The alternative browser market is starting to grow as more and more people are looking to branch out from the default Mobile Safari that ships with every iPad. After reading a review on Mac.AppStorm of the Mac version of Sleipnir I immediately downloaded the iOS versions, and I’ve spent enough time to get a feel for the ecosystem.
Will this mythological browser make its way onto your home screen, or should you avoid it like the eight-legged freak that it’s named after? Let’s find out.
One of the most important features for any browser is going to be speed. Gone are the days where you could wait for a webpage to load, making dinner (and dessert) before a simple website would fully load in your browser. Today we want things quickly, and there’s seemingly no excuse to not deliver on the speed.
Sleipnir feels, in my experience, to be about as fast as Mobile Safari when it comes to loading webpages. I visited a few websites in each browser and then played around with having open tabs (which I’ll discuss later) and I really felt that from a sheer speed-based standpoint there’s no clear winner.
Ah, this is where things get good. Sick of tapping those itty-bitty buttons in Mobile Safari? Sleipnir has your back. Nearly every normal action that one might like to perform while they’re browsing can be accessed via gesture in Sleipnir.
Let’s look at navigation. Every once in a while you might jump to an article, read it quickly, and want to navigate back to the page that you were on before. With Mobile Safari this is accomplished via a tap of the Back button, but buttons are so PC-era, right? How about dragging an upside-down (and, possibly, backwards) L in order to navigate? Much better.
Or, let’s say you’re done with a tab and want to throw it out like that much trash. Simply draw a normal L (a vertical line with a left-to-right horizontal line at the bottom, for those of you reading this that somehow aren’t familiar with the English alphabet) and voila! No more tab.
Honestly though, the gestures that I ended up using the most often were to switch between open tabs (which, again, I’ll discuss in a bit) and refresh a page as I anxiously waited for an update to my favorite website.
Refreshing is as easy as drawing a clockwise circle, and switching between tabs is done with a flick of the finger. easy.
Where Sleipnir really shines, in each of its incarnations, is with tab management. On the bottom of the screen is a small thumbnail view of the tabs that you’re currently running, and you can switch to a tab either by tapping on it or using the aforementioned swipe gesture to glide your way through.
Beyond that, Sleipnir allows one to create tab groups that will house multiple tabs in a row. You’re given six groups to play around with, and they’re each color-coded so you know where you are at a glance. By allowing me to group my social networking sites with one row and all of my research-related sites in another, Sleipnir can aid in productivity and keep things within reach but out of sight.
I have yet to see a browser that handles tabs in quite the same way as Sleipnir. It’s honestly something that I wish would be incorporated with more browsers, so hopefully Sleipnir’s style can catch on.
Stay in Sync
Sleipnir’s developers, the Japan-based Fenrir Inc., have provided a way to keep your bookmarks and data synchronized across platforms with their wonderful (and free) Fenrir Pass.
This is handy if you decide that you enjoy Sleipnir on the iPad and want to use it on your iPhone. Or, maybe your Mac. Or Windows machine. Hey, they even have a Windows Phone 7 version. Sign up for Fenrir Pass and it doesn’t matter what device you’re using, your data will be there.
Horses Graze Too, Right?
Oh, Grazing. We’ve got a review of this browser up already, and I’m not going to beat around the bush: that application is fantastic. It shares many gestures with Sleipnir but also offers further functionality, making it the power-browser’s web portal of choice. Why would someone choose Sleipnir over Grazing, then?
Well, first is the tab management. While Grazing has a few novel ways of navigating through tabs, I enjoyed the ability to easily group tabs in Sleipnir and have them available at a moment’s notice. I haven’t seen this functionality in Grazing (though I may not be looking hard enough).
Second is the price, or lack thereof. Where Sleipnir is free Grazing costs a cool $1.99. Not expensive by any means, but people are cheap.
I’ve enjoyed Sleipnir across all of the platforms that I’ve tested it on. It’s easy enough to use, and as I’ve said numerous times above I really enjoy the browser’s approach to tab management.
Would I recommend Sleipnir over, say, Grazing? That depends. If you like what you see with the tab grouping, or you don’t want to spend money on an alternative to Mobile Safari, I’d say that you could use Sleipnir and be happy. That said, Grazing is a genuinely excellent browser as well, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely.
In the end, it all comes down to personal preference.