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best android browserPerformance is important when browsing the web on a computer, but your average PC has plenty of power to work with. Using multiple tabs and loading pages is usually quick as long as you’re using the latest edition of any of the major browsers.

Smartphones, however, are a different story. The hottest Android phones on the market right now are packing the nVidia Tegra 2 processor, which is substantially slower than any modern PC. When working with such limited resources, efficiency and speed are a priority. That begs the question – which Android web browser is the quickest?

The Contestants

best android browser

There are quite a few web browsers available on the Android marketplace. Some of them are mobile renditions of popular PC browsers like Firefox and Opera while others forge their own path. I had to narrow down the list somewhat though, so to choose the best Android browser, I focused on the most popular browsers, including:

This is, I think, a good selection of browsers to look at. The only browser some might miss is Opera Mini Optimize Your Mobile Browsing With The Opera Mini Browser Optimize Your Mobile Browsing With The Opera Mini Browser Read More . Unfortunately, Opera Mini bombed two of my benchmarks (that is, it would not run them to completion). Opera Mini may well be great, but it’s hard to test something that can’t enter a score.

The hardware I’m using for this test is the HTC Thunderbolt, Verizon’s new 4G LTE phone. My apartment is not in a 4G area yet, though, so I tested using the 3G network. All browsers were benched in the exact same location under the same conditions. I had an app killer terminate all programs between every benchmark to reduce interference.

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Now, let’s look at the results.

Sunspider

This popular JavaScript benchmark is used to test browsers on any device that can run one. I used the latest version (0.9.1) and ran the test three times, then averaged the scores.

android browser

Lower is better in the Sunspider benchmark, and that means Firefox is the clear victor. The gap between it and the next fastest browser, Opera Mobile, is significant. It’s worth noting that the gap between Opera Mobile and the third quickest browser is also significant. It seems that the experience these teams have gained from working on browsers for the PC has translated into great JavaScript performance on Android.

Rightware Browsermark

Next up we have Browsermark, a benchmark that tests both JavaScript and DOM performance. This is essentially the Peacekeeper of smartphone benchmarks, and it’s commonly used by hardware reviewers as a means of determining a phone’s overall performance.

android browser

In this benchmark, higher is better, so this is another win for Firefox. Opera Mobile, which was doing well in the Sunspider benchmark, fell off a cliff. The Dolphin browsers and xScope remained in the middle of the pack.

Surprisingly, both the stock Android browser and Skyfire bombed this benchmark. Both of them ended at the benchmark at the error page, indicating they failed to properly complete one of the tests.

Page Loading Times

Finally, I decided to perform a “real world” test by seeing how long these browsers took to load my blog, Smidgen PC. I performed the test three times and averaged the result.

best android browser

There wasn’t nearly as much of a spread here as there was in the synthetic benchmarks. That’s not unusual, though; you’ll find the same if you benchmark PC web browsers. Synthetic benchmarks only test the browser’s ability to cram through certain tasks, usually involving JavaScript What is JavaScript and How Does It Work? [Technology Explained] What is JavaScript and How Does It Work? [Technology Explained] Read More and DOM. Real-world performance is also bound by hardware and your data connection, however. Factor that in, and the spread narrows considerably.

Conclusion

It seems that Firefox for Android is currently the best Android browser when it comes to speed. It killed the competition in the synthetic benchmarks, and earned a small but definitive victory in the page loading test as well.

Skyfire seems slow overall, and the stock Android browser is second to last. Most other scores are comparable, however. That means many Android browsers are similarly quick, and you’re unlikely to detect major differences between them.

What I can say for sure is that the stock Android browser is not the best one available. You may be wondering if you should switch – after all, the stock browser does seem “good enough”.  Based on these results, I say you should. As I’m sure some readers will note, that’s not only because of speed. All of these browsers have additional features that are not part of the stock Android browser.

It may seem like fussing over a few seconds of difference in loading times is silly, but the time shaved off can add up. A few seconds can mean the difference between an experience that feels butter smooth and one that feels bumpier than a hayride in a washing machine.

So what do you think?  Which Android browser gets your vote?

  1. Tfdm40
    May 8, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Gingerbread stock beats em all on real world tests....ans Ive done hundreds.

  2. Tapas321
    May 4, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    firefox 4 is painfully slow. xscope and boat browser seem to be equally fast but i like the feel of xscope and the amazing on handed pinch zoom better

  3. Neverhead
    May 3, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Miren browser! No doubt. Clean interface and more fast than Firefox 4.

  4. Petro Kuosmanen
    April 18, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Tried Firefox 4 again... First page I tried to load n4g.com and it crashed.

  5. Petro Kuosmanen
    April 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Tried Firefox 4 again... First page I tried to load n4g.com and it crashed.

  6. Anonymous
    April 18, 2011 at 9:10 am

    My vote is also for Miren

  7. bn
    April 17, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    another vote for Miren

  8. Bill Gates
    April 16, 2011 at 1:54 am

    These benchmarks are deceptive. In real life usage I find Opera mobile smoothest, firefox slowest.

  9. Jneider
    April 16, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Tried them all but Miren beats them all, haven't timed them but seems fastest, and certainly a very nice UI. Droid X.

  10. dvdhldn
    April 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Sadly I find firefox rendering dreadful - sticking with xScope.

  11. Libeco
    April 15, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    You might be testing with benchmarks, but with my brand new Nexus S I can clearly see Firefox is the slowest browser, compared to Opera Mobile, the Android browser, Dolphin HD (in that order)...

    Still, good to see there are even more options to try!

    • spynoodle
      July 7, 2011 at 3:38 am

      Very True. I also hate that stupid grey checkerboard thing.

  12. Mark O'Neill
    April 15, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    I tried Firefox way back when it was called Fennec and I wasn't impressed at all. However, when they brought out the finished Firefox product, it was very polished and very impressive. It's now my default browser on my Android phone :-)

  13. Sergio Duarte
    April 15, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    You should had added Miren to the list. When using it it feels faster than all the other browsers on this list, and it's probably the one with the most clean and usable interface.
    You can find it here: https://market.android.com/det...

    Another thing that should be mentioned is that although Skyfire is really slow, it allows you to watch flash videos even if your android phone doesn't support flash, or doesn't have flash installed. It works with almost all video players, so that's a big plus.

  14. The Doctor
    April 15, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    I've been using Dolphin HD for a couple of months, and it's not bad. It supports tabbed browsing but not nearly as much as Firefox in the way of plugins.

  15. Android Application
    April 15, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    there are too many new applications being launched in android market off late. The customers are really spoilt for the choice but who's complaining. More the merrier. http://bestandroidapps.in

  16. Sergio Duarte
    April 15, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    You should had added Miren to the list. When using it it feels faster than all the other browsers on this list, and it's probably the one with the most clean and usable interface.
    You can find it here: https://market.android.com/details?id=cn.miren.browser

    Another thing that should be mentioned is that although Skyfire is really slow, it allows you to watch flash videos even if your android phone doesn't support flash, or doesn't have flash installed. It works with almost all video players, so that's a big plus.

    • M.S. Smith
      April 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      I will given Miren a try.

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