A PC-like Tablet Browser

When I reviewed the iPad I wrote that web browsing was the killer app for the device. Today, with a healthy number of pretty impressive apps I don’t believe the iPad has to exclusively rely on web browsing to sell itself but it remains an important part of the tablet experience.

As such, Google focused very heavily on the browsing experience on Honeycomb and I can honestly say it’s better than what you get with the iPad today. There’s the performance first and foremost, the Honeycomb browser is unbelievably fast and it’s running on the fastest SoC shipping today: NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 (T20).

SunSpider Javascript Benchmark 0.9

We’ve put together a new suite of web page loading tests that I’d like to debut in this article. The pages are served from a machine on the local network (the device never has to talk to the public internet) and thus this is a best case scenario for web page loading performance. The pages are automatically timed as they load. The browser cache is cleared before the first load and then each page is loaded another 7 times. I repeat the process on a total of 6 web pages and present an average of all of the times. The web pages tested are the front pages of AnandTech, Amazon, CNN, Engadget, Reddit and NY Times.

2011 Page Load Test - AnandTech.com

2011 Page Load Test - Amazon.com

2011 Page Load Test - CNN.com

2011 Page Load Test - Engadget.com

2011 Page Load Test - NYTimes.com

2011 Page Load Test - Reddit.com

2011 Page Load Test - Average

Simply put: the Xoom puts the iPad to shame. The combination of an ultra fast javascript engine with a pair of 1GHz Cortex A9s makes the Xoom feel less like a tablet and more like a PC when browsing the web. Particularly over WiFi the web browsing experience is just awesome. It’s like using a netbook, which in this case isn’t meant as a knock but rather a compliment.

It’s not all about performance though, functionally the Honeycomb Browser is a huge improvement over anything else out there: it supports tabbed browsing. I can’t stress how much better this makes browsing on a tablet. Switching between tabs is just as easy as it is on your PC or Mac, you just use your finger instead of a mouse or keyboard combination.

Google also allows an optional experimental UI that does away with the conventional controls altogether and gives you a popup dial that only appears when you swipe your thumb in either the left or right margins of the screen.

There’s full support for incognito mode and Find on Page, just like you’d find in Chrome on the desktop.

In terms of standards compliance, the Honeycomb Browser passes the Acid3 test but only manages a score of 195 (+3 bonus points) in the HTML5 test.

This is the future of tablet apps. As tablet hardware becomes more powerful we’ll end up running full desktop applications on these devices. This is only the beginning and Google clearly gets where it’s headed.

The Android Tablet Keyboard Email


View All Comments

  • punjabiplaya - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Looks good, I'm really tempted to pick one up (wifi model) if it truly is $600. Any word from Google on any updates to fix the crashing? I assume with updates (including driver optimizations) it can only get faster and there's no way that Google/Motorola isn't aware of the crashing apps. Reply
  • LeftSide - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Don't hold your breath. I have an Epic 4g and just now got the 2.2 update. Google needs to standardize their update system. Until they do, I will not buy another Android device. Waiting for months just for an outdated update, so that you can download and use the latest apps (skype) is unacceptable. Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Blame Samsung, not Google. Most HTC & Motorola devices were running 2.2 as of last September. My EVO got Froyo (2.2) in August, a mere two months after it's release (and only like there months after Froyo itself launched). People need to start doing some research and stop rewarding manufacturers that are lousy with updates, like Samsung and Sony Ericson. Reply
  • daveloft - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    I say blame the carriers. All six carriers in Canada carrying the Galaxy S device released 2.2 before any of the American carriers. This seemed to be the situation around the world as well. Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Yeah at this point it's their fault, it still took Samsung twice as long to release the updates as it took other manufacturers tho. Sprint and T-mobile recently updated their Galaxy S variants to 2.2 btw, so Verizon and AT&T are slacking off the most... Verizon has half a dozen other Android options tho, until today (Atrix) AT&T had no alternative to the Captivate, besides an iPhone. Reply
  • ph00ny - Monday, March 7, 2011 - link

    At the same time, their devices came out later those other devices. Also all the international iteration of galaxy s had froyo long before any north america based galaxy S phones. Look at HTC Aria. AT&T is the worst carrier in terms of device update due to the fact that they want to restrict the device as much as they can. Look at the issues with hsupa with atrix.

    BTW i have a captivate running 2.2.1 and i had froyo running since last year which was based on the international version of galaxy s
  • kkwst2 - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Blame Canada. Reply
  • Milleman - Sunday, February 27, 2011 - link

    Blame Terrance and Phillip! Reply
  • punjabiplaya - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    The reason I was asking is because there is no manufacturer skin. Honeycomb is unmolested by Motorola, so Google should be able to get updates to the device without Motorola having to customize their skin, then the carrier customizing that. Reply
  • Enormously Hatworthy - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Yep, since this is the reference hardware for the platform, you'll get OTA updates directly from Google. No carriers or OEMs to screw things up.

    No word from google though... I suppose they don't want to draw attention to the bugs on the first day of release. I'd bet there'll be a quiet update issued sometime in the next week or two.

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