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For most of us, Apple’s default iPad browser is perfectly adequate for our Web needs. There’s nothing particularly great about it -- tabbed browsing only just showed up last fall -- but it does its job with enough style and speed to not give much thought to a replacement. But just because we didn’t know what we were missing doesn’t mean we weren’t missing anything.
From the moment it’s launched, Dolphin has a clear advantage. When no Web page is loaded, Dolphin doesn’t just give you a blank screen like Safari does; instead Speed Dial presents a list of up to 10 favorite sites that are collected for easy access. It’s a little like Safari’s Bookmark Bar, but with more accessibility -- though adding sites to isn’t nearly as simple as Apple's way.
Also in full view is Dolphin’s handiest feature, Webzines. Like a news aggregator built right into the browser, Webzines collect content from various sites with recent headlines that can be browsed in an expanded magazine-style format. It’s not nearly as slick as Pulse or Flipboard, but it’s a nice feature to have handy within the browser.
Some minor rendering and responsiveness issues, plus a bit of scroll stuttering, sully the overall browsing experience a bit, but Dolphin’s deep feature set more than makes up for it. Where Apple offers a series of pinches and swipes for navigating Safari, Dolphin kicks it up a notch with customization: anything you can draw with one finger can be made into a gesture, though sadly there's no support for two- or three-finger swipes.
Dolphin can be toggled to Desktop mode (for forcing non-mobile sites), bookmarks and tab drawers can be browsed by swiping the left and right sides of the screen, respectively, and the address bar can be completely hidden. Plus, it doubles as a search field with predictive typing, something long overdue in Safari.
The bottom line. Browsing is as browsing does, but Dolphin swims laps around Safari when it comes to features.
iPad running iOS 4.0 or later
Bundled news aggregator. Customizable gestures. Quick links.
Some scroll stuttering and responsiveness issues. No multi-finger gestures.