UC BrowserHD is a free web browser, designed for phones and PC Windows, by UCweb Inc.
It provides as many features as possible within a svelte 8 MB framework, and is tailor-made for a portrait aspect ratio – the kind you'll be used to using your phone with. It offers features ranging from tab switching to text-only browsing, to more modern features like saving directly to the SD card or using a picture password.
Simple enough for everyone, advanced enough for anyone
UC BrowserHD doesn't impress the moment you open it, but it becomes a lot more impressive not long after. It loads pages quickly, and it renders them with the same accuracy you'll have to come expect from Chrome or Firefox on the desktop (screen size permitting). Likewise, it has smooth tab switching, and every new tab features a fully customizable Speed Dial you can use to get to the most relevant and useful web pages instantly.
The browser is also eminently flexible. For saving data, there's a Text-Only Mode. If you're at a restaurant late at night, and don't want to strain your eyes, Night Mode obviously has some utility. The app's "Speed Mode" is not always clear on what it's doing, but it can help if your connection is shaky. Best of all, you can visit as a desktop user or browse incognito, without saving history, if you need to – you won't miss any of the features you use on your home computer, but you won't get bogged down by a browser that's not optimized for your phone, either.
Safe, secure, sleek, but perhaps a little sloppy
So, UC BrowserHD is stacking up pretty well so far. But here are some more concrete statistics: the browser performs below the maximum for html5test and the Acid3 test. Firefox and Chrome for the desktop, at least, ace these tests. Since both tests are well-established and used as points of comparison by web developers and power users alike, this is not a great sign. Still, on most common websites such as Facebook, the difference is not apparent. It will only cause issues on very modern websites that heavily use HTML5.
On the other hand, the interface is reasonably polished and works smoothly, but it has a few security features that even those browsers don't currently offer. Chief among these is an innovative "picture password" feature that lets you select an image on your phone, and several points on it, to act as a pattern-styled password for your browser. This would be even better if it were an option for the entire device, but as is, it's a welcome feature on a browser you might be using for work, banking, and more.
Putting it all together
Overall, UC BrowserHD takes all of the components that make up a good mobile browser and puts them into one app. Combined with its ease of use, speed, and accuracy, it basically blows most mobile browsers of the past out of the water. With contemporary competition, the matter is a little less clear: the rendering engine won't cause problems on most websites, but it's not comparable to Firefox's or Chrome's.
Because the app is free, though, there's little to be lost from trying it.