Maemo Browsers Comparison: MicroB, Fennec, Midori, Tear

2009-06-13 11:33 - Tech

I've been on vacation this week, visiting my Dad. Shortly before I left, I discovered the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet. I decided it would be a great way to read the eBooks I was thinking about bringing, and decided to get one. It runs Maemo, a customized (Debian-based) version of Linux designed to run on these tiny tablets. I've been enjoying the device quite a bit.

Being an "internet tablet", one of the things it should do well is web browsing. It comes with a very functional browser, but as I was discovering all the programs that I can install, I found others. In fact, I now have four different web browsers installed on my NIT. Which is best? Which should I use? I quickly found strengths and weaknesses of each browser, but no clear winner. What follows is the best of both my objective and subjective judgements on the topic. First a quick key:

Feature not provided
Feature partially provided
Feature completely provided

Where "partial" means either not as completely as the other browsers, or somehow lacking (in my opinion). Completely provided means it satisfies me. First, I'll present the table of data. Following that will be a section for each browser, pointing out my observations, and details that don't fit into the table.

Links Home WP Home WP Home WP FAQ Home (?)
Tested Version 1.0.1 1.0b1 0.1.4 0.3.1
Rendering Engine Gecko Gecko WebKit WebKit
User Scripts * *
User Styles *
In-page Anchors
Stylus-drag Scrolling
Hardware Cancel as Back
Hardware D-pad Anchor selection Anchor selection Scrolling
Session Restore /
Crash Handling
? * * *
Cookie/Privacy Clear
.install file handling
Search In Page *
Select Text
"Right Click" (long tap) *
HTTP Authentication
SSL Self-signed Cert * *
Flash: YouTube
Flash: Game
Linked Media
(w/ mplayer-plugin)
Embedded Media
(w/ mplayer-plugin)
Speed: Launch 8.888 s 10.738 s 6.016 s 8.008 s
Speed: Load Google Maps 82.489 s 54.628 s 33.908 s 34.692 s
Speed: 11.080 s 13.586 s 13.674 s 9.627 s
Speed: 13.598 s 18.232 s 9.848 s 10.072f s




Unique features:


Unique features:


Unique features:


I'm having a very difficult time picking a winner. Every browser has at least one thing missing/slowest. Every browser has at one thing best/fastest. The two webkit based browsers seem to be faster overall. But they both crashed a bit in my speed tests — and that's not a super complicated page. They're both significantly faster on the JS-heavy Google Maps page, but still barely within the realm of usability -- and Flash support is much worse (YouTube is nigh unusable).

Fennec has a lot of really nice things going on. The double-tap-zoom feature is very nice, the UI is featureful, and easily gets out of the way on the small screen. There's the promise of being able to write extensions for it just like I do for Firefox. But it's also clearly the slowest. I hold out hope that it will get better once out of beta, but I can't quite choose it yet.

For now, I think I'll use MicroB and/or Midori primarily. I know there's a newer version of Midori out there, but not yet ported to Maemo completely. It might be worth investigating. The Midori ChangeLog indicates a few very interesting new features, plus 0.1.7 is supposed to be the "stable" version.


2009-07-14 09:29 - timsamoff

I hadn't seen this before... Thanks for the overview!

About text selection in Tear.
2009-07-14 10:34 - bundyo

Its not obvious at all, but text selection in Tear is done while holding down the Menu button. This will disable the kinetic scrolling temporarily. There is also partial bookmarklets support in 0.3.1 - You can run them from the address bar only.

Extra Tear Features
2009-07-15 10:36 - arantius

Thanks for letting me/us know about those two features Bundyo. I have actually started using Tear mostly: Midori's rough edges started to show as I really used it.

Tear is fast, but lacking essential features - but it is barely in beta; have high hopes
2009-07-16 23:03 - stevecrye

Only discovered Tear yesterday. Been testing it heavily, and generally concur with the analysis on this page. I had high hopes for it, but it is lacking several essential features that have caused me to put my use of it on the back burner. This is super-disappointing, given my general annoyance with MicroB. However, Tear is super-new, not even close to 1.0, and I'm betting that it will eventually be crowned the winner. I really prefer Webkit and tear is fast on many sites.

I've also noticed that for some odd reason it drains my battery when I use it a lot. It seems to spike the CPU more than MicroB; not sure if that is the culprit.


Great resource
2009-07-17 02:18 - jginspace

I'm very pleased to find this. I decided I wasn't going to bother with any more releases of Fennec after their beta turned out to be a very buggy alpha and I was resigned to living with MicroB. Then I discovered Midori, then I discovered Tear. I haven't decided which I'm going to settle with but it'll probably be Tear.

Midori was updated a few days ago. Any idea what that update consisted of? I can find nothing substantial, stylus-drag scrolling is not there yet, I think that's a top feature request.

Tear updated to 3.5
2009-07-27 05:04 - jginspace

Tear has been updated: main additions are bookmarklets, delete cookies/history, find in page:

It seems like the guy who worked on Midori has been helping out with Tear.

2009-11-27 23:28 - n810user

u put up the best guide. at first i couldnt find anywhere to successfully download tear. thanks

2010-05-27 11:48 - BigDawg

This is just a terrific review, you should be proud. God forbid, how will we get information like this when the corporations get their greedy hands on the interwebs.

2010-05-27 11:57 - BigDawg

Opera 10 mobile runs really well on my n810, faster and less hangy than all the others... no flash video, though. You should do a full review, maybe?

No maemo
2010-05-27 12:35 - arantius

I no longer own a maemo device, so that's not gonna happen.

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