Apr 10 AT 5:30 PM Guest Blogger 15 Comments

Opera Mini 5 Beta: A Browser Worth Singing About

Opera Mini has been available for Android for quite some time now, but with the beta release of Opera Mini 5 came some significant improvements. The Opera Mini browser works on almost all mobile platforms, providing fast page renderings and requiring less CPU processing compared to a native web browser. Opera Mini does this by transcoding the page you requested on its servers, independent from your phone. Upon entering a URL, the request is first processed on Opera’s servers and the page is converted to a more “lightweight” version. The page is then sent to the handset via the Opera Mini browser. This results in faster load times, as much of the work has already been done, but some websites may not be rendered correctly.

Some improvements made to Opera Mini in this release are an enhanced UI and the ability to remember passwords. New features include a very sleek tabbed browsing interface, a “visual dial” homepage which arranges bookmarks in a 3×3 grid of icons, a download manager which allows you to pause and resume, and the ability to synchronize bookmarks via Opera Link.

Upon a web page loading completely, you’ll notice that it is completely zoomed out so that the entire width of the page fits within the screen. Although at this point the font size is infinitesimal, the viewer can quickly navigate by swiping to a general area and double-tapping to zoom in. The address bar and Google search bar stay at the top of the page, unless you hit the Menu key. I prefer choosing “Fullscreen Mode,” in which the address bar and bottom controls stay hidden until you press Menu.

Pros:

  • Most pages load up very quickly, even on 2G networks.
  • The “Speed Dial” is a great home page for keeping your favorite websites one click away.

Needs improvement:

  • Many complex websites are not transcoded correctly by Opera’s servers, and therefore are not rendered correctly during page loading.
  • Several mobile sites I tested did not load correctly either. Problems ranged from awkward page renderings to content not appearing at all.
  • Some sites will not let you view the mobile site, and some mobile sites will not let you view the regular. Opera seems to be in control of deciding which version of the site it will render for you.

Final Verdict

With the best user interface I’ve seen yet in a free Android browser, a clean, intuitive menu, and fast page load times, Opera Mini 5 beta is a keeper. But most users will have to switch back and forth between browsers because of page rendering errors, which can be a nuisance. If Opera can give the user more control over which sites are transcoded and which aren’t, Opera could have all the features one needs in a mobile browser.

Note: App tested on T-Mobile MyTouch3G

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Note: This review was submitted by Shane Manning as part of our app review contest.

From time to time we invite guest bloggers to contribute articles about various Android topics. This is one of those times...

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