There are pros and cons to using Safari on the iPad. On the one hand, it is safe, secure, and works well with almost any website you are likely to come across. The cloud tabs integrate nicely with Safari on Mountain Lion, it is easy to navigate, it works well with other apps, and, with perhaps one exception, it is undoubtedly the fastest way to browse the web on the iPad. The offline reading list is great for students who don’t have internet access at home, and I will always be a fan of the excellent Reader mode.
However, it’s not perfect. If you are looking for extra features like a full screen mode, ad blockers, filtered web searches, or the ability to play the last of the web’s Flash based content, then you need to look elsewhere, and there are plenty of options for those that want this. Google’s Chrome, for instance, is a popular alternative iPad browser on iOS right now. It has a familiar look that reminds users of their Chrome desktop experience, but it also lets you sync tabs, bookmarks and passwords across devices.
The free Rover app is popular with teachers because it plays Flash content in a filtered browser experience, but it can be a little slow to get the content you want because of the way it streams your image from a remote server. There are other Flash browsers like Photon or Skyfire, but Rover is free, so that counts for a lot in my book and it is a decent way to access some of those legacy websites that have still to upgrade to HTML5.
The Puffin browser is extremely well rated, and rightly so. It is fast, (faster than Safari a lot of the time), and it bypasses the majority of those pesky mobile sites that are usually built for phones, and not iPads. It plays Flash, and even has a virtual mouse trackpad (complete with cursor) for websites that are not optimized for a touch experience. You can go fullscreen with Puffin, and even set a homepage.
The Diigo browser links up nicely with your Diigo account, Dolphin has a slew of nice features and a great UI, while Yahoo! Axis has a unique search experience that has to be seen to be believed. (Some love it, some hate it). The more technologically minded are often drawn to iCab with its adblocker, Dropbox support, download manager and more. SidebySide is a nice free offering that lets you have two browser windows open at once. You can have a note taking app on one side, and a web browser on the other. This can be useful for students who are taking notes and don’t want the hassle of switching between apps. The notes can even be synced to Dropbox.
In short, the world is your oyster with alternative iPad browsers. Personally, I use Safari 95% of the time because I like it, but also because of the one major drawback that almost none of these alternative browsers can overcome – the ability to open a link from another app. Safari is always the default app for links you tap on in other apps, and probably always will be. Google managed to make their Google+ app offer the option to open links in Chrome, but everything else will open in Safari whether you like it or not.