Chrome Beta for Android hands-onSee all photos
Honestly, the score disparities on SunSpider don't amount to much of a noticeable performance difference during use. Pages, even loaded desktop ones, pull up pretty quickly. The only significant hiccup we endured was a delay in rendering parts of more complex sites as we scrolled to new portions. In fact, despite its nearly 900ms lower score, we actually thought Chrome felt faster than the stable version of Firefox.
The big draw though, is how it ties into your desktop experience. When you first launch Chrome it'll ask you to sign into your Google account. After doing that, all of your bookmarks, Omnibar results and open tabs are automatically synced. Opening a new tab not only offers you quick access to your most frequently visited sites, recently closed tabs and bookmarks (just like the desktop version), but also any tabs you might still have open on another machine. Your open tabs are offered in an easy-to-view list, divided by device. It's pretty handy for those that switch back and forth constantly and comes close to eliminating the need for Chrome to Phone.
The new browser also comes with some interface tweaks, though things should seem plenty familiar. Up top is the address bar, which is also home to the tab and action overflow buttons. Unlike the default Android browser, it doesn't disappear as you scroll down a page however. Those who like to have their controls handy at all times will appreciate it, while others who prefer to dedicate as much screen space to a website as possible may find it mildly frustrating. Switching tabs is accomplished by either tapping the appropriate icon and flipping through them, or flicking an open page left or right within the browser. This latter option, so far at least, isn't particularly reliable -- then again, it is sporting a beta tag. You can also tilt the phone while in the tab overview screen to pan about which, while a neat trick, didn't prove to be particularly useful. Switching, closing and opening tabs is also accompanied by new 3D animations that fit quite well with the ICS aesthetic.
The one potential deal breaker for some may be the lack of Flash support. Adobe has already said that Flash for mobile will be going the way of the dodo, Google has just decided to help them along it seems. Opening up an page, such as a game on Kongregate, simply greets you with a missing plug in message. Honestly, we're not too put off by that limitation, especially since we can simply switch to the default Android browser if need be. If you're not lucky enough to have an Android 4.0 device, check out the video above to see it in action.
Mat Smith contributed to this report.