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Alternative Mobile Browsers Tested For Speed, Usability, JavaScript Rendering 103

Posted by timothy
from the but-can-it-run-slashdot dept.
CNETNate writes "Do Opera Mobile, Skyfire, or Mozilla's Fennec have the power to take down the BlackBerry browser, IE on Windows Mobile, or Safari on the iPhone? This lengthy test aimed to find out. Speed, Acid3 compliance, JavaScript rendering capabilities, and general subjective usability were all tested and reviewed. So were Opera Mini and the default Symbian browser, but these two were unable to complete some of the tests and benchmarks."
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Alternative Mobile Browsers Tested For Speed, Usability, JavaScript Rendering

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  • WebKit on Palm Pre? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by XanC (644172) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @01:01PM (#30130612)

    What about the Pre's browser? It'd be interesting to see how it differed from Safari.

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by jdgeorge (18767)

      What about the Pre's browser? It'd be interesting to see how it differed from Safari.

      The only difference that matters: It's not on the iPhone.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sopssa (1498795) *

        And so isn't Opera, because Apple doesn't want to let other browsers in its phone.

        But on Windows Mobile side it's clear that Opera is a lot better than the IE that comes with it. As I use Opera on desktop too, it's great that it contains the usual features like mouse gestures too. And performance, rendering and "it feels fast" wise it dominates on both mobile and desktop.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by amicusNYCL (1538833)

          Does Opera Mobile include the mouse gestures? Or, finger gestures, I guess. How does it distinguish between a gesture and scrolling?

          • by cashX3r0 (1588469)
            opera mobile has four gestures in win6.5pro: a.) click; b.) double click; c.) scroll left right up down; d.) zoom.
      • by daid303 (843777)

        What about the Pre's browser? It'd be interesting to see how it differed from Safari.

        The only difference that matters: It's not on the iPhone.

        And is that a good or a bad thing?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by beelsebob (529313)

      The pre's browser is based on WebKit, so it's the exact same engine as Safari, this is (presumably) why they didn't test it, or Nokia's (also WebKit) browser.

      • by MBCook (132727)

        Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that [quirksmode.org]. The test over at Quirksmode shows the various versions of WebKit to be very different, even between mobile and desktop Safari.

        I don't think the GSM Pre has been released yet, so there may be no Pre over in the UK. That may be why it wasn't tested.

        • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

          by bfree (113420)
          The GSM Pre has been out for about a month now, exclusive to O2 in Ireland and the UK at least and only available unlocked from Germany with a qwertz keyboard, however some reputable sites are pre-ordering and advertising an unlocked qwerty GSM Pre (while already selling the qwertz) so if you can't accept a qwertz keyboard and don't want to try and play unlocking games, a little more patience is required.
    • by MrLint (519792)

      Well recently I tested an iPhone and it passed ACID 3 with 100, at the time the Pre's WebOS browser only got 1. With 1.3.1, its up to 73, but the rendering is a mess, and it goes into a reload loop when it gets to the end.

      YYMV

  • No mention of Android. Do not care.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by beelsebob (529313)

      Android uses WebKit to render pages, so you can essentially put it in the same box as Safari, along with the PalmPre, and Nokia's browser.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sopssa (1498795) *

        That doesn't really take into account usability. Things like fast interface, mouse gestures (finger gestures?) and so on can count a lot too and is missing in atleast Nokia's browser and IE. Opera wins a lot more with it's usability, so its not always only about the rendering engine.

        • Having used iPhone as well as an Android phone, I can tell you that the iPhone is consistently more responsive and tends to render things faster. Obligatory disclaimer about experience being subjective.

          The reason I bought the Android phone instead was that the Android is "good enough" and comes with a full QWERTY keyboard. (and has a freer, more open app store). YMMV, of course... but my phone is an HTC Dream, known as the T-Mobile G1 in the US.

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by Hognoxious (631665)
        Is that the same Nokia browser that's on the E71? It fucking wanks cats for a hobby.
      • by Ilgaz (86384)

        I can't speak about Android but Nokia's Webkit based browser really shows that you can waste an excellent framework and ship one of the worst Mobile browsers shipped to date with it.

        Just recently, Nokia skipped Webkit update on E71, the most sold smart phone of them in USA because E72 is on the way and they also ship 5800 touchscreen. That is Nokia for you.

    • by 3p1ph4ny (835701)

      My Motorola droid gets 93/100 on acid3.acidtests.org, which is the same score my Windows firefox 3.5 gets. My Linux 3.0.14 firefox only gets 72/100.

