6 Comments

Summary:

Opera Mini 5 hit the Android Market this morning, offering another browser choice. It’s a solid beta effort, but how does it compare to the native Android browser? And who should use it? I can think of one situation where it has a definite advantage.

opera-mini-5

Here’s something you’re not likely to see in the iTunes App Store: the Opera Mini 5 browser. Opera demonstrated the software on the iPhone at Mobile World Congress, but odds are slim to none that Apple will allow the application in its store. Google’s Android Market, however, is a different story — case in point: Opera Mini 5 is available today for Android devices. The beta application is free to download, which I did just this morning on my Google Nexus One.

My initial thoughts: It’s a solid beta effort and if you’re a fan of the Opera browser, I’d definitely grab it. All of the value-add features, like Speed Dial, tabbed browsing, and password management are in there. However, the real benefit I see is with the experiment I’m currently running. Last week I asked readers how much 3G data you’re using on a smartphone. My own answer was lower than I thought, mainly because of my use of Wi-Fi. Since that time, I haven’t used the Wi-Fi radio on my Android handset.

Thanks to the Opera Mini approach of compressing web data on the Opera servers and sending an optimized stream of bits, I see a noticeable speed benefit when browsing on a 3G signal. Not every web site opens faster, but most do with Opera Mini 5 as compared to the native Android browser when using 3G. The New York Times home page is a prime example — Opera Mini rendered it in around 7 seconds, while Android’s browser took 12 seconds.

So if the browser is faster in some cases, why wouldn’t you use it? I’m finding that the font rendering isn’t quite as good in Opera Mini, nor is the text reflow. Android’s browser also offers finer control over the zoom level from what I can see. The visual experience is more like one from a slightly older smartphone or a super new feature phone — not a cutting-edge Android device. Still, it’s good effort for a beta and you’ve got nothing to lose since the download is free. And if speed or 3G throughput is a concern, you just might turn to Opera Mini for your web consumption needs. I plan to leave the browser installed on my handset and get some more day-to-day usage. Besides, it’s always nice to have options, no?

Image courtesy of Opera

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  1. Kevin, it may not look cutting edge, but as a whole, Opera Mini is far more sophisticated than mobile webKit browsers.

    Try making it your daily browser, you’d be surprised how much it helps battery life, since your device barely has to do anything to display web pages.

    1. The battery life impact is something I hadn’t considered. I’d love to see some data on that aspect.

  2. I used Opera Mini for years on Blackberry. It’s, truly, a great mobile browser, though I don’t think it’s on the level of the native Android browser when it comes to rendering.

    The greatest thing about Opera Mini, or any version of Opera for that matter, it Opera Link. If you’re the type of person who changes devices a lot, the ability to sync your info is quite the luxury. The great thing about this with Opera is that it crosses so many different platforms, so you don’t have to feel anchored down to one.

    1. Opera Mini places the browser rendering engine on a proxy. It’s the same rendering engine used in the desktop Opera browser, so rendering is on par with the desktop browser but minor issues do appear. This is still in beta.

      Agree about the convenience of OTA bookmark sync. They converted me to using Opera on the desktop just for this purpose. The desktop browser is actually very nice in its own right.

      Opera Mini works pretty well with JavaScript actions, but it’s one area you will occasionally notice problems.

  3. seanemcmahon Friday, March 12, 2010

    Another plus for Opera mini is SVG support. The native webkit browser still lacks this feature.

  4. I’ve been using it the past couple of days and I really like it. Text quality seems a tiny bit lower than the stock browser, although that may be my imagination. I like the Start Page thumbnails, and while pinch-to-zoom isn’t an option the double-tap works extremely well… and honestly I find that more comfortable and easier than pinch-to-zoom anyway in most cases. Two thumbs up!

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