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Safari is the iPad’s default web browser, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s automatically the best tool for the job. When it comes to adjusting font size, conducting research or viewing Flash videos it doesn’t hold a candle to some of the alternatives on offer.

The iPad, be it the full-size or mini IPad Mini or IPad Air? Why & How I Use Them Both IPad Mini or IPad Air? Why & How I Use Them Both Recently I purchased the new iPad Air with the intention of selling or passing on my iPad mini. After spending time with both devices, I've realized that I use them both for different purposes. Read More , is a great device for browsing the web, and we have reviewed most of the leading third-party browsers available. Today we’re looking at the best browser for a variety of different purposes: extensive reading, research and privacy, to name but a few.

Shared Features

Unless otherwise noted, all of the browsers mentioned below include a speed dial view of bookmarked websites, URL sharing to Facebook and Twitter and some form of private browsing. Long pressing on links in these browsers typically results in a pop-up menu for opening (or copying) the selected link in a new tab or page. Only only one of these browsers, Puffin, contains full support for Flash video. Most of the browsers are free downloads, or have free versions to test out before you buy.

Safari

iOS 7’s modernised version of Safari is perfect for iPad users fully immersed in the Apple ecosystem. The browser includes iCloud sharing for syncing bookmarks and saved webpages across all your devices (provided you use the Safari browser), and for also sharing links to Mail and Messages.

Safari_browser

Pros: Syncing bookmarks and web pages between devices. Clean UI, with somewhat unobtrusive bookmark bar, and an omnibox search/URL entry field.

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Cons: No adjustable font size on webpages, no support for Flash videos and no advanced finger gesture for switching between tabs. It’s also difficult to preview and navigate between ten or more opened tabs.

Mercury Browser Pro ($0.99)

Mercury Browser Pro probably has the most features out of all the browsers included in this review, except for one. Open and moveable tabs are easy to view, with a sliding bookmarks panel, and a button for full screen viewing.

Mercury_

Pros: Mercury appears to download pages faster than Safari, and includes dozens of options for multi-touch gesture navigation of pages, and an optional right-side fast scrolling bar. It also includes password protection, link and file sharing to Google+, Evernote and Dropbox, and a few annotation tools. It also uses the omnibox for search and URL entry.

Cons: Mercury uses website icons in its speed dial, instead of a preview of a website pages.

Read our full  review of Mercury Browser Pro Looking To Ditch Mobile Safari? Mercury Browser Pro Is The App For You [iOS, Free For A Limited Time] Looking To Ditch Mobile Safari? Mercury Browser Pro Is The App For You [iOS, Free For A Limited Time] Most iOS users are happy to use Mobile Safari. It's a solid browser with many of the features users need, but for some users, it's not enough. Some of us want more from our browsers... Read More .

Opera Mini (Free)

Opera Mini is another comparably fast browser (better on some sites than others), which tucks its bookmarks, tabs, and browser history inside the toolbar, providing a little more space for the web page you’re viewing. On other hand, accessing bookmarks and tabs requires an extra tap.

Opera_browser

Pros: Bookmarks can be synchronized between devices using Opera account and links can also be shared to Google+ (among others). The app also includes large drop-down tab previews that make easier navigation between pages.

Cons: There’s no consolidation of the search and URL field, nor is there multi-touch gesture navigation or single tap privacy mode, though web data can be manually cleared.

Read our full review of Opera Mini First Impressions of Opera Mini Web Browser for the iPhone First Impressions of Opera Mini Web Browser for the iPhone Read More .

Dolphin (Free)

Dolphin’s user interface closely mimics Opera, using a hidden sidebar view of bookmarks and browser history, with an option for full-screen viewing. Dolphin also features the ability to create custom finger gestures for linking to specified websites and navigating between pages, making it a powerful and customisable solution.

Dolphin_browser

Pros: In-app brightness and dimming control for night reading, as well as medium and large font size options. Desktop mode, omnibox search and URL entry and the ability to share files to Evernote and Box are all very handy. Dolphin supports link sharing between Safari, Firefox and Chrome desktop browsers using a Dolphin account.

Cons: Using finger gesture requires an extra tap, and you can’t set a custom homepage. Despite the included link sharing, there’s no option for bookmark syncing.

Chrome (Free)

Google’s Chrome is a cross-platform desktop and mobile browser which makes it easy to access your Google accounts on any device. The UI for the iPad version of Chrome is similar to Dolphin, with bookmarks and most visited bookmarks assigned to separate pages, instead of a bookmarks bar. There is naturally a big push for Google services (Drive, Maps, Gmail and G+) within the app.

Chrome_browser

Pros: Bookmarks sync with desktop Chrome, as do passwords and open tabs between all devices. Chrome features omnibox search and URL entry, and the ability to open tabs in Incognito mode to browse pages privately. Also features gestures for switching between tabs by swiping from the edge of the screen.

