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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  • vision33r - Sunday, May 29, 2011 - link

    From hardware to software the iPad 2 won't be touched by anyone this year. Even the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Tab II will just be another iClone running Honeyblow.

    Just look at the hardware performance differences, iPad 2 is the best gaming platform no wonder it has Nintendo 3DS beat easily this year.

    Like Steve says all other tablets will be vaporware. Even the the Asus transformer will not be wanted after 2-3 month when another tablet out does it and this vicious cycle of competition helps Apple.
  • ncb1010 - Sunday, May 29, 2011 - link

    "From hardware to software the iPad 2 won't be touched by anyone this year."

    Kal-El is coming out in a shipping tablet later this year and will show a 5x graphics improvement over Tegra 2. In addition, it will have 4 Cortex-A9 vs 2 Cortex-A9. All of a sudden that 2x perform increase seen by the iPad 2 over Tegra based Android system evaporates and the roles are reversed. There will certainly be hardware later this year that will outperform iPad 2. Software is up for debate based on usage scenarios.

    "Just look at the hardware performance differences, iPad 2 is the best gaming platform no wonder it has Nintendo 3DS beat easily this year."

    If you truly need to compare a handheld to a tablet in performance, I could just as easily compare a 360 or PS3 against an iPad and show how it wipes the floor with it. We are also talking about a $250 vs a $500 device regardless of being different form factors.

    If you are talking about unit sales, the Nintendo 3DS actually is nothing to sneeze at, after 1 month on the market in Japan and 1 week on the market elsewhere, it sold 3.5 million units. Estimates of iPad 2 sales in the first month of availability were 2.4-2.6 million units which are significantly lower than 3DS.

    "Like Steve says all other tablets will be vaporware. Even the the Asus transformer will not be wanted after 2-3 month when another tablet out does it and this vicious cycle of competition helps Apple."

    You don't have a clue what vaporware actually means? Vaporware is where a product doesn't get released. I don't know how you support your statement that all other tablets are vaporware by stating that another tablet gets released that is better than a previous one. In fact, it directly contradicts your statement by implying that there is a steady stream of released (i.e. not vaporware) tablets.

    As far as continual improvement in the competitor's offering helping Apple, I am afraid that is wishful thinking. While releasing a better product does make other Android tablets less competitive than they once were, it also changes the competitive landscape when comparing iPad to Android devices more favorably towards Android than it was before. For instance, when the Quad Core Tegra 3 tablet gets released half way through a iPad refresh, the ARM SoC GPU performance crown will have been stolen from Apple.
  • thunng8 - Sunday, May 29, 2011 - link

    You do realise that 5X performance increases is a purely marketing figure (like the 9x increase Apple claims for the ipad2 compared to ipad). I'll wait to see actual benchmarks before giving the crown to Tegra3.
  • Zingam - Monday, May 30, 2011 - link

    Kal-El products 2012 :) So the guy is right nothing will touch iPad any time soon. Too bad... I don't want Apple too.
  • robinthakur - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    I think I can see what he was getting at actually. For build quality and coherence of the platform environment, nothing is likely to touch the iPad2 until the next revision next March/April. There is an inherent problem with the constant power race and replacing chipsets/GPU's etc beyond the impressive benchmark numbers, in that it is unlikely that Apps will make proper use of the increase in power during the useful life of the tablet apart from things made by Google and a handful of others. If they were to do so, then they would be virtually unusable on the earlier hardware revisions. I can now see why Android marketplace makes hardly any revenue for it's developers compared to the AppStore and the same issue is now happening on the tablet side as the phone side! They need a common spec to develop for not a constantly changing one. At the end of the day, most people don't just sit at home running benchmarks on their tablets. Is there any software as well made or optimised as Garageband for Android?

    Instead of saying they are vapourware, a better saying would be that they would be 'gone in a flash'. Having been in the market for a Honeycomb tablet I initially focussed on the Xoom, then got put off by reviews and the high price, then the Iconia and was put off by reviews and then the Asus, but found it ludicrous that they could launch it without a working camera. Across all of them i found it hard to swallow the high price compared to the cheap-feeling build quality. I finally cracked and bought an iPad2 and don't regret my decision because you actually buy peace of mind that what you bought will not be instantly obsolete. His point about the 3DS is not well made though.
  • DigitalFreak - Sunday, May 29, 2011 - link

    Crawl back into your mama's basement, fanboy.
  • spambonk - Sunday, May 29, 2011 - link

    And still no comment about the supposed light bleed which gets worse as you use the device
  • Omid.M - Sunday, May 29, 2011 - link

    Seems to follow the adage of "wait for 3rd gen." Well, I'd consider a Kal-El tablet to be 3rd gen, anyway.

    1st gen - G tab, Samsung Galaxy Tab 7"
    2nd gen - Eee Pad, Xoom, Galaxy Tab 10.1
    3rd gen - Kal-El

    I'm sad that even the Tab 10.1, made by a company known for its display tech, seems to have a mediocre screen (allegedly, based on a review of the Google I/O 2011 Tabs that were given out).

    None of the Android tabs have screens that seem to rival the quality of the iPad 2's.

  • Zingam - Monday, May 30, 2011 - link

    By the time when generation 7 is out (just like Windows) we may actually see usable tablets. Until that time they'll be toys.
    How about 2015?
  • Shinobi_III - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - link

    Was it only me that noticed the hilarious grammatical error in the firmware update dialogue?

    "Please do not remove the mobile dock and shut down your device."

    For the lazy, it should obviously be "...or shut down..."
    Now they're saying that I shouldn't remove it, and then turn it off while flashing... =)

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