Dolphin HD, one of the most popular Android browsers, has been pretty unusable on large tablet screens due to choppiness and lag caused by the CPU having to work with a much bigger area. For example, when we got a demo unit of the Galaxy Tab, the problem was quite apparent to the point of Dolphin being downright frustrating on relatively complex sites.

Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" came to the rescue with hardware acceleration capabilities, which allowed shifting all the UI processing from the CPU to the GPU. However, since the first Honeycomb tablet, the Motorola XOOM, launched 2 weeks ago, only the stock browser has been offering the benefits of hardware acceleration and allowing for very smooth scrolling, zooming (xooming?), panning, etc, while Dolphin remained as choppy as before.

Thankfully, as Google engineers pointed out during the Honeycomb run-through, it is relatively easy for developers to add hardware acceleration to existing applications, and the new Dolphin HD 4.5 seems to prove just that. Among other not nearly as interesting features, I spotted the following item that I've been waiting for since the XOOM launched: "Add Hardware Acceleration support for Android 3.0 device."


Having upgraded and tried the new version, I can tell you that it is, indeed, much smoother, albeit with its own oddities that the team behind Dolphin will hopefully work out. For example, compared to the stock browser, Dolphin seems to under-draw off-screen content a lot, meaning scrolling up and down will likely yield a blank area for a split second, rather than show the actual content right away. Swiping left and right also seems to briefly squish and stretch the content in a Jell-O-like fashion.

Nevertheless, the Dolphin experience is a lot smoother overall, and I can finally switch to it as my primary browser. "Why would you do that?" you might ask, and I'll tell you. Dolphin's features far outweigh those of the stock browser (though, not as much as they used to due to the improved Honeycomb stock browser), and the ability to permanently set the user agent to Desktop pretty much seals the deal right now. While it is possible to do the same in the stock browser by fiddling with "about:debug," the feature does not survive reboots and reverts back to Mobile until you type in "about:debug" again. Until the stock browser is capable of remembering my Desktop setting without having to jump through hoops, I'm sticking with Dolphin HD. Plus, that add-on and gesture support is quite nice.

I shot a quick video to show you what hardware accelerated browsing with Dolphin HD 4.5 looks like. Compare it to the video from the Galaxy Tab (I promise you, it looked pretty much the same on the XOOM before this update), and you will see just how much hardware acceleration rocks:

And now the Galaxy Tab:

Source: Dolphin HD