The guys from Norway have released an Android version of their semi-popular desktop browser, and based on our initial tests with it, this could be a strong contender in the heated mobile browser wars, although there are a couple of deficeciencies in it.
Opera Mobile should not be confused with Opera Mini that came out of beta earlier this year. As a note, we generally were not impressed with Opera Mini. However, Opera Mobile seems to be much faster, more complete, and generally, and all around better product.
More information about Opera Mobile 10.1 after the break.
I spent a good part of the morning today putting Opera Mobile through its paces. First and foremost, the aspect that really impressed me was its page rendering speed. While I didn't do any formal tests against other browsers, I can tell you that overall, it felt incredibly snappy and didn't leave me feeling like I had to sit and wait for pages to show up.
In general, the rendering quality was very good also. There were a couple of minor hicups here and there, but nothing that I found to be a deal breaker. Probably the one rendering aspect that I didn't care for is that with Dolphin HD, I can typically read even very tiny text without zooming in. With Opera though, this didn't seem to be the case. Anything that was around a 10pt font or smaller I had to zoom in to in order to read it. This is definitely not a deal breaker though.
Speaking of zoom, I really liked the single tap to zoom feature. It worked quickly, and typically zoomed exactly where I wanted it to go.
Some of the other aspects that I really liked about Opera Mobile were:
- The ability to turn off Opera Turbo. This is the feature that runs the web page you're bringing up through Opera's servers to perform compression on it before sending it to your browser. There are certainly advantages to Opera Turbo if you are on a limited bandwidth connection, or have a limited data plan that forces you to conserve bits. However, in the past, I have regularly been underwhelmed at the results that came out after going through the compression.
- If you use Opera on your desktop, you can now sync bookmarks between your phone and PC
- The tab interface was surprisingly nice. By default, Opera Mobile uses and always visible toolbar at the bottom of the screen. From this toolbar you can easily bring up a thumbnail listing of all of your current tabs. If you switch to "full screen" mode, the toolbar (along with the notification bar) go away, but you can quickly bring them back up by tapping the menu button on your phone.
- Selecting text to copy was also easy to do. Just long press anywhere on the screen, and you will get a pop-up box that allows you to turn on text selection. Actually selecting text worked fairly well.
Of course, with this being a beta release, we did find some issues with it.
Firstly, I was unable to get Flash to function at all with Opera Mobile. For me, this is not a big deal because I don't frequent many Flash-enabled websites. However, if Flash is highly important to you and your browsing, then Opera Mobile in its current form may not be for you.
Second, there was no way that I found to access the Android "share" options. For example, I am an avid user of Read It Later. I also regularly send page links via email, text message, and Twitter. Unfortunately, from within Opera Mobile, I found no way to do any of that. This is probably the single biggest flaw for me, and hopefully one that will be addressed in a future release.
As I mentioned earlier, I did run in to a few rendering hiccups. These mostly had to do with text not flowing quite right and an occasional image that didn't seem to render perfectly. However, most browsers seem to have these problems with some websites as well, so no point deductions from me on this.
The only other major drawback of Opera Mobile that I saw is the size. It's enormous at around 20Mb installed. It does support moving to the SD card, however, not much of the app actually got moved. It still appeared to weigh in at around 14MB of internal memory.
For my serious web surfing, I will likely continue to use Dolphin, simply because I rely on the share options so often. However, for casual browsing, I will probably start using Opere Mobile more and more. If you can live without Flash, and without the sharing functionality, I highly recommend taking this newcomer for a spin.