seen where the browser makes a difference. YMMV

jmorley0214
jmorley0214

Installed it and immediately knew how to use it. Very Fast. I don't use the social networking (yet), but for me this one is exactly what I want. I removed the Android and Chrome browsers from my Droid. Happy.

wrichert
wrichert

I would suggest you try Puffin Web Browser ($2.99 on the Play Store). I use it on my iPhone 4S and Toshiba Thrive running ICS 4.0. It plays Flash and is the fastest I have found since it cache's and compresses a web page before sending. Absolutely the best!!!

kgreen
kgreen

I just tried to download Skyfire on my Nexus 7 and Play said it isn't compatible! Of course, Chrome is already on there and works wonderfully.

rjw
rjw

I thimk You are missing the whole point and not being accurate and beimg imcomplete. First You havent taken into accoumt the Android versión. Honny Comb (HC), ICS or JB. Browsers perform differently in each one. As a matter of fact, the Android browser ( there are 2 ) does not perform in JB, that is why Chrome ( which is not mentioned by you ) it is shipped in JB. Don't mention one of the best : Boat Browser, and evaluate a couple that has the least ranking among users: Sky fire and heavy Firefox

jbookout
jbookout

I saw you left out Chrome and stopped reading.

weserphillip
weserphillip

And you didn't even include it in the test? Strange.

MichelliL
MichelliL

I used Skyfire in its very infancy on an old Windows phone (maybe 6 or more years ago-I forget exactly when). I stopped using it when I moved to BlackBerry for a few years, and checked it out again when I came to Android. It's a good browser, and their tech is good for saving money with compression, but I'm not a huge fan of it anymore. My top browser of choice on Android is Boat Browser. It opens faster than any other browser I have, it renders pages at least as fast as the default and Firefox, the ease of use for me is fine, though I would say the toolbar functions are a bit more techie than an average user might enjoy, the interface is very simple and clear and the overall experience is the best of any browser I've used on Android (and I've used all of the ones discussed in the column). Like Dolphin, Boat also has a mini version, but I don't use it even on my phone since it only opens a limited number of tabs at once. My top-5 order of Android browsers is as follows: 1) Boat 2) Default 3) Firefox 4) Opera 5) Dolphin

chrisjohns73
chrisjohns73

I understand your reasoning to omit the Chrome browser, but I completely disagree. ICS has over 20% of the share of Android, and that number will only continue to grow. It is disheartening that Gingerbread has the lions share, and can not run the Chrome browser, but to leave it out of a review that attempts to name the best Android tablet browser is a large omission to say the least. I have to call this review incomplete and the author failed at their attempt to crown the best browser for Android tablets.

Slayer_
Slayer_

It seems to have a 1/5 chance of working, most the time you just get the spinning wheel and it doesn't go anywhere. So, no back button in browser, and the android back button doesn't work.... Thankfully they have a classic version available now.

irehs2007
irehs2007

@wrichert Hi I also use a thrive. I am in search of a faster browser. I currently  use chrome. I find myself wanting to throw my tablet than enjoying it. I will try puffin. I never heard of it but worth a try. ty

AudeKhatru
AudeKhatru

If most tablets don't run ICS or JB, then including that browser in the test could invalidate the overall results for MOST tablet users. Users here on Tech Republic are more likely to root their tablets and not be running the OS approved for it. Now, I will agree this far. Someone at TechRepublic with a Nexus 7 should run the same tests and provide the results for a JB tablet, which would probably be close to an ICS tablet as well. -running DRH JB beta on a Viewsonic gTablet

rhonin
rhonin

Should have included Chrome. Two Android tablets and 4 Android phones at home all run 4.x making this article about the past, not the current.

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