    • They mentioned Android right here:

      Opera looks set to release a version of its Opera Mobile browser for Android soon -- when that happens we'll be taking Android competitors into the ring, so stay tuned.

      They buried that right on the first page of the article though, so I can see how you missed it.

  • by A Friendly Troll (1017492) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @01:10PM (#30130712)

    CNETNate writes about a test on CNET's site which isn't a test at all. They have tried several browsers, described them in two to three paragraphs each, and measured JavaScript execution speed with the help of a nameless benchmark. Not even a mention of which sites were used for testing.

    Great job!

    • by Again (1351325)

      CNETNate writes about a test on CNET's site which isn't a test at all. They have tried several browsers, described them in two to three paragraphs each, and measured JavaScript execution speed with the help of a nameless benchmark. Not even a mention of which sites were used for testing.

      Great job!

      You clicked on a CNET article. Surprised?

      • You clicked on a CNET article. Surprised?

        After that "test" and eight pages (the ninth contains nothing), "surprised" is not the word I'd use to describe how I feel...

        I've learned a lesson. Never again will I click on a link leading to one of CNET's sites.

    • I wouldn't care but since its on cnet its probably in 10pages. Screw that .... thanks for the warning.
      • by Again (1351325)

        I wouldn't care but since its on cnet its probably in 10pages. Screw that .... thanks for the warning.

        Nope. 9.

        • Actually it's only 8, because page 9 is a page of odd links to other digital products.

          BTW, here's the results page [cnet.co.uk].

          • by craagz (965952)
            Mod this up!

            That link is by far the best page of the "test"

            My opinion is it is almost a tie between Fennec and Safari on iPhone. Seeing how Fennec is still in beta and they did not have it on N900, I am sure the release version will be better.
      • TidyRead FTW!
    • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @01:58PM (#30131406)

      Sunspider isn't exactly a nameless Javascript benchmark..

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The real test is how fast you can get through their article on a mobile phone. Consider this a distributed browser speed test.

    • by pitchpipe (708843)

      have the power to take down the BlackBerry browser[...]?

      Seriously?! Blackberry browser? Mine takes so long to load (Blackberry Bold) on a 3G network that it is really unusable. I guess you could put it up against Monks transcribing the Jewish apocrypha onto parchment and it might beat them, but only if they had to send it hundreds of miles on the backs of donkeys.

      I really haven't found a browser that works very well on my Blackberry. Opera works okay, and Bolt seems alright if a little weird.

      Damn I wish that I could switch to the Droid, but I'm locked in a co

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HenryKoren (735064)

      Reading comprehension fail:

      "As on our desktop browser tests, we tested standards compliance with the Acid3 test, and JavaScript-rendering abilities with the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark."

    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      There was an interesting, if unsurprising, bit of information in there: Acid3 scores. Then again, "Webkit and Presto are good at Acid3; IE isn't" is not the most surprising of findings.
  • Wrong. (Score:5, Informative)

    by swanzilla (1458281) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @01:12PM (#30130730) Homepage
    TFA states:

    We've distilled each browser's strengths, but note you can't get all of these on the same phone -- if you've got a BlackBerry, you're stuck with its browser...

    You are most certainly not. I typically have Opera up and running before I configure my email on a new BlackBerry.

    • by Twintop (579924)
      That's Opera Mini, not Opera Mobile. While Opera Mini is loads better than the Blackberry Browser (in my usage, at least), it is still horrible compared to browsers available for other phones.
      • by Sockatume (732728)

        They've got a good parity in features and interface for the beta versions of Mobile and Mini, which suggests things are going to improve a lot.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        "Horrible"? That's saying too much. It's simply quite different, targeted mainly at hundreds of millions of feature phones.

    • by Jmechy (656973)
      You are referring to Opera Mini. Opera has not released Opera Mobile for the blackberry platform, and it doesn't appear that they have plans to. It's a shame they didn't include Opera Mini in the tests here, it runs on a very large variety of phones since its a Java app. I've been playing with the beta of version 5 and have been quite pleased.
    • by Boap (559344)
      I am using bolt on my blackberry. It works just fine for me.
    • by MrNemesis (587188)

      Agreed. Opera Mini is streets ahead of any of the blackberry browsers, whether it be speed (it's faster downloading and rendering pages), UI (it's alot easier to use on a phone and much faster to scroll) and ease of reading (the BB browser has one of the worst placements of elements I've ever seen).

