The best Android browsers, 2014 edition: design, features, and performance
Interface and design
Best Android browsers: Interface and design
Thankfully, this typical of Google approach also means that the browser is, honestly, completely problem-free. It does not lag when navigating pages or the interface. Panning, zooming, all of that is also done without a hitch, regardless if you're browsing an image-heavy page, or not (to the extent that your hardware can keep up, of course). None of that, however, gives Chrome a character -- you get the feeling that you're operating a tool, and that's not necessarily the case with the rest of apps on this list.
Like its desktop counterpart, Firefox for Android has a fairly simplistic look, too, but it's perhaps a tad more welcoming than Chrome with its looks and interface. It's not necessarily user-friendlier, though, and some options and settings will require newbies to test them out before figuring out what they do, but that's okay. As for navigation, this is also done without a hitch, and pages render very well on the whole.
Opera has always been an acquired taste, and it's fair to say that we never quite warmed up to it, though we're perfectly aware that a lot of people feel differently. Like its two competitors above, Opera also offers a simplistic design, though one could argue that it's starting to age a little bit. Thankfully, this does not at all mean navigation performance is compromised -- it's actually excellent, even when talking about very heavy sites.
Design-wise, Dolphin is playful. It remains one of few browsers that embraces color, and its green interface is a pleasure to look at. It's more feature-rich than most of its rivals, and that means there's a learning curve to go through. Thankfully, navigating the interface and web pages proves to be silky smooth.
5. UC Browser
As for navigation, operations like zooming and panning are carried out without a second thought.
6. CM Browser
The slick interface of CM Browser is only made more appealing by the fact that the app needs no help answering user input instantaneously. With some very, very rare hiccups serving as an exception, navigating the UI and web pages with this browser is a piece of cake.
We once again have frills-free interface and web page navigation here, so nothing out of the ordinary (this far).
Indeed, Puffin is arguably the worst-looking browser on our list today, and it's got some serious shortcomings. For example, navigating the UI is frustrating, as there's perceptible lag, and hiccups are common. The same goes for web page navigation. Scrolling, zooming, panning, all of this leaves something to be desired, though it doesn't feel like CloudMosa, the company behind Puffin, is much interested in this aspect of the browsing experience. With them, it's all about speed (again, keep on reading).
9. Next Browser
Hiccups while browsing image-heavy pages can be spotted, but, on the whole, scrolling, zooming, and panning leave little to desire.
10. Lightning Browser
As for navigation, the UI is simple enough to appreciate, though we do wish scrolling and zooming were a tad smoother. Even then, we'd say the folks behind Lightning Browser did a decent job.
Performance: What do synthetic benchmarks say?
Already, some of you will remember what we said about Puffin, and users of the browser will smile. Indeed, the only reason Puffin is on the list of best browsers happens to be its unparalleled speed. Puffin achieves that by leveraging cloud computing. In other words, a very powerful computer, far away from you, does all the heavy work, while Puffin simply serves you the resulting page.
As for the rest, we're happy to see newcomers to the field managing such great results, and even pushing Google's Chrome down the ladder. Impressive stuff.
* lower is better
2. Mozilla Kraken
Unsurprisingly, Puffin is again at the helm, and Firefox is nowhere to be seen, even though the company behind it is the one that created Kraken. Dolphin, on the other hand, proves it's a step behind the competition, with a significantly worse score.
The rest, as you can see, are pretty clustered.
* lower is better
Once again, Puffin proves to be ahead of the competition, all the while Chrome regains some lost ground. Dolphin continues to disappoint.
* higher is better
Yeah, that's right, Puffin just rules when it comes to speed, and that's quite obvious in the eyes of Peacekeeper. The majority of the rest are fairly clustered, though Firefox and Dolphin are lagging behind.
* higher is better
Despite Firefox's disappointing scores so far, it does happen to be one of the most capable HTML5 browsers (along with UC Browser). The rest are pretty clustered, and have distance to cover before calling themselves fully HTML5-compatible.
* more is better
Performance: Page load times
Page load times
1. Hot loading
That's right, synthetic benchmarks didn't lie -- Puffin really is the king when it comes to (hot) page load times. Chrome, which proved very capable of rendering the above-mentioned PhoneArena page quickly, lagged behind when it came to small mobile pages, where CM Browser and Lightning Browser excel.
