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PERFECT Web Browser for iPad review

PERFECT Web Browser
The Holiday season is almost over, but the hunt for the perfect iOS browser is still in full swing. On the chopping block today we've got PERFECT Web Browser for the iPad. With a name like that you might be setting yourself up for a fall, but judging by the numerous five-star App Store reviews, we just might have a Mobile Safari-beater on our hands here. Read on to find out how PERFECT fared.

Features

In-page Search
PERFECT takes a pretty feature-packed desktop approach to browsing on the iPad. It's got a traditional tab bar, multi-touch gestures, caching, in-page text searching, full screen browsing, and private mode -- for off-the-record browsing. AirPrint support is also included, something we've seen roll out to almost every content displaying app in the past few months, and matches Mobile Safari if you happen to have an AirPrint supported printer. Browser user-agent spoofing is also available, and PERFECT gives you a choice of seven desktop browsers; Safari on Mac, Firefox 3.6, Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8, Opera 10.5, and Google Chrome. PERFECT also allows you to identify it as just Mobile Safari, Safari on the iPad, or Safari on the iPhone, should you want to check out mobile sites specific to one device or the other.

Offline saving of Web pages is also available, for those times when you want to view something in a signal dead-zone; however these days I'm more inclined to use a dedicated Web clipping service like Instapaper or Read It Later for that kind of thing. You can upload your bookmarks from a computer into PERFECT, but unfortunately like every other iOS browser I've tested you can't sync your bookmarks with Mobile Safari. It's probably something Apple just simply won't allow, but considering you can't get real desktop bookmark syncing in any of these third-party browsers, Mobile Safari bookmark syncing is really needed.

Carrying on with the theme of a desktop browsing experience, PERFECT has a traditional scroll bar, which you can tap to jump down the page like you would on a desktop. You can of course flick a single finger to scroll or use the scroll buttons, but should you be browsing a rather long site the scroll bar can come in handy. Full screen browsing is available with an option to remove the standard iOS status bar too, giving you maximum screen real estate. VGA output is also supported by PERFECT, and while I don't have the facility to test it myself, I am assured that it works well. There's even an online user manual -- should you need a hand getting to grips with all the functions -- which is provided as a default bookmark and part of the Help menu.

Function

Function
For the most part, everything works as you would expect. The tab bar operates like that found on Safari for OS X, with a '+' allowing you to open a new tab, and tab switching done by simply tapping them. The only thing missing is drag-and-drop tab rearrangement, but I have yet to see that on any iOS browser. In-page text search also works like that found in desktop browsers like Chrome, highlighting any matching words in the page. Unfortunately you can't jump between search results in the page, but they're easy enough to spot as you scroll. I also like the way you can completely hide the UI, as PERFECT uses a little arrow for hiding and showing the navigation tool bar that mimics the way Microsoft has implemented ribbon hiding in Office. The tab bar can also be hidden with a tap,and combined with the ability to hide the iOS status bar gives you quite a lot of extra browsing real estate. I'm a bit of a stickler for minimal or hideable UI, and PERFECT's solution works well. The bookmark management in PERFECT is also as good as you're likely to find on iOS, with folder creation, bookmark rearrangement and renaming all available.

PERFECT comes packing fantastic multi-touch gesture support -- which actually works. You can use the standard single finger tap and drag to navigate about the page, but two, three, and four finger gestures are also available. You can use two finger scrolling to scroll within frames, something that even on a desktop can get really annoying. Three finger swipes for back and forward act the same as they do on a Mac laptop, making browsing back and forward in history an absolute breeze. Finally, four finger taps take you out of full screen browsing, while a five finger tap, or four fingers and one thumb, brings up the bookmarks menu.

PERFECT Web Browser for iPad


Verdict

PERFECT Web Browser for the iPad isn't perfect as the name might suggest. It's missing true bookmarks sync, any form of download manager, drag-and-drop tab rearrangement, and search jumping. Those shortcomings aside, PERFECT is as about as good as can be expected on iOS. In fact, with great gesture support, good full screen mode and UI hiding, and sped-up page rendering using caching, PERFECT is a very good alternative browser. It's probably the first time I've thought that the browsing experience is actually better than Mobile Safari and it hasn't crashed in use, regardless of how heavy a site I threw at it.

If some sort of download manager was implemented (with support for Dropbox or something similar) the in-page text search was beefed up a bit, and they found some way to properly sync bookmarks with your desktop, Xmarks integration perhaps, PERFECT Web Browser would be just that. Perfect or not, PERFECT is probably the best third-party iOS browser available today. So if you're looking for something more akin to your desktop browsing experience, PERFECT is definitely worth considering.

PERFECT Web Browser for iPad [iTunes] - $2.99
PERFECT Web Browser for iPhone (Untested) [iTunes] - $0.99

Tags: apps, browser, hands-on, iOS, iPad, PERFECT Web Browser, PerfectWebBrowser, reviews

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