      The S60 browser (I have both this and Opera on my Nokia) is pretty good, although the UI is *slightly* clunkier than opera and navigating on a non-touchscreen phone is a little bit more cumbersome.

      Some companies

  • The points compared are mostly irrelevant for today's handeld devices.

    What I really would like to know is not if it'll take my phone a few more milliseconds to render the page, but rather:

    • Is it power-efficient showing pages? Using it?
    • Does it *download* pages fast? Because so far, on phones, the main issue I have is the network speed and latency.
    • Can I access my bookmarks etc. from everywhere, easily? A web-based bookmark syncing service is fine, but something directly integrated like Opera Link is better IMH
    • by Jesus_666 (702802)

      Is it power-efficient showing pages? Using it?

      Actually, does the browser-induced load make much of a difference next to the additional power drain induced by the WLAN adapter? Even for devices where that doesn't matter as WLAN is always kept on, is the difference notable? Granted, my questions can be asked through the exact same tests as yours.

      Does it *download* pages fast? Because so far, on phones, the main issue I have is the network speed and latency.

      Isn't that a function of the network or device and no

      • by lhoguin (1422973)

        Does it *download* pages fast? Because so far, on phones, the main issue I have is the network speed and latency.

        Isn't that a function of the network or device and not the browser?

        It is, but it can also be solved by the browser to a certain extent. For example the Opera mobile and mini browsers include the Opera Turbo technology. It connects directly to Opera servers, compress pages, images, etc. and send you the result. Size is usually reduced by 2 or more, which can be quite significant depending on the website you visit.

  • I love my iPhone, but I hate Safari with a passion. You can't even load a CA signing cert, or permanently accept a specific cert.
    • I love how the Apple ads droned on about how it was the real internet and not a kind of internet. In my experience the iPhone's built in browser supports less features of the internet than any other mobile platform (Flash, JS, SSL etc) - all of which work on my S60r5 device (who's browser is based on KHTML).

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Huh? Safari on iPhone definitely supports JavaScript and SSL.

      • by jeaton (44965)

        What about JS and SSL don't work on the iPhone? Flash doesn't work, of course, but JS and SSL work fine.

        • by Culture20 (968837)
          As I stated in GP, users can't permanently accept self-signed certs or CA signing certs (for a corporate CA). Also, JS ghetto image animations don't work (changing an image inline via a script by loading all of the images and just switching which one belongs to the img tag), and they've worked since the inception of JS.
          • by jeaton (44965)

            ...and as I stated in reply to that post, you can in fact import a root CA. I don't know why people believe that you can't.

            As far as ghetto image animations, I don't know about that specifically, but in general, Javascript works for me.

            • by Culture20 (968837)
              How did you get it to work? Everything I've tried works fine for desktop browsers but does nothing with the iPhone except create a worthless "Profile" in the "General" preferences menu that isn't associated with Safari in any way that I can tell.
              • by Bert64 (520050)

                I have the same issue, i need to import certs not just for safari but also for the mail client... nothing i tried has worked

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        And don't get me started about the ridiculous animated gif file size limitation. I had to animate my radar images by using multiple stills, and the JS to animate it was broken, so I had to do ol' fashioned cgi pushes.
      • by mdwh2 (535323)

        It's also frustrating in that browsing the "real" Internet has been commonplace on phones (even bog standard cheap ones, not just "smart" phones).

        I guess they were comparing themselves to WAP, which was in fashion ooh, about 10 years ago.

        Still, this is the same phone that brags "3G" in the name as the most advanced feature it has, as if 3G was something new (and not 5 years out of date).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jeaton (44965)

      You can't even load a CA signing cert

      Sure you can. I imported my employer's CA certificate, and I have no problems using Safari on the iPhone with websites using certificates from that CA.

      I used the iPhone Configuration Utility to create a "profile" containing the certificate, which makes it easier to install, but it's just some XML wrapping around the certificate. There are examples around that show how to do it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dgatwood (11270)

      You can't even load a CA signing cert, or permanently accept a specific cert.

      Sure you can. To add a custom CA cert, just make a link to it and have the user explicitly touch that link. Make sure the MIME type for the reply is application/x-x509-ca-cert. Try it and if it doesn't work, shout, but it should.