Unfortunately for Firefox and Dolphin (Opera, too), their performance continues to lag behind most.
2. Hot loading
3. Cold loading
Yep, that's the first time we see Puffin lose the rank one spot, though, to be completely fair, this was an isolated case, and other pages we tested out (cold loads) returned predictable results, headed by Puffin. Something about getting to know PhoneArena for the first time, however, caused Puffin to stutter, ultimately costing it the first place. We decided that, on the whole, it's fair not to hold it against Puffin (which still performed well!).
As for the rest, we once again have fairly similar results, though Firefox and Javelin performed the worst. Dolphin finally managed to swim away from the bottom, and offered middling performance instead. CM Browser again proved a very worthy new contender in the mobile browsing space, and Chrome proved inadequate with mobile pages once more.
4. Cold loading
1. Duketytz (Posts: 524; Member since: 28 Nov 2013)
We all know the most important column is 'flash supported'
23. The-Sailor-Man (banned) (Posts: 1095; Member since: 25 Mar 2014)
Dolphin has it.
Besides Dolphin HAS incognito and full screen modes.
What a misleading article. LOL
It has night mode too.
43. TheOldOne (Posts: 105; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)
Nope, it doesn't have incognito, at least in the laterst version. Full creen, yes.
Maybe you're reffering to a different browser?
47. Chris.P (Posts: 309; Member since: 27 Jun 2013)
Hm, that's an input error. Dolphin indeed has full-screen mode. I've edited the table. Thanks to The-Sailor-Man for bringing this up.
As mentioned, Incognito mode is gone with the latest version of Dolphin. It used to be in Menu> More> Settings > Privacy & Personal Data, but the structure is now different (Menu > Settings > Privacy) and the option is missing.
51. c312c (Posts: 1; Member since: 24 Jul 2014)
Incognito mode is most certainly still there, swipe from the right on any page to access the control panel and hit the eye-shaped icon.
57. Chris.P (Posts: 309; Member since: 27 Jun 2013)
Correction. Dolphin has now been updated, and access to Private Mode and Full-screen mode is back.
40. joey_sfb (Posts: 3302; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)
Firefox support Flash as well. Been using it for awhile. Just install flash download like the rest and enable plug-in setting Always.
62. kzat82 (Posts: 26; Member since: 26 Dec 2013)
Flash support is less important than you think.
2. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1481; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)
Switching tabs is a hassle on all of the browsers tested/new browsers, compared to Opera Classic. Still sticking to it until switching tabs is efficient on the new browsers.
4. ihavenoname (Posts: 1528; Member since: 18 Aug 2013)
On Chrome: press button/swipe down search bar to go to tab manager. Not a "hazzle" if you ask me. Also switching between two tabs is just left or right swipe on search bar.
5. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1481; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)
On Opera Classic, you press the tab menu and you can select tabs from there just by tapping. No need to scroll.
On Chrome you also have to stretch your thumb to the top of the screen and do more numerous actions.
20. Furbal (Posts: 406; Member since: 22 Sep 2012)
Opera is my go too browser now. Just use tablet mode and it tabs just like a desktop. Very nice
39. buccob (Posts: 1579; Member since: 19 Jun 2012)
Also didn't Opera support Tab Sync by "Opera Link"???
I don't use it anymore so I am not up to date with the info so...
I used to love Opera but Chrome won me over on desktop and that leveraged mobile version...
6. isprobi (Posts: 231; Member since: 30 May 2011)
In a way this is not truly a fair test because some browsers have unusual features that are not on the chart. Like Puffin having special keyboard and mouse support.
7. mocir (Posts: 20; Member since: 13 Jul 2012)
Yandex browser also has the address bar at the bottom. What I like about Next browser (Yandex too) is that you can swipe left or right to switch tabs like we used to on Chrome. Firefox and Dolphin are not worth it. I discovered CM Browser, I'll definitely try it.
9. drazwy (Posts: 146; Member since: 15 Jan 2014)
Indeed it does. It's what I've been using for my flash content. But since it's plugin based they didn't count it.
