Android tablet browsers, generally speaking, are not that great. Most of the big four browsers suffer from poorly sized buttons and sluggish performance. The tablet-optimized alternatives mentioned in this article, which you may not know about, provide improved performance and usability over the so-called “mainstream” browsers, Dolphin, Opera, Chrome and Firefox.
In this article I analyze four dedicated tablet browsers, Puffin, Lightning, UC and Maxthon using Matt’s methodology. Essentially, we look at each browser on the basis of their benchmarked performance, permissions and bloat. Additionally, in order to gauge real world performance, I tested MakeUseOf’s load speeds for each browser.
- Lightning: Lightning was developed by an XDA developer to compensate for the lack of lightweight, tablet-optimized browsers available. It functions similarly to Naked Browser in that it strips away all the browser bloat. It renders using the WebKit engine inside of the Android operating system, which saves on its total installed size.
- UC Browser HD: UC claims to be the fastest running browser on the Internet. It offers a number of novel features, such as the ability to load a light version of a webpage. It can also preload the next page on a multipage site, improving load times.
- Maxthon HD: Maxthon browser uses a “cloud engine”, meaning it offloads a great deal of activity to its own servers. Additionally, it syncs users’ data across devices. To read more about Maxthon, check out Jessica’s great review of it.
I realize that my methods lack scientific precision, so take the results with a grain of salt. Also, if you have not already read it, Matt did a fantastic speed trial for all the major Android browsers. His procedures were
stolen borrowed to produce the results below. For the curious, the tests ran on a Transformer TF700 Infinity.
Puffin blew away the competition, scoring 317.6ms. It was followed by UC, then Maxton and finally Lightning. However, keep in mind that these are synthetic benchmarks. They’re only a model of reality.
Puffin, again, absolutely crushed the other three browsers.
Puffin absolutely destroys the competition on PeaceKeeper. It’s not even close. However, it’s worth noting that both Maxthon and UC were appreciably ahead of Lightning. It looks a lot more even than the results show, primarily because Puffin performed so well.
Out of the bunch, it’s clear that Puffin did the absolute worst. These unexpected numbers may have been caused by my horribly small sample size, or the fact that UC and Maxthon didn’t load any of MUO’s ads.
Permissions & Bloat Analysis
Permissions: An analysis of each browser’s requested permissions failed to reveal any potentially outrageous element. No browser asked for permissions outside of its scope of operation. The most crucial of permissions, READ_CONTACTS, isn’t requested by any of the apps. The READ_CONTACTS permission remains the most important for Android – apps can request access to both your email address and your friends’ addresses. For me, it’s a deal-breaker if it shows up in any permissions request.
Bloat Analysis: All four browsers were relatively bloat free. Both UC and Puffin lacks startup receivers, meaning there no triggers led to the apps starting up, without your knowledge. Maxthon has two relatively trivial startup receivers.
Out of the four browsers, Lightning possesses the slimmest imprint. Its tiny downloaded size and lack of autostart entries make it an ideal browser when your tablet lacks an abundance of flash memory or RAM. Also, its overall performance, while far below Puffin, isn’t appreciably less than Maxthon and UC.
I’d like to conclude that Puffin came out the winner on the basis of its dominating performance in the synthetic tests. Its scores did not simply win, rather, they were multiples better than the competition. Unfortunately, on the all-important “real-world” test, Puffin came out sluggishly behind, taking twice as long as Maxthon, the fastest browser for loading MakeUseOf.
After using each browser for ten minutes each, my overall impression is that Puffin and Maxthon feel the fastest of the bunch. My guess is Puffin simply has issues rendering a particular element within the MakeUseOf site. Or it could be that Maxthon and UC loaded faster because they failed to deal with any of the site’s ads.
Ultimately, my favorite browser is indeed Puffin. It’s relatively lightweight, light on permissions and provides one of the fastest experiences out of all the browsers around. On the downside, the free version is trial only, although the paid version is well worth it.
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