      I'd imagine the same thing will work for a site cert, only with a different MIME type, but I'm not certain. Either way, given that StartCom issues free basic SSL certificates, the only sane reason to us

      • by Culture20 (968837)

        Sure you can. To add a custom CA cert, just make a link to it and have the user explicitly touch that link. Make sure the MIME type for the reply is application/x-x509-ca-cert. Try it and if it doesn't work, shout,

        IT DOESN'T WORK!!
        :D
        Everything I've tried only creates some "profile" that doesn't have my certs validated by the CA. In fact, it doesn't seem to do squat. Clicking the link works for every other browser, but not Safari on iPhone. Safari on iPhone is broken. And of course there's the silliness of accepting the local cert temporarily to apply the CA signing cert anyway. Good thing I'm one hop from my own server. ;)

  • by AnotherShep (599837) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @01:37PM (#30131066)
    How many of these browsers that they say get 100/100 actually pass the test? Safari on my iPhone gets to 100, but has a white X in a purple box with a red stripe in the top right corner.
  • Despite it's use of an unskinned version of Windows Mobile 6.1, I absolutely LOVE my HTC Ozone...except the included web browser.

    What would be the best alternative for this particular phone? I'm likely not going to get a new phone until the sequel to the Droid is released, as I love the Ozone's hardware and don't want to give it up any time soon. Still, the included web browser sucks.

    Suggestions for a different web browser for my Ozone?

    • by Ilgaz (86384)

      Opera Mobile beta (currently) 10 could be already available for Windows Mobile. I am a Symbian owner but I can remember Opera 9.5 beta (late replaced by 10) was released only on Win Mobile and Symbian UIQ3 (touch screen).

      You better keep eye on Opera.com mobile team blogs/pages. I am pretty clueless about Windows Mobile... Does it have J2ME support? If it is the case, Opera Mini would do a great job for ordinary browsing without beta hassle.

      • Opera Mini works great on Windows Mobile, provided you've got something to run Java (my phone has Esmertec Jbed). I actually use it more than any other browser on my phone, simply because it's so much faster than anything else.
        • Mobile is plain C and it uses the Mini "compressed proxy" system while being a "real" browser, nothing at middle, e.g. for AJAX etc. stuff. It is at early beta stage but IMHO you should follow its development, it can be amazing with these unique features. Especially when Adobe releases the real Desktop flash on Mobile for free.

  • You can debate the validity of the data, but to save you from wading through nine pages of ads, listed here roughly in order of speed: Browser - Javascript - compliance

    Fennec - 11391ms - 93/100
    SkyFire - 14659ms - 52/100
    Safari - 15499ms - 100/100
    Opera Mobile - 40249ms - 100/100
    IE - 74537ms - 5/100
    Blackberry - DNF - 13/100

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Zerimar (1124785)
      I love how their review of Fennec makes brief mention that they had no problems crashing it, yet they still give it a favorable review in the summary.
      • by Bert64 (520050)

        They also mention that it was an alpha version, whereas all the other browsers tested were full production releases. If Fennec still crashes frequently when it hits a release version then it will deserve an unfavorable review.

        • by akozakie (633875)

          All the other browsers? Sorry, but how is Opera Mobile 9.7 beta a full production release?

          • by Bert64 (520050)

            Well, it's a beta making it one step up from an alpha (the article noted that fennec was beta on maemo but only considered alpha on windows mobile).
            and ok, i forgot about opera, but there are non beta versions of opera available too, which there arent for fennec.

  • by mamer-retrogamer (556651) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @02:03PM (#30131494)
    Browser             OS                              Version Tested        Javascript Benchmark  Acid3 Result  Flash
    -------             --                              --------------        --------------------  ------------  -----
    Skyfire             Windows Mobile and Symbian S60  1.1.0.12052 on WinMo  14,659 ms              52/100        Yes
    Opera Mobile        Windows Mobile and Symbian S60  9.7 beta              40,249.20 ms          100/100        No
    Fennec              Windows Mobile or Maemo         1.0a3 on WinMo        11,391.20 ms           93/100        No
    Safari              iPhone                          OS version 3.1.2      15,499.20 ms          100/100        No
    Internet Explorer   Windows Mobile                  7                     74,537.60 ms            5/100        Yes
    BlackBerry browser  BlackBerry                      OS version 4.6.1.199  Did not finish         13/100        No

    [Skyfire]: Uses server to render pages. Web sites looked accurate but heavily compressed. Flash videos jerky, out of sync and will not open in full screen.
    [Opera Mobile]: Can easily open multiple pages and switch between them.
    [Fennec] (a.k.a Firefox Mobile): Slick interface. Fastest at loading complex pages. Clearly a pre-release product.
    [Safari]: Multiple pages won't load simultaneously. User interface is serene and easy to use.
    [Internet Explorer]: Slowest overall browser. Handled Flash the best of those tested. Flash videos can be opened full screen but become jerky and out of sync.
    [BlackBerry browser]: Browser doesn't come close to a full Web experience. Slowest at loading complex pages.
    • by cbhacking (979169)

      Interesting that they mention a browser which will run on Maemo, but neglect tin include MicroB (the browser that *comes* with Maemo). To be fair, until the N900 is in stores around here (is it even available internationally yet?) we don't really have a modern Maemo-running phone to test it on, but still.