15. isprobi (Posts: 231; Member since: 30 May 2011)
But I believe it and most of the other browsers that support Flash require you to have Flash mobile installed on your phone. That version is no longer supported by Adobe. Puffin on the other hand supports desktop Flash through its servers as I understand it.
52. RandomUsername (Posts: 566; Member since: 29 Oct 2013)
Also, Firefox has a reading mode...
10. mayur007 (Posts: 472; Member since: 10 Apr 2012)
what i remember is uc browser is also a plugin based
may be i wrong... hvnt used it since long time though
11. antmiu2 (Posts: 241; Member since: 19 Jun 2011)
hi phone arena, please add naked browser to your testshttps://play.google.com/store/
12. alrightihatepickingusernames (Posts: 444; Member since: 29 Dec 2013)
Puffin isn't super fluid in my usage as it loads full desktop pages so I only use it when I'm getting bad service and it's performance will outweigh Chrome.
16. isprobi (Posts: 231; Member since: 30 May 2011)
But if you want your phone to be like a PC why would you not always want a desktop web site? I find mobile sites are usually limited in functionality.
42. alrightihatepickingusernames (Posts: 444; Member since: 29 Dec 2013)
Well I don't want my phone to be completely like a PC, I can appreciate a few mobile sites. Most of the time I will lean towards a desktop site, (for example, I'm using desktop PA on my phone) but it just seems more fluid in Chrome. I have lackluster LTE in my area, that's where Puffin comes into play, when Chrome can't load the page I'll deal with Puffin's issues.
Overall the combo is great though. I'm definitely not trying to bash Puffin. I highly recommend it, if it's benchmark scores aren't convincing enough!
13. sadiqahmed (Posts: 27; Member since: 11 Oct 2013)
Dolphin does have Incognito mode known as "Private Mode".
18. Chris.P (Posts: 309; Member since: 27 Jun 2013)
Not available in the latest version, for some reason. I knew it used to have it, so I kept looking.
The settings menu where it used to be located is now different, and even the official Dolphin FAQ points to the wrong location. Which version of Dolphin do you use?
31. SellPhones82 (Posts: 565; Member since: 11 Dec 2008)
I noticed a few weeks ago that Dolphin wouldn't load some sites and would error out. They'd load just fine on Chrome and they loaded just fine on Dolphin prior to the update. Going through the setting it appears they stripped a lot of setting/features out of it. Think it's time to uninstall and try some of the other you've listed.
14. MarkArigayo (Posts: 240; Member since: 18 Dec 2013)
Dolphin Browser. Lighter and faster on my G2.
17. Neo_Huang (Posts: 757; Member since: 06 Dec 2013)
"Note: The test device of choice is the OnePlus One."
30. cezarepc (Posts: 610; Member since: 23 Nov 2012)
I've been waiting for that invite for months......
22. Planterz (Posts: 1132; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)
Dolphin has a full screen mode, with an add-on.
58. Chris.P (Posts: 309; Member since: 27 Jun 2013)
It's not default with the latest update (came through after this piece was published).
24. xperian (Posts: 72; Member since: 10 Apr 2014)
I am using Firefox, because it doesn't start to lag after longer usage like chrome and supports adblock
88. sventhedog (Posts: 3; Member since: 06 Dec 2014)
i agree. i noticed that firefox uses more memory (vs others) with 1 tab but increases less memory when you open more tabs. the other browsers uses less memory (vs firefox) with 1 tab but increases more especially opera and chrome.
26. LikeMyself (Posts: 302; Member since: 23 Sep 2013)
I would appreciate if you could please do a test to compare how much the top 5 browsers suck battery life as I'm having the impression that Chrome is a nasty battery eater!
27. somad (Posts: 131; Member since: 17 Apr 2014)
I just want to know why Google doesn't support flash player anymore on chrome.??!!
32. avalon2105 (Posts: 113; Member since: 12 Jul 2014)
Probably because it is not 2004. anymore and people have moved on. HTML5 offers so much more with less resources consumption that I have to wander why are people still clinging to Adobe flash (if it's for porn then I understand).
