MKB Reviews: XScope 6

Today we’re going to have a look at the latest version of XScope Browser, version 6, which brings major UI enhancements, performance tweaks, and more features from the previous version. For the duration of this review it will be referred to as X6.

Overview

X6 is an alternative to the stock Android browser that comes on the phone out of the box. There are a lot of things people like about the stock Android browser, from the way it integrates into the OS to the way it looks. Technically there’s nothing wrong with the stock browser, and it’ll work just fine for most people. With the addition of Flash support on Android 2.2 and speed enhancements – can you really complain? Nope. For most users it’s just fine.

X6 comes in a number of flavors depending on your device and the OS it is running. There is a lite version and a paid for version for just about every flavor of android you’re running from 1.6 and up. The paid version unlocks quite a few features and supports the developer for that sweet spot of $2.99. For that price you’ll get theme support, tabs, and file management, one and two-finger pinch to zoom and much more.

UI

The user interface in the latest edition of X-Scope is probably the most noticeably different feature from the previous version. Screenshots show a beautiful tabbed interface and top and bottom menu bars that we’ll get into in a bit more detail later in this review. Gary, the developer behind it, has kept the UI simple and left out the flashy stuff you’ve seen on other browsers, yet still managed to make it all pretty. A lot of customized enhancements can be made to the UI, too. You can make the tabs bar at the top disappear when not in use, or hide the notification bar with a single swipe upwards. You can even hide or reveal the URL bar with a simple gesture.



X-scope also has a few slick animations built in when accessing simple, frequently accessed features. For example, pressing the menu button on your device will hide the bottom and top bars you see in the screenshots, giving you a full-screen, immersive browsing experience. The progress bar is a thin yellow line at the top that is unobtrusive and will change colors if you change ROMs. Other animations, like switching between tabs or accessing further menus, are smooth even on low end devices. I’ve been using this browser on my Motorola Droid for days without a hitch.

Scrolling is still smooth and 100% of the features available in 1 or 2 clicks in the stock browser are still conveniently accessible in X6. Adding a new tab is 3 clicks away, copying and pasting URL is two clicks away, and the forward and back buttons are always visible, unlike the stock browser for Android. Something else worth noting is the default ‘Home’ site that hasn’t changed from the previous version of XScope. As you can tell by the screenshot there is an Opera-like speed dial with thumbnails of a couple of frequently visited websites like Facebook, Google, YouTube, etc. These are editable or you can set any other site as your homepage.

Features

A common reason for switching to a third-party browser over the stock Android browser is the robust feature set of something like X6, Dolphin browser, or many others. X6 has a file manager built in that can be a very powerful tool for removing unwanted files left behind by applications, etc. It may seem like something of a novelty feature but I feel it’s something worth having that I definitely use once in a while. Motorola has even taken initiative by building in a file manager in newer phones like the Droid 2 and Droid X. People with older phones will have to find their own in the Android market. Instead of having a separate browser and file manager, why not have them both built into one?
Taking screenshots has never really been easier with an Android browser. One click to the URL bar brings up ‘Page options.’ Click it and you’re presented with a ton of options, including one labeled as ‘share screenshot.’ Select this and it will create a screenshot of your current browser session and give you a ton of options to share it with Dropbox, Bluetooth devices, email contacts, and much more. Convenient, right?

Performance

The last major thing I want to cover in this browser is its speed. The developer claims it’s the fastest browser available for Android right now. While I can’t vouch for that this browser certainly isn’t lagging behind. If you’re switching from the stock browser you’ll notice a significant difference in performance. Loading larger sites really brings out the true power of this browser, while smaller mobile sties will load in about the same amount of time. It hasn’t been slower than any browser I’ve tried, but that would leave out Opera Mini and Skyfire, two other speed demons.

I decided to give the Acid3 test a try just for kicks. It actually really surprised me by navigating to the site quickly and powering through the test with a fiery 93/100. Last time I check that blows Internet Explorer 8 out of the water. Good work, developer!



Conclusion

Overall if you have been sticking to the stock browser that came with your phone, I highly recommend giving X6 a try. Some people have tried third party browsers, don’t like them, and switch back to the stock browser. That’s totally cool – In fact, that was me a few months ago when I changed ROMs like I changed wallpapers.

If speed is a huge factor when it comes to choosing a browser then you can’t go wrong with X-Scope. The interface is pretty slick and it’s full of features you’ll miss in a lot of its competition.



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