One of Android's biggest strengths when compared to other mobile operating systems is its open-file structure. While most devices don't come with a built-in file explorer, a third-party app can be installed easily, and this will allow you to browse and manage your entire storage partition freely.
But there are many file browsers on the Play Store, and finding the one that works best for you can sometimes be a hassle. To lend a helping hand in this regard, I'll compare five of the top free Android file browsers below.
If your main focus is to get the most functionality possible out of your file browser, then ES File Explorer is right up your alley. This app packs in so many features that you can even browse Facebook and read Google News while you're managing the files on your device.
ES can handle ZIP and RAR archives, and it opens images, videos, audio, and text files natively. Most of the popular cloud storage services can be attached, and network drives of all types can be mounted—even over Bluetooth.
A small dot in the middle of the screen offers fully customizeable gestures, and open folders can be switched between with either a swipe or through the side panel. Every feature ES offers is completely free—in fact, the only downside is that there might be too many features.
Network storage: FTP, SFTP, SMB, WebDAV, Bluetooth
Gestures: Fully customizable
Price to unlock all features: Free
Biggest strength: Versatility
Biggest weakness: Cluttered UI
FX File Explorer
If you're looking for a great blend of functionality and form, FX File Explorer is one of the best options available. Rooted users will need to install the optional root plugin to browse their system partition, but the app's Material Design interface makes this a pleasant experience.
FX handles more archives and file types than any other app in this list—basically, any file you throw at it, it can open. A side navigation menu allows you to easily switch between open folders, and a swipe-to-select gesture makes batch operations a breeze. You can even attach most of the common cloud storage services and network drives, but these features require that you purchase the pro version.
Biggest weakness: Network and cloud options require pro version
If speed and ease of use are your priorities, Explorer has you covered. This is the limited free version of the better-known Root Explorer app, but all features aside from the ability to browse your root partitions are available.
Root Explorer's interface might seem a little basic at first glance, but it can easily be spruced up with a quick trip into the settings menu. Once you've got it set up to your liking, you'll be able to open most archive types, and even view and edit text and SQLite files natively.
Cloud storage accounts or SMB network drives can be attached and treated like any other folder, which means you'll be able use the tabbed interface to quickly swipe between device folders and internet-based storage.
 Swiping between tabs
Root Explorer Quick Facts:
Material design: No
Native archive handling: ZIP, RAR, TAR
Native file handling: Text, SQLite, MD5
Cloud storage: Dropbox, Drive, Box
Network storage: SMB
Gestures: Swipe between tabs
Price to unlock all features: $3.99
Biggest strength: Ease of use
Biggest weakness: Root features require pro version
For the most part, you'll probably be using your file browser to copy, paste, and delete files. If that's all you're after, Sliding Explorer offers an elegant Material Design interface that prioritizes common operations above all else.
On the downside, Sliding Explorer is not as feature-rich as the other entries in this list. You can create and unpack ZIP archives, but that's about it. Even still, this can be viewed as a positive, as there are no unwanted features cluttering up the UI.
Sliding Explorer Quick Facts:
Material design: Yes
Native archive handling: ZIP
Native file handling: None
Cloud storage: None
Network storage: None
Gestures: Select files by tapping icons
Price to unlock all features: Free
Biggest strength: Smooth interface
Biggest weakness: Lack of extra features
In the same vein as FX, Solid Explorer packs in the functionality while keeping the interface tidy and approachable. All features of this app are available for free through a 14-day trial, but you'll have to make the jump to the pro version if you want to continue using the app after that point.
Solid Explorer handles most common archive types flawlessly, and there's a built-in image viewer as well as a text editor. You can attach almost any network storage drive, and its cloud support is the most robust out of all five of these apps.
A drag-and-drop feature allows you to easily transfer files, and this works nicely in conjunction with the tabbed interface, which allows you to swipe between two open folders.
Biggest weakness: All features require pro version after 14 days
Each of these apps has its benefits and drawbacks, so it's up to you to determine which file browser fits your particular useage the best. Nonetheless, if you twisted my arm looking for a recommendation, my vote would go to FX File Explorer. The functionality it offers is on par with the best of them, and combined with its polished interface, you've got the most well-rounded app of the bunch.