Browsing the web is greatly improved by modern tablets’ capacitive, multi-touch screens. Being able to zoom in on a page makes text legible for comfortable reading, and is something all tablet browsers can do. Most support tabbed browsing, so you can switch between multiple web pages with similar ease to a desktop computer.
Expert advice on buying a tablet
To load complex web pages full of images in a timely fashion, a tablet needs plenty of memory and processing power. The cheapest tablets often struggle with scrolling and zooming in on web pages, but the dual-core processors in the new iPad and more expensive Android tablets have no such problem.
Tablet browsing is a lot more useful if you keep bookmarks and other information on a tablet synchronised with your main computer. With iCloud, Safari on the iPad automatically synchronises bookmarks and your reading list with Safari on an iPhone or Mac (but not the Windows version). Similarly, Android’s web browser can synchronise bookmarks with Google Chrome on the desktop.
Not so Flash
By design, the iPad cannot display Flash content, as it’s argued that poorly coded Flash can make a browser unstable, eating up processing power and battery life. Flash is still used on many popular sites, but web designers are now switching to using HTML5 video to ensure their site is compatible with the iPad.
That leaves the problem of sites that you want or need to visit that still use Flash. You'll simply see an error message or even an instruction to install the latest version of Adobe's Flash player, which is impossible, or course.
There are also alternative browsers. Firefox is available for Android tablets, while Opera Mini, which uses a caching system to speed up pages over mobile data connections, is available for both Android and iOS. Likewise, the gesture-based Dolphin Browser (below) can be installed on both and is also an option for the BlackBerry PlayBook as well.
There are few other options for the Blackberry PlayBook, but its built-in browser (below) is competent. Zooming in and out of pages is fairly smooth, and most options are kept hidden on the 7in screen to maximise the viewing area. We particularly like the touch-sensitive screen bezel on the PlayBook as it makes gestures much simpler than on the iPad. Swipe down from the top with a single finger, for example, to show the address bar and open tabs. Swiping in from the left or right switches applications (on the iPad you have to awkwardly use four fingers) and swiping from the button displays other apps.
The main limitation with the PlayBook is naturally the small screen, which means content either appears smaller than on larger tablets, or you simply see less of the page. If you can live with that, the PlayBook isn't bad at all.
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