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The Great Android Browser Face-Off

Rendering and Computational Performance

Smartphones are far from super computer capabilities, and web browsing can be quite taxing on the hardware, especially with highly complex and dynamic web pages. Because smartphones are much more limiting in screen space, functionality, and even network speeds, you can’t exactly flip through pages like would might on a desktop machine. It’s extremely important that a browser is able to download and render a page quickly.

In the Page Loading tests, we time how long it took each browser to completely load a web page. We did this on both a Wi-Fi network (averaging 25.6Mbps), and mobile data network (averaging 4.15Mbps). Too ensure fairness, we tested over a wide variety of pages, ranging in complexity. We timed each page many, many times.

JavaScript performance is a normalized result of a combination of several JavaScript benchmarks.

Speed and PerformancePage Load Time (Wi-Fi)Page Load Time (Mobile)JavaScript Performance (Normalized)
Default14.4824.1344.7
Dolphin HD8.6914.5744.1
Opera Mobile10.3518.2490.5
Firefox15.618.86100
Dolphin Mini16.2418.9347.1
Opera Mini6.367.16DNF
Skyfire8.4811.5138.4

Opera Mini performed extremely well in the speed tests, especially on the mobile data connection. Opera has clearly done a great job optimizing their servers. On the other hand, because Opera handles all of the client-side processing on its own servers, dynamic pages do not work well, causing Opera Mini to fail the JavaScript test. Still, the consistent results suggest that Opera Mini will be your fastest choice regardless of your connection speed.

Data compression found with Opera Mini and Skyfire not only speeds up loading time, but also reduces data consumption.

Data compression found with Opera Mini and Skyfire not only speeds up loading time, but also reduces data consumption.

Skyfire’s partial of off-site processing allowed it to post reasonably quick render times while still passing the JavaScript tests; however, its performance was among the lowest.

Firefox didn’t have the fastest rendering times, but it did score the highest in JavaScript performance, largely thanks to its new JaegerMonkey engine. This results in better viewing performance on complex web pages. Opera, too, scored well here.

  • You said stock browser, how about the hardware accelerated browser on the Samsung Galaxy S II?
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  • 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