Cons: The browser uses generic bookmark icons instead of website previews. There’s no multi-touch gesture navigation, and accessing bookmarked pages or history requires two or more taps. Switching to another Google account requires several taps. Page downloads and rendering is slower than all other mobile iPad web browsers, at least in these tests.

Read our full  review of Chrome for iOS Google Chrome Now Works On iPhone And iPad & Google Drive Hits iOS [Updates] Google Chrome Now Works On iPhone And iPad & Google Drive Hits iOS [Updates] Google Chrome is finally available for iOS devices. It offers the full-featured browsing experience that users expect from Chrome. It has a clean, easy-to-navigate user interface that makes browsing the web on iOS feel more... Read More .

Atomic Web ($1.99)

Atomic Web will be most useful to users who take advantage of the many customisable options and navigation options in the form of multi-touch gestures. The theme can be changed, the bookmark bar is optional, and the tabbed display can be hidden. Different font sizes can also be saved for different websites.

Atomic_Web

Pros: Dozens of multi-touch gesture options and customisations, including the ability to show or hide the bookmarks bar, and to choose between desktop style tabs or list view. There are assorted buttons for clearing all tabs, saving pages to Pinboard, Delicious, and Pocket. The browser also features passcode protection, and the ability to import and export bookmarks.

Cons: There are no options for omnibox search and URL entry, or a pop-up menu when long pressing on a link. Pages seemed to load a little slow.

Read our full review of Atomic Web Atomic Web Browser Brings Advanced Web Browsing To iPhone & iPad Atomic Web Browser Brings Advanced Web Browsing To iPhone & iPad If it were possible, I would make Atomic Web ($0.99) the default web browser for my iPhone and iPad Mini. Atomic Web has already replaced the iOS version of Safari on my homepage, but it... Read More .

Puffin ($3.99, Free)

Puffin has the best, most iOS 7-ified design — with over a dozen themes to choose from — of all the browsers under review, and it’s one of the few iPad browsers on the market that actually supports Adobe Flash. Your frequently visited webpages appear on the home page, in addition to a speed dial page, and a sliding bookmarks bar.

Pros: Adobe Flash support on the iPad! Pages can be saved or opened in Pocket, Readability, and link sharing includes Google+. Also placing the tab bar at the bottom of app seems less obtrusive.

IMG_1094-1

Cons: No passcode protection and some slower performance let Puffin down. Adding and accessing bookmarks, browser history, and saving pages to other sites requires one or two extra taps, and there’s plenty of space in the sliding menu bar to make these features more accessible.

Read our full review of Puffin browser Use Puffin Browser To Play Flash Content On Your iPhone & iPad Use Puffin Browser To Play Flash Content On Your iPhone & iPad Whenever someone asks me to recommend an app that supports Flash videos on their iPad, I recommend Puffin Web Browser. Read More .

Diigo (Free)

Diigo is the perfect web browser for students or those of you who need to annotate text as you read and research. Diigo‘s bookmarking service enables users to annotate web pages and save those annotations to their Diigo account where they can be reviewed and shared. The UI for the iPad version of Diigo is similar to the Chrome and Mercury Browsers, with drop-down bookmark and browser history, and an unlimited number of open tabs. There’s also a dedicated space for accessing saved Reading List articles.

Diigo

Pros: Strong annotation tools, adjustable font sizes, screen brightness control, and an option for three-finger swiping between open tabs. There’s also an option for showing or hiding the bookmarks bar, and links can be shared to Pinterest, Tumblr and Evernote.

Cons: You can’t clip whole pages to Evernote, only the page title and URL.

Read our full review of Diigo Read, Study & Highlight With Diigo and eHighlighter Read, Study & Highlight With Diigo and eHighlighter The best way to study and review text is to highlight and annotate what you read, and two of the most useful tools for doing this are the online and iPad app, Diigo, and the... Read More .

And the Winner Is?

Atomic Web and Diigo are my favorites, though I still also use Safari because of its ubiquitous bookmark syncing, and the fact that I make use of the iCloud Reading List feature. Each of the above browsers are useful for different purposes, and all of them, except for Chrome, have good web download speeds.

If you do a lot of reading and web browsing on your iPad, I highly suggest installing at least two or three different browsers on your device – you never know when you might need them.

Which browser do you use on your iPad? Why is Chrome so slow? Is Flash really necessary at all? Let us know in the comments, below!

  1. Sybren
    January 14, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    I am still rocking my ipad 2, the only usable browser for me is Puffin.
    Puffin is really fast, websites load abnormally quick, almost no loading time.
    Please try it, it really is the best browser.

