xScope Browser (Web File Task) Review

xScope Browser (Web File Task) Review

Aug 23, 2010

With such a capable browser already included in Android—and especially with HTC’s souped up iteration on their latest Sense devices, any Android owner might wonder why they should plop down $2.99 of their hard-earned cash on a third party browser. Well, in the case of xScope it may be worth it, if its plethora of added features speak to you. However, with choice comes complexity; and for the most part, users will be satisfied with the stock browser option.

The most useful feature of xScope is the tabbed browsing. With the stock browser, I often don’t even realize I have tabs open until I get the error message saying I have too many open. It’s just too cumbersome to hit menu, windows and then search for a tab. xScope gives you the tabbed look you’re used to on your desktop and allows you to swipe between them with a side-wipe gesture. Sweet! To open a new tab, hit the plus button–to close it, tap the top of the tab you are currently viewing. The menu also slides to the left to unveil menu items, such as search and select text. Other cool features include the option to download .mp3’s and movies instead of streaming them. My absolute favorite feature: using the volume keys to page scroll.

The developers of xScope make an interesting choice by having the default zoom set to 1.5. This means that when you visit a site, instead of an overview of a web page, you are already zoomed in. For articles and other text heavy content, it’s great, because you can get right into the good stuff (and scroll through with the volume keys). But for more graphics based content, it can be a chore. Not to mention xScope’s poor handling of scaling. Don’t bother switching the user agent to “computer.” As you can see, it mangled the wikipedia home page.

A less than inspiring feature is “pin to zoom,” where you long tap and then slide left and right to zoom. In fact, I couldn’t ever really get it to work. Pinching and double tapping seem to work just fine, but zooming over all isn’t as smooth as stock. More frustrating for me is the full screen situation. If you get an email and you want to look at the notification bar, you have to swipe down from the top three times: one to show the nav bar, two to show the notification bar, and then a third time to drag the bar down. I ended up disabling the first swipe, which leaves the nav bar on the screen all the time. It leaves less screen space, but makes my life a little less swipey.

xScope has some inexplicable add-ons, like a task killer. It also lacks some of the integration that I’ve come to enjoy from the stock browser. For example, if I click a bookmark from my home screen like Google Reader, it will take me to the running tab directly without reloading. Even if I have a different tab in focus it will find the tab and I can pick up where I left off—not so with xScope. And of course there is the new iPhone like text-selection in HTC’s Sense browsers, which makes the process in xScope, where you have to tap a menu item first, seem just out dated.

For my tastes, I actually like having both browsers around. I really love the volume button scrolling, the efficient text consumption, and the option to download media files. For most users, however, the stock browser’s strengths and strong integration will be keep them satisfied.

xScope Browser (Web File Task) Review Rundown

Presentation - Tabbed browsing looks and works great. Plethora of options is overload.
Graphics - xScope looks kind of amateurish, certainly not as slick as the stock browser.
User Interface - Swiping back and forth to change tabs is great. Volume key scroll is great. Swiping down multiple times to get to the notification bar is not.
Lasting Appeal - The stock browser is still my default. However I keep this around for text heavy browsing sessions and downloading files.
Overall - While xScope adds some neat features, it's rough and overloaded compared to stock.

App available on the Google Play Store »

Demo version is also available on the Google Play Store »

Ben Freed
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