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The Great Android Browser Face-Off

Web Page Compatibility

Rendering a page in two blinks of an eye doesn’t mean a thing if it gets all jumbled up along the way. Of course, going through and trying out every single website in existence on the internet would have taken use ages, so we opted to use several internet standards tests, namely the Acid 2 Test, Acid 3 Test, and HTML5 Feature Test. We also threw in a basic Flash compatibility test (these aren’t iPhone browsers after all).

Web Page CompatibilityAcid 2 TestAcid 3 TestHTML5 Rating (450 Max)Flash Compatible
DefaultFail95%177Yes
Dolphin HDFail95%177Yes
Opera MobileFailPass 100%269Yes
FirefoxFail (renders correct until moved)Feature Pass/Render Fail313No
Dolphin MiniFail95%177Yes
Opera MiniEpic FailEpic Fail35No
SkyfireFail95%211Yes

The results are actually somewhat surprising. Absolutely all of the browsers failed the Acid 2 test. This is likely due to the limitations of a mobile environment (errors introduced by screen size and reflow of the layout). In fact, apart from Opera Mini and Firefox, all of the browsers rendered the Acid 2 test exactly the same. Firefox was just a tiny bit closer to getting it right, and well, Opera Mini just presented a sloppy mess.

Opera Mini’s attempt at Acid 2

Opera Mini’s attempt at Acid 2

The Acid 3 test also rendered identically on the majority of the browsers. On an interesting note, Opera Mobile was the only one to pass fully, while Opera Mini didn’t even come close. Firefox completed the test but didn’t get the render exactly right (again, likely due to reflow and screen size limitations).

The HTML5 results are fairly straightforward. The test is out of a maximum of 450 points. Firefox and Opera Mobile are clearly focused on HTML5 compatibility, and will likely be your best bet for rendering pages correctly.

Those compatible with Flash can make use of the Adobe Flash Player download available in the Android Marketplace. It’s important to note that Firefox is expected to support Flash in its next major revision.

  • You said stock browser, how about the hardware accelerated browser on the Samsung Galaxy S II?
    Reply
  • Nexus S has a single-core A8 processor ... which probably is the most widespread platform. But I don't think that the browsers' performance on it is representative for the dual-core A9 platforms that are all the rage this days. Not to mention that the customizations to the default browsers that are made by Samsung or for the Tegra2+Honeycomb platforms. I think there are both dual-core rendering optimizations, and specific GPU optimizations in the default browser for Honeycomb+Tegra2.

    I think you should mention that you were testing on a popular platform, but a slightly older one.
    Reply
  • darkchazz
    KeyboardWarrirorYou said stock browser, how about the hardware accelerated browser on the Samsung Galaxy S II?Agreed, I have the S2 and the stock browser is silky smooth there's not a single hint of lag even when viewing hd flash video on youtube.

    Also I wonder why toms keeps praising firefox, it's very laggy even on the simplest websites , half baked, and crashes alot.

    Opera mobile is my alternative browser of choice, it's very smooth with excellent text reflow..
    I like Dolphin hd as well but there's a bit of lag when scrolling especially on complicated websites.
    Reply
  • I wonder why Miren Browser wasn't mentioned. I have been using it for quite a while and am very happy with it...
    Reply
  • andywork78
    Tom's you forgot xScope and Boat. Does are good Browser too~ ^^
    Next time if you have a chance please test does browser too please
    Reply
  • neve
    I've tried most of these and I keep returning to xScope
    Reply
  • gstar42
    I would like to know which browsers route all page requests through their own servers rather than directly from the specified URL. This is a security issue.
    Reply
  • I think you have to take into account the installed size and startup times for these packages. According to the market Firefox takes over 14 MB while Dolphin HD is around 3.25 MB. On an HTC Desire Firefox takes up 20% of the total available app space, is incredibly slow to start, shows a splash screen and does some strange font rendering where they blur into view as if they were bitmapped images. If I'm trying to hit a website while out and about on 3G, that's insta-fail. Dolphin starts instantly and does none of that stuff. I'm counting that as a solid win for Dolphin.
    Reply
  • gnfishin
    I assume the mobile page load speed tests were on 3g, however, I would like to have had the comparison made on LTE mobile (Verizon), as well. It is possible that the variations between browser page load speeds might be closer on the substantially faster Verizon 4g LTE network. While not available everywhere, yet, it is available in all major cities and all major airports and is expanding rapidly.
    Reply
  • As for the comparisons, it is very hard to do them, as none of the contenders are perfect but take very different approaches (see Mini for example), and you try to display pages that are meant to be for PCs. And for example in scrolling tests did you disable Flash? Because other way comparison to non-Flash supporting Firefox is not fair. In my experience, Opera Mobile's scrolling performance is superior to every other browser, and has the only scrolling experience without checkerboard. Opera Mobile also has Websocket support disabled by default (for security reasons).

    juliantz: I see your point but comparing Dolphin to Firefox/Opera for size is not valid, as Dolphin uses the default browser's engine (see HTML5 results for example), hence it saves some space as - the main - parts of it are already there in the Android system. Opera Mobile has a ARMv5 version available, which cuts down size significantly, see here: http://my.opera.com/operamobile/blog/the-components-of-opera-mobile-11-on-android
    Reply