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Android browser head-to-head: Chrome vs Dolphin vs Firefox vs Maxthon vs Opera Mobile vs Skyfire

We put the most popular Android browsers up against the default offering to see which offers the best performance and HTML5 compatibility.

TEST METHODOLOGY

To test the browsers, we used two popular benchmarking systems: Futuremark's Peacekeeper and the HTML5Test.com test.

Peacekeeper runs through common browser tasks, including JavaScript, WebGL and media streaming tests, to gauge the overall performance of the browser. The higher the browser scores in Peacekeeper, the smoother the browser will be to use. Scores in Peacekeeper are device-dependent, as a change in system performance - running Peacekeeper on a different smartphone or tablet, for example - will affect the final score.

The HTML5Test.com suite, by contrast, ignores performance in favour of checking compatibility with the HTML5 specification. Each browser is given a score out of a possible 500. The higher the score, the more aspects of the HTML5 specification the browser supports. This is important for compatibility: as web developers start to increase their use of some of the more clever portions of the HTML5 specification, browsers which fail to implement these aspects will be left behind.

The tests were carried out on a tablet with a dual-core 1.5GHz ARM processor and 1GB of RAM - roughly the same as a mid-range smartphone - running Android 4.0.4 'Ice Cream Sandwich.' Each time a test was run, all background processes were closed to ensure an accurate result.

PEACEKEEPER RESULTS

So how did they stack up? Maxthon is a clear winner in the performance stakes, beating out a surprisingly strong performance from Android's stock browser to take the crown.

PeaceKeeper test results

While Maxthon's score of 319 points in the text is impressive, it's only five points higher than the stock browser's 314. Dolphin, meanwhile, sits in third place with 312 points - just slightly slower. In short, performance fans should install either Maxthon or Dolphin, or simply stick with the stock browser which has come a long way since the early days of Android.

For other browsers, the results aren't so good. Users on older or lower-spec devices should avoid Firefox, which sits way at the bottom of the results table with just 189 points in the Peacekeeper test - although it was able to run the gaming portion of the benchmark, something the other browsers were unable to manage, so it could still be a strong option for users on faster hardware.

Opera Mobile's score of 225 is poor, and easily beaten by Chrome's score of 285 - although the latter's performance relative to the stock Android browser shows that there is still a long way to go for Google's secondary browser software before it can ship as the default option.

Skyfire, sadly, did not make it onto the list: the company's clever streaming system, where content is rendered remotely and then provided to the handset in a faster format, threw Peacekeeper completely off and caused the benchmark to crash rather than offer a result. During use, however, Skyfire seemed to offer performance somewhere in the middle of the pack.

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