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The Great Android Browser Face-Off 2012

The Great Android Browser Face-Off 2012

All of your favorite Android web browsers are back for an epic, Ice Cream Sandwich-y rematch.

A few months back, we pitted a handful of the most popular Android browsers against each other to find out which was the best. We weren’t able to agree on a single winner, but some browsers certainly did better than others – “others” primarily being the default/stock browser. Now that the browsers have had some time to recover with a few fresh updates, we’re back for another showdown! And most importantly, we listened to your feedback.

The Devices

There were an awful lot of requests for some dual-core benchmarking, so we now have two devices to test the browsers: the single-core Nexus S and a dual-core Galaxy Nexus. Both are completely stock and are running Android version 4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich.

Some of you are probably thinking, “What good is a dual-core phone now that quad-core devices are here?” The HTC One X is the only quad-core phone available right now (and the North American version is dual-core), and there are only a small handful of quad-core tablets. Furthermore, we don’t need a quad-core device to test the scalability of a browser – a dual-core phone will do just as well. Plus, the Galaxy Nexus represents a very good average of the most popular devices out there (dual-core CPU, 1 GB of RAM, 720p display, etc).

The Browsers

Of all the browsers we’re retesting today, the stock browser has seen the most significant updates. Going from version 2.3.6 to 4.0.4 brought things like hardware acceleration and better system integration. The stock browser might actually have a chance this time.

Google’s very own Chrome Beta is a newcomer to this battle, and even though it’s still in the beta stage, we feel it’s important to test it out since it’s possible that Google will be using it to replace Android’s current default browser. We’re testing build 0.18.4409.2396.

Firefox 10 (we’re testing version 10.0.4) was supposed to be a major improvement over its predecessor. While it has received a handful of performance improvements, one feature that we were eagerly looking forward to has been left out - Flash.

Dolphin HD was one of our favorites last time around, and since then, it has had a few new features bolted on as well as some hefty performance improvements. This is version 8.0.1.

Dolphin Mini is the lightweight counterpart to Dolphin HD. If high-powered web browsing does indeed require a dual-core device, then Dolphin Mini might be exactly what our Nexus S is looking for. We’re testing version 2.3.

This is Opera Mobile version 12.0.2. It has had a bit of a facelift since we last saw it, though nothing all that dramatic. It has also seen a few performance upgrades as well as a heck of a lot of web compatibility features.

Last time around, Opera Mini set the record for fastest browser but fell very short when it came to web page compatibility. We’ll see if version 7.0.2 can improve on that while remaining the fastest.

There were a lot of requests for us to test specific browsers last time, but we just don’t have the time to test every single one. xScope received the most requests, so we feel it deserves a place in the ring. This is version 6.50.

If we’re being honest, we didn’t have very high hopes for Skyfire in the last faceoff, but it turned out to be a very well-rounded contender. Of all the browsers we’re testing today, Skyfire is the only one that hasn’t been updated. It’s still version 4.1.0.

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  • 0 Hide
    blackmagnum , May 15, 2012 3:40 AM
    How about: The Great "iOS" Browser Face-Off 2012.
  • 0 Hide
    srap , May 15, 2012 12:08 PM
    As a result, it’s possible that neither Chrome nor Firefox will ever be Flash compatible.

    According to this, Flash Support on some Android versions have already landed and finished in the Aurora channel (a developer version), and it is very unlikely to see it removed before getting the stable FF 14.
  • 1 Hide
    zhazhuth , May 15, 2012 2:22 PM
    Ice Cream Sandwich.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 15, 2012 7:53 PM
    Might have to try Opera Mini or Skyfire see if the page loading is worth the downgrades from using the stock browser.
  • 0 Hide
    quantumrand , May 15, 2012 9:58 PM
    srapAccording to this, Flash Support on some Android versions have already landed and finished in the Aurora channel (a developer version), and it is very unlikely to see it removed before getting the stable FF 14.

    We can certainly hope, although with the fast adoption rate of HTML5, the loss of Flash might not be that much of an issue.
  • 0 Hide
    quantumrand , May 15, 2012 10:40 PM
    RemoltenMight have to try Opera Mini or Skyfire see if the page loading is worth the downgrades from using the stock browser.

    If you're after speed, definitely go with Opera Mini, but keep in mind that it likely won't work on complex sites. Otherwise, don't look too much into the page loading speed results and choose a browser based on its interface.

    Keep in mind that with the exception of SkyFire's video plug-in, all of these browsers are free, so there's no harm in downloading them to try them out. If you're interested in Opera Mini's speed benefits, give it a try to make sure it works with the sites you frequent.
  • 0 Hide
    catchercradle , May 17, 2012 1:59 PM
    Couldn't get Dolphin Mini to install on my phone, (HTC Hero) old I know. Opera mini did and seems to work well. Haven't tried others yet. - Thought mini's a good idea being a rather dated phone.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 17, 2012 2:47 PM
    Thanks for the article. In the compatibility section, have you considered looking at test262? It's the standard conformance test for ECMAScript -
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 17, 2012 6:01 PM
    xScope is great because it has a desktop mode that won't automatically load up the mobile version of sites.
  • 0 Hide
    harsh1795 , December 28, 2012 6:32 PM
    how can you not include Maxthon web browser?? it Will prove as a great competitor.. it is fully featured.. to all those wo are viewing this comment, please download this browser and comment.. please Include this browser I want to know more about its features-how it does in this great face off battle field..
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