It's finally happened. Google has, at last, released a beta version of its Chrome browser for Android. Unfortunately for the hordes of Android fans out there that have been clamoring for a mobile version of Chrome, this release is only available for Ice Cream Sandwich due to the operating system's unique hardware acceleration capabilities.
Since Chrome for Android will eventually replace Android's browser, we decided to pit the two against each other in a mobile browser battle royale. And to spice things up a bit, we also threw the most popular alternative Android browsers into the mix including Opera Mobile, Dolphin HD, and Firefox. To determine each browser's speed we used a Samsung Galaxy Nexus running on Verizon's 4G LTE network and ran the browsers through a couple of synthetic tests and some real-world browsing. The results show a browser that's full of potential, but one that's slower than many of its third-party competitors.
Firefox ran away with this round, finishing the SunSpider test in just 1.7 seconds. Chrome for Android came in second place with a time of 2.1 seconds. The stock Android browser wasn't far behind, completing the test in 2.2 seconds. Opera Mobile and Dolphin HD took the longest, finishing in 2.4 and 2.5 seconds, respectively.
Peacekeeper is a synthetic benchmark that measures a browser's overall performance. Results are measured in scores rather than times. The higher a browser's score, the better it performed during the test.
Surprisingly, it was the Stock Android browser that took the top spot in this test with an average score of 467. Chrome for Android was close behind, notching a 444. Dolphine HD came in a distant third-place with a score of 416, while Firefox and Opera Mobile trailed with scores of 320 and 219, respectively.
Loadtimer.org is an excellent tool used to measure how long it takes to open a specific webpage. We ran the test using a series of different sites and, and averaged the results to get a standard page load time.
In the end, it was Dolphin HD that offered the fastest average load times at 6.7 seconds, followed by Opera Mobile at 7 seconds. Firefox pulled into third place with an average 8.2-second load time, while Chrome and the stock Android browser came in fourth and fifth place with 8.4 and 14 seconds respectively.
Screen Real Estate
One thing you'll notice when you load Chrome on your phone is the amount of screen real estate you gain versus the stock Android browser. In fact, of the five browsers we tested, Chrome provided the largest area of viewable space on Laptopmag.com taking away just 95 pixels with its toolbar. We measured the toolbars' pixel size because it is a constant across all devices despite any difference in physical screen size. The stock Android browser offered the second largest amount of screen real estate, with its toolbar taking up 104 pixels. Firefox offered a little less than that with its 114 pixel toolbar. Trailing Firefox were Dolphin HD and Opera Mobile, which featured 184-pixel and 191-pixel toolbars, respectively.
With Chrome for Android, Google decided to switch up the way it displays browser tabs. Instead of stacking new tabs on top of each other like in the stock Android browser, tabs in Chrome look like a deck of cards that's been fanned out. Pull the first tab down and it will reveal the tab immediately behind it. Pull the tabs down all the way and they will turn towards you ever so slightly. Open a new tab, and it slides neatly over the previous tab. It's a cool little touch, that goes a long way in adding style to the browser. Like the stock Android browser, you can also swipe away tabs that you want to close.
Of course, you don't have to go into the tab view to navigate through your tabs. Chrome also allows you to swipe between them from the main browser screen, an action none of the other browsers support. Overall, we preferred Chrome's tabbed browsing to the other browsers in our roundup. The animations were fun and made the tabs feel like an extension of the browsing experience rather than a separate part of the program.
Chrome Beta for Android adds some fun changes to the browsing formula and looks to be a good start for Google. But in the end the browser wasn't as fast as its third-party competition. That said, Chrome is already able to outclass the stock Android browser in two of our three performance tests , making it a solid step forward in the evolution of Google's mobile browser development. Hopefully, the company can add the needed zip to Chrome as it makes its way from beta to its final release. For now, the compelling tab management feature alone may put it over the top with some users.