The 5 best browsers for Apple's iPad

by Doug Drinkwater

July 31 2013

Think browsing could be better on the iPad? You're not alone, but as TabTimes discovers, there are some still some excellent browser apps out there on the App Store.

I recently tested out the five best browser apps for Apple's iPad, to see which one you should really be using.

Safari                      

Safari may be the stock browser on Apple's iPad but it still packs a powerful punch.

As is the norm, the app has a URL bar at the top, a search option to the right, back and forward buttons and a '+' button for adding new tabs.

There is also a convenient share button for pushing content via mail, iMessage, Facebook or to your reading list, while a book icon lets users dive into browser history, bookmarks and iCloud Tabs -- which shows what tabs are open on other Mac and iOS devices.

Some of the advantages are down to the simplicity of the layout. Sharing articles is easy and adding to and accessing the reading list is simple too. In fact, the layout is only slightly different to Chrome, although Safari doesn't instantly recognize URLs when you type in the search bar.

Safari surprisingly came up as the fastest browser when testing the JavaScript performance on SunSpider 1.0 and for overall performance on free HTML5 browser speed checker Peacekeeper (note: these speed tests were all carried out on an iPad 2).

Chrome

Google’s Chrome is a hard proposition to beat on the desktop (now on version 28) and the same could be said of Chrome for iPad (free, iTunes).

I've used the app on-off for the last year and I've been impressed with the flat, minimalist user interface, the speed of the app, and the array of options for bookmarking and sharing content.

But that’s not the extent of Chrome’s usefulness. You can also sync your personalize Chrome details from your PC to your iPad by signing into Chrome (with your Gmail credentials), while a recent update introduced better voice search and voice recognition.

Indeed, using your voice to search for websites is generally pretty fast and accurate, even if it is reliant on little to no background noise.

For instance, one quick search for TabTimes brought up ‘Text Times’ but this was when a background video was running at very low volume on my nearby PC.  The next search went well when the video was muted. You simply hit the microphone to conduct the search.

Chrome isn’t perfect. Sharing is not as fast or easy as on Safari and the process of hooking up your bookmarks with your desktop (via signing in with Chrome) is a pain.

But where Chrome really comes into its own is the search recognition, voice control, an easy layout for viewing most regularly visited websites and a slick user interface

Check TabTimes' Best 100 iPad apps guide

Skyfire

There were other, less mainstream browsers to consider when compiling this list, but in the end I opted for Skyfire ($4.99, iTunes) over Atomic Browser.

Skyfire is a novel take on the browser. Sure enough, there are the usual tools for adding a URL, sharing a page or viewing bookmarks, but the rest of the user experience is vastly different to the likes of Safari and Chrome.

For starters, there are links at the bottom for quick access to Facebook, Amazon, Readability and Instagram (you can also add others like Digg, Wired, The Verge or YouTube by clicking the '+' button to the right), while opening a new tab gives you an option to dive into popular sites like MTV, The Guardian or IMDB.

The Flash-powered app predicts what website you are searching for and there is a small video button to the right of the URL bar for repairing broken Flash videos on a website.

Opera Mini

Opera is one of the best-regarded browsers on desktop, so it’s little surprise that you can find Opera apps on iOS, Android and Windows 8.

Now on version 7.0, Opera Mini for iPad (free, iTunes) has some unique features.

For example, Opera Mini promises to save data usage by 90% -- handy if you’re on 3G or 4G – and you can also long-press for the app to perform certain functions, like open a link, copy and paste text or edit a ‘speed dial’.

These speed dials as essentially big tabs where you can quickly access your favourite web sites.

As you would expect, the more conventional tools include the ability to star favored web pages, tabbed browsing, forward and back buttons and bars for a URL and Google Search.

The Opera logo at the top left lets you view bookmarks, history, edit the start page, save a certain page and dive into settings or data usage.

The last feature is particularly interesting as it told me that I saved around 67% of data per browsing session.

Opera Mini is a useful app with some neat features but probably lacks the finesse and features of Google’s Chrome. Opera Mini doesn’t, for instance, predict your web search and the user interface is somewhat clunky compared to others.

For all things iPad, bookmark TabTimes.com/ipad

Dolphin Browser

Dolphin Browser is an iPad browser with a different twist.

The browser offers one-click sharing to Facebook, email and Twitter, while you can even capture articles and send them to Evernote and Box accounts.

But its killer feature is the ability to draw gestures to visit a webpage. Some of these are already pre-defined – drawing 'M' -- for example -- takes you to dating website Match.com – but you can set your own gestures.

Dolphin, which is now on version 6.0 (free, iTunes), sports a fairly smart UI design with slanted tabs as well as predictive web search technology. There are tools for bookmarks, sharing, refreshing the page and accessing settings.

One other feature I liked is that when searching in Google, clicked web pages are introduced as a new tab which gives you a continuous stream of your browsing history.

Furthermore, sharing is a real breeze with the simple ‘WiFi broadcast’ feature which lets you quickly share articles over WiFi (you just have to hit menu & WiFi broadcast).

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Comments

 
  • ComputerGeek
    10 months 3 weeks ago

    Maxthon beets all of these cookie cutter browsers. I switched recently and have not had a single issue. It's the best browser "You've never heard off" lol.

  • FirefoxiPad
    11 months 16 hours ago

    Did you know that there is a Firefox for iPad Browser?

    Visit http://www.FirefoxiPad.com for all you want to know about the Firefox browser and download it for you iPad device.

  • jplion
    1 year 13 hours ago

    I think that one browser is missing from this list : "Puffin"....that specific very well designed browser allows you to play Flash files on your ipad....pretty important feature

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