  2. John Bush Junior
    March 10, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    this page is too old
    please, update your page

  3. Goldie Gal
    March 31, 2014 at 4:52 am

    I agree with @Averyvh. I tried a few of them but kept defaulting back to Safari!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 31, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      I put Atomic Web next to Safari on my iPad, because when I use it, I end up getting more done. Safari is the default browser, so when you click links in other apps, they open in Safari. But Atomic Web has more to offer. Just wish it had an omnibox field.

  4. Averyvh
    March 29, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    'Safari is the iPad’s default web browser, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s automatically the best tool for the job. '
    Actually it is automatically the best tool for the job. Apple restricts third-party browsers and forces them to use an old engine that will always be slower than safari's engine. This is why Mozilla boycotted the iOS.

    http://www.howtogeek.com/184283/why-third-party-browsers-will-always-be-inferior-to-safari-on-iphone-and-ipad/

  5. Zox
    March 29, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Icab omission is serious one.
    Icab is really great browser with tons of features and customizations for everyone.
    It integrates well with bunch of services and support is quick in response.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 31, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Zox, I'll check out iCab. That's the great thing about posting these types of articles. We discover apps that were missed. Thanks for your vote of iCab.

  6. Dann A
    March 29, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    I actually have to echo the support for iCab. As a browser, I think it's just kind of average, but the fact that it has a functional LastPass extension is worth a lot to me. To be totally honest, I've been really happy with Safari as a mobile browser; if it wasn't for LastPass, I'd probably still be using it. Great roundup, though! I'll have to try Puffin.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 29, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      It appears that we haven't reviewed iCab, so I'll definitely be downloading it and checking it out. Wish I known to include it in this review.

    • Dann A
      March 30, 2014 at 9:05 pm

      I'm actually really surprised to see this showing of support for iCab. I really don't think it's all that great overall; I just came across it when I was looking for LastPass-enabled browsers. Looking forward to a full review!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 31, 2014 at 6:07 pm

      Danna, I just took a quick look at iCab. Overall its features seem to compare to with other iPad apps shared in this article. It includes webpage sharing features not found in other iPad browsers. I think I might write a review of it. Curious, what do you find not useful about iCab?

    • Dann A
      March 31, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      There isn't anything that I specifically don't like about it, there's just nothing that makes it stand out as awesome to me. I'm a big fan of minimal browsers (like Chrome), so browsers that pack a lot of add-ons and extensions feel a bit cluttered to me. Though like I said, the fact that you can use LastPass with it earns it a lot of points.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 1, 2014 at 12:07 am

      I just finished writing a review of iCab. And yep, it's not minimalist. But wow does it have a lot of features, including 1Password, in addition to LastPass. I also like the draw gestures.

      Have you tried Coast? It's very minimalist, and fast.

  7. Brazen
    March 29, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Onion is the most secure browser mini-browser, but iCab is the best by far; where's the love!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 29, 2014 at 7:19 pm

      Brazen, I need to check and see if we've reviewed Onion and iCab. I've never run across either. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Karol
    March 29, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Yep, Coast rules.

  9. Rafael
    March 29, 2014 at 5:45 am

    Where's COAST by Opera??

    They made the browser specifically to deliver the best experience to iPads, why did you ignore it?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 29, 2014 at 7:21 pm

      Rafael, I started to included COAST, but I forget my reason for leaving it out. It's definitely a clean, and stable web browser. I have it on the second page of my iPad.

    • Rafael
      March 30, 2014 at 3:20 am

      That's weird.

  10. gresham
    March 29, 2014 at 5:36 am

    I haven't tried other browsers as I use Chrome. I don't know if I am missing something but Chrome does everything I need so I can safely say Chrome is the best.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 29, 2014 at 7:18 pm

      Gresham, for some reason Chrome is slower on my iPad, and its lack of multi-touch features make me not use it much.

  11. Anonymous
    March 29, 2014 at 4:54 am

    Another vote for icab.

  12. Anonymous
    March 28, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    Come on.......iCab is da bomb!

  13. J.
    March 28, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    You forgot iCab Mobile! That is truly the best and my choice for years.

    • Krion64
      March 28, 2014 at 11:22 pm

      I know, right?

  14. Krion64
    March 28, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    I have used every one of these with the sole exception of Diigo. However, my favorite is actually a browser that has been around for a while on iOS and Mac too, not that I use one.

    iCab Mobile is EXCELLENT. The only feature it lacks is Chrome Sync. But if you use Firefox you can sync with that. Or you could put bookmark backups in a Dropbox folder every now and then to import into iCab. I probably sound like a paid shill, but this browser just absolutely NAILS it for my needs.

    • Krion64
      March 28, 2014 at 10:46 pm

      Forgot to mention it has dozens of free (and only free), addons plus a bunch of customization.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 29, 2014 at 7:15 pm

      Krion64, I need to check iCab Mobile. Never heard of it. Thanks for the feedback.

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