77. elitewolverine (Posts: 2117; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)
They cling to it for older sites that have refused to update, or other things like nearly all of facebook games.. Adobe is a hog on resources and battery. Even with it on my Note 3 it hogs it up.
Flash is not mobile friendly.
28. livyatan (Posts: 753; Member since: 19 Jun 2013)
Did you use the Jetpack engine for Dolphin?
45. Chris.P (Posts: 309; Member since: 27 Jun 2013)
Yes. It comes standard on Android 4.3/4.4 devices now.
29. ardem (Posts: 3; Member since: 22 Jul 2014)
Maxthon Cloud Browser
33. avalon2105 (Posts: 113; Member since: 12 Jul 2014)
I'm really sceptical about those RAM consumption charts since Chrome on my G2 with 13 tabs running (all of them desktop version of those sites) uses 68MB and 77,2MB when I added 4 sites you used in your review. How or why it uses 400MB in your case is beyond me, maybe some difference between LG's and Cyanogen's task manager and how they calculate used RAM but still, such differences seem unlikely to me.
46. Chris.P (Posts: 309; Member since: 27 Jun 2013)
Yeah, the main process maybe using 77.2MB, but did you count the rest? Chrome, like on desktop, has decoupled those, so each tab is a different process. You need to add them up.
48. avalon2105 (Posts: 113; Member since: 12 Jul 2014)
Not sure how to do it. When I go into task manager it shows only that one task and it's RAM usage. Also when I clear the process completely it frees around 80MB or total RAM according to both LG 's task manager and Settings>Apps>Running. That's why I'd like to ask how to check all the processes that browser is running since adding new tabs does increase RAM usage but only so slightly (9MB difference for 4 tabs).
49. avalon2105 (Posts: 113; Member since: 12 Jul 2014)
Ignore my comment above. I found all the Chrome processes in cashed processes and they add up to approximately 350MB but for some reason phone is caching and closing anything Chrome related as soon as I hit home button.
35. ausnote2 (Posts: 84; Member since: 07 Dec 2012)
to get full web experience you need flash and i use to used dolphin but now firefox all the way. Note i always used desktop mode since it is perfect for my note 3. One question that if someone can help me is multiple tabs multitasking. that is if i am watching starcraft esport and i browse on a second tab for news, no browsers at the moment allows the first to continue the background :( this is the only drawback compare to the true desktop experience
36. livyatan (Posts: 753; Member since: 19 Jun 2013)
Use Floating Browser, you can open even multiple windows with videos at once, even over the other opened browsers.
38. ausnote2 (Posts: 84; Member since: 07 Dec 2012)
will try this. thanks.
one thing that bugs me with firefox is text/word wrapping etc. when enteting a new line like this, i usually try to not start a new line as entering will reverse the cursor. happening over six months ago but firefox team still have not fix it :(
37. Gadgety (Posts: 107; Member since: 03 Sep 2012)
I found a new app/add-in for Firefox which made me start using it, called Home Feed, bringing RSS feeds to the top of Firefox' home page.
If an RSS is available an icon shows up in the search field, and then the option to add. It very smoothly adds RSS feeds to the Firefox home page. All feeds are at the top of the page, and when sliding the finger over them each feed's summaries show up. I love it.
41. arenapirate (Posts: 13; Member since: 22 Nov 2012)
I've found Boat Browser to be much better than most on the list. it's slew of features & faster tab switching/navigation via buttons on the bottom makes it less annoying to use. I still don't understand why other browser developers think it makes sense to put tab & other navigation functions on top of the page where it requires you to readjust your hand to reach.
The only thing missing is text wrap (which I read google has done away with) & having the address bar at the bottom of page like windows phone 8.
50. shahrooz (Posts: 215; Member since: 17 Sep 2013)
UC browser has built in ad blocker but you said it doesn't!
59. Chris.P (Posts: 309; Member since: 27 Jun 2013)
It used to. Now it does not. We've looked multiple times and found no option to turn it on. Ads are served as normal with the default settings.
Which version are you using? You check by going to Settings and scrolling to the bottom of the page.
53. MrSpontaneous (Posts: 2; Member since: 24 Jul 2014)
Firefox has a built-in reader mode that can be activated by tapping on the magazine icon on the right side of the address bar once the page has loaded.