      MicroB supports flash, and does it well. Low RAM and CPU meant that complex applets took a while to load, but things like Pandora were perfectly usable, and YouTube looked pretty good.
      The last version of Mi

      • by mtxmorph (669251)
        I just posted some info on the article:

        Maemo 5 default browser on the Nokia N900 (MicroB):
        Acid3: 93 / 100
        Sunspider Java: 36722.0ms +- 1.5%

        It also has full flash support with no jerky playback. Not too bad, and in my opinion it's pretty fast for browsing (if you have 3G or WLAN). Acid3 results make sense because it has a similar engine as Fennec. I just installed the latest Fennec on my N900 and it is a really nice browser, too. Here are its results:
        Acid3: 94 / 100
        Sunspider Java: 18899.4ms +- 5.5
  • They say they didn't test the default symbian browser since it was too simple compared with the others and unable to finish some tests.
    I wonder which phone were they using...since the included browser on my nokia 5800 it's pretty good: Pages render pretty well, it supports javascript and even flash works pretty well (it uses flash lite which works with most flash objects)
    • by saihung (19097)

      Yeah, this makes no sense. I use the default Web app on my Nokia E71, and most pages render correctly and most flash objects work fine. I can even use homestarrunner.com if I want to, which I do.

  • FTFA:

    The challengers

    Skyfire (Windows Mobile, Symbian S60)
    Opera Mobile (Windows Mobile, Symbian S60)
    Fennec (Windows Mobile, Maemo)

    The incumbents

    Safari (iPhone)
    Internet Explorer (Windows Mobile)
    BlackBerry browser (BlackBerry)

    So... for "incumbent" we have three platforms. For "challengers" we also have three platforms -- but only one of them is shared with "incumbents". How are the results of that execution on Symbian at all relevant to BB or iPhone users?

    Unless they're saying that rendering, javascript, at al will behave identically from platform to platform -- which I find a bit hard to swallow. If they're going to perform tests, they should be meaningful ones - the only meaningful comparison here are the windows mobil

    • They actually only tested the challengers on one platform; they used WinMo but they're just saying those browsers are also available on non-WinMo platforms.
      The reason they only tested on WinMo is because the iPhone doesn't allow alternative browsers and Blackberry doesn't have any (smartphone browsers, not Opera Mini).
      And they say Android tests will be coming soon:

      Opera looks set to release a version of its Opera Mobile browser for Android soon -- when that happens we'll be taking Android competitors into the ring, so stay tuned.

      • But then why compare to the other platforms at all, if the things they're testing aren't viable candidates on them.

        Not to mention that running JS performance test on different hardware platforms and comparing results is just silly...

        • The information is useful to people comparing platforms even if it's not useful to somebody who already owns an iPhone and has no alternatives.

    • by Bert64 (520050)

      Based on using different devices the javascript benchmarks lose some credibility too, how fast is the hardware on the devices tested, and how much overhead does the os bring that might affect the browser performance. It's only really on the windows mobile device that you can fairly compare the browsers, since they are running on the same os and same hardware.

  • I just use web browsing on my BlackBerry Bold for reading articles. I don't care about graphics.

    I don't like how they glossed over Opera Mini just because it can't pass some standards or whatever. It's absolutely perfect for reading articles because the text is rendered nice and large and the columns are always the exact width of the screen, plus I can browse one-handed because all page navigation can be done with the number pad.

    • by drago177 (150148)

      I second the Mini. I've found it much better (faster, bookmark syncing, not taking huge chunks of memory) than Chrome on Android. I'm surprised they didn't compare them, even if they say they're waiting for Opera Mobile for the robot.

  • Different programs perform differently on different computers!

  • Would have been nice to see how the browser on the Zune HD compares. It it presumed to be what is to come on WinMo 7, and is a marked improvement over what is available on current WinMo phones.
  • The testers didn't like opera mini, but on non smart phones it rocks, internet browsing becomes mostly doable.

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