Puffin Web Browser Review: For the Flash-loving, Speed-craving power user
Remember the days when smartphones were so amazing simply because they granted us access to the Internet on the go? For many of us, the advent of apps has seriously reduced the time we spend straight-up browsing on our mobile devices, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for Apple to be beaten at their own game when it comes to browsing. Developer CloudMosa makes their attempt at relegating Safari to one of your unused junk folders with an app called Puffin Web Browser. Along with blazing fast speeds and Adobe Flash support, it brings a host of features you won’t find in Safari—or anywhere else.
“Puffin Web Browser is wicked fast. Once users experience the thrill of using Puffin, regular mobile Internet just feels like torture. Puffin Web Browser is the premium version of the Puffin family, and comes with unlimited hours of Adobe Flash support over the cloud.”
I, for one, was intrigued—so I moved Safari out of my iPhone’s dock and replaced it with Puffin’s little bird icon, just to see what would happen. The results were mixed.
On one hand, CloudMosa has definitely shined a spotlight on some serious speed gains that are being left on the table by Apple. I’m not sure I totally understand how their secret sauce works, but Puffin’s data centers and heavy reliance on the cloud somehow combine to make this feel like a browser from the future in terms of speed. Navigating the apps Windows-ey interface takes place in the blink of an eye, and load speeds on the same networks I always use are noticeably quicker at serving up pages… Can’t emphasize this enough, since Flash support (which we’ll talk about next) might not be enough to get most folks handing over $3.99 for a new browser.
So, Flash… Yes, it’s still around, and apparently in high enough demand that Puffin really goes out of its way to make itself the obvious choice for heavy Flash/iOS users. By handling all your Flash needs over the Cloud (Flash Player 11.9) and providing you with tools like a virtual gamepad and mouse replicator, there’s no longer any reason you can’t take your favorite Flash gaming sites with you on the go (though I’d question why App Store games don’t have the Flash stuff beat out?).
In keeping with it’s rather un-Apple feel, Puffin is highly customizable with your own backgrounds, add-ons, and more. The add-ons currently available include things like Facebook, Evernote, and Pocket.
Considering all the stuff packed into Puffin that’s NOT present in Apple’s native Safari, what possible reason is there to decide against it? Most glaringly, it’s the app’s clunky user interface—which is best compared in appearance to the tiles found in something like Windows Phone. The tiles that comprise everything from your most-visited to your bookmarks to your open tabs are functional, sure, but they lack elegance—especially when thrown up against a poorly-chosen custom background. All things considered, when you pair Puffin’s customization options with it’s native look and feel, there are far too many ways for things to go wrong.
In addition to a subpar appearance, you may also meet with fairly frequent network errors. While these seem to be extremely short lived and pose no real obstacles, they’re a not-so-subtle reminder that when using Puffin, you’re in reliance on their cloud servers for everything, which comes with its own ups and downs.
Anyone considering Purchasing Puffin to replace something like Safari or Chrome should take a close look at their reasons. Got a lot of Flash gaming to do? Need to download directly to the Cloud? Want to go fully custom with your mobile browsing experience? These are some of the key factors that will determine if you’re satisfied in the long run. The universal appeal of Puffin is pretty much limited to it’s high speeds, which I’m not sure quite warrants its $3.99 price tag.
Let us know if you give Puffin a try. We’d love to hear your take on this quirky browser looking to topple some giants.
Our Score: 3 out of 5