The Web Browser

Google made some functional and performance enhancements to the web browser in Android 3.1. Adobe recommends that you have 3.1 installed if you want to run Flash 10.3, although both Android 3.0.1 and 3.1 will let you install the latest version of Flash. I ran several Flash benchmarks to see if there was any performance difference however I couldn't find any - both versions of Android seem to run Flash at the same speed.

Browser compatibility hasn't been significantly improved from what I can tell. Reddit's front page is still far too zoomed out by default and overall HTML5 compatibility hasn't changed:

Google did enable embedded HTML5 video on Android 3.1. In the past if you encountered an embedded HTML5 video it would only play full screen, but now you can play it in inline on a webpage.

The Android browser now supports saving web pages to webarchives. There's a contextual menu option that lets you save any webpage you'd like. The webarchive is stored as a .webarchivexml file in Android's Downloads directory. Chrome won't open the webarchive but you can view it on the device itself.

I didn't have time before boarding my flight to run through our 2011 page loading test, but subjective web browsing seems to be quicker on 3.1 than it was on 3.0.1. Javascript performance is a bit lower, although BrowserMark mostly no change:

SunSpider Javascript Benchmark 0.9

SunSpider Javascript Benchmark 0.9.1

Rightware BrowserMark

The browser gains a scrolling widget on the right side for quickly moving up and down pages:

Scrolling performance seems improved, but it's at the cost of how aggressively the browser renders the web page as you scroll. Both Android and iOS only render to the frame buffer only a portion of what you see on a web page, when you scroll down old data is evicted from memory and what you're scrolling to gets rendered in real time. On iOS this can manifest as a checkerboard pattern if you quickly scroll down a web page. On Android 3.1 this appears as a lot of white blocks that quickly fill in with data. The animation is smooth but the effect feels unfinished as you can see from the video on the previous page.

I didn't notice a huge difference in performance while zooming but I'd say that the browsing experience overall is just faster than it was under 3.0.1.

Improved 3D Performance The Dock Experience
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  • Lasallian - Sunday, May 29, 2011 - link

    ProDigit: that's just the price gougers ... got none for $399 usd.
  • joe_dude - Saturday, May 28, 2011 - link

    Anand, which device(s) are you bringing with you to Computex? What is your "go-to" device on a long-haul trip?
  • Sagath - Saturday, May 28, 2011 - link

    I believe he has said its a SB based MacBook Pro 15" in other articles.
  • jjj - Saturday, May 28, 2011 - link

    I wonder if we'll see a Kal-El netbook from Asus at Computex or just Tegra 2 and if it will run Android or Chrome OS.
  • Rayb - Sunday, May 29, 2011 - link

    I believe that there are a few manufacturers that have sampled Tegra 3 since the end of february and in line to deliver new products this year with the new chip. Tegra 2 is already outdated since it took so long for manufacturers to adopt it, with Kal-El bringing 5x the performance I don't doubt we'll see it at Computex in different configurations.
  • Blaster1618 - Sunday, May 29, 2011 - link

    I still confused why these things are rolling out with Android OS and not Chrome OS. It just doesn't make any marketing sense. At some point either Chrome OS is going to evaporate (which its such a big hit now I wouldn't be surprised) or the two are going to collide.

    The majority of the john and Joan Public don't even know that Chrome OS exists or/and are just confused because it has the same name as the browser.

    They should have called it "Chrome Extreme", "CS-winning" or "Co za asy".
  • dagamer34 - Sunday, May 29, 2011 - link

    Just like Android 1.0, I'd say the tablet version needs a few revisions before I'd bother recommending it to someone else. And the tearing in that scrolling performance is horrendous.

    Honestly, if Google just spent one major revision only improving performance of the current system (scrolling, graphical animations, fixing bugs, streamlining UI), i think that'd be perfect. It's the persistent problems that I just know Google engineers must be aware of that need to be fixed sooner rather than later.
  • bplewis24 - Sunday, May 29, 2011 - link

    You say they need a few revisions, but iOS has had a couple revisions and it still does the same type of thing... it just manifests itself differently (as Anand points out). So it's disingenuous to act like Google engineers are just incompetent or rushing the product.
  • robinthakur - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    No iOS is generally smooth as. All google Android handsets and Tablets i've used have suffered from the weird scrolling since I started using them. This lack of smoothness is jarring coming from an iOS device and is the most prominent reason why I would never switch until it's fixed - It just feels like they don't care about detail or user experience as it stands or they are trying to cater to types that don't notice the difference.
  • S4ndy - Sunday, May 29, 2011 - link

    You will be even more surprise if you have to send your tablet back to Asus for repair. I did. The second day the sound was gone on the brand new tablet. Called the customer service and they identified the problem with a faulty sound card. Brand new under warranty, but THEY REFUSED TO PAY FOR SHIPPING. I had to shell out $30 just to ship it to them when it is all their fault.

    I should have bought an Acer A500 instead. If you consider attaching a USB keyboard instead of the Asus dock, and the hidden cost of repair shipping, I'd save myself almost $200.

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