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Review: Opera Mobile 9.5 for Windows Mobile

Only a few years ago i couldn’t imagine that i could be ever surfing the net comfortably on my mobile device. But then apple launched the IPhone and set a new standard for mobile surfing and user interface with their safari browser. Soon afterwards the first HTC devices like the touch diamond emerged preinstalled with the newest opera mobile versions, but sadly my device (Xda Orbit 2) didn’t have it onboard and there was no way to install it since opera didn’t provide any public beta to download. So for a long time i could only use either opera mini which is a free java applet, or opera mobile 8.5 which didn’t have all the new fancy stuff opera mobile 9.5 had. Finally opera released their beta version, and i’m using it for quite some time now. Opera mobile 9.5 did change my internat usage on my mobile device completely, so this review is evidence that there are real alternatives to the IPhone browser out there.

The default startup screen will bring up the opera page, but i already changed my default home screen to my blog. As you can see on the first screenshot, the user interface is very clean with big icons for fingerfriendly navigation. On this screen you can open new tabs, access your bookmark, get to your home screen and open the general options.

Opera mobile home screen
Opera mobile home screen

After waiting a few seconds, the screen will automatically switch to the fullscreenmode. On this screenshot it’s clearly visible that opera renders websites beautifully. What you can’t see on screenshots is the fast rendering, and opera mobile delivers on that one too. Even quite heavy pages like ebay are rendered in about 8 seconds which is quite fast for mobile browsers. You can always get back to the default view by just tapping the menu button at the bottom of the screen.

Opera mobile full screen mode
Opera mobile full screen mode

The button with the magnifier icon is the zoom function. After pressing that button, opera will show you a zoombar, where you can set the zoom level by sliding the indicator to the left or right. You can also just double tap anywhere on the screen, and opera will automatically zoom in to a predefined level.

I like this double tap zoom much more than the overly hyped two-finger-multitouch zoom which was introduced by the IPhone. The reason is simple: i’m holding my mobile phone in one hand, and i want to be able to surf one-handed. There is really no benefit at all in using a multitouch zoom method, where you need both hands, other than showing off the IPhones screen capabilities.

Opera mobile zoom
Opera mobile zoom

When tapping and holding the screen you can access the page menu, which gives you different options as shown on the following screenshot.

Opera mobile page options
Opera mobile page options

Pressing the star icon will open your bookmarks, which you can organize in different folders. Nothing special here, just the basic bookmark options.

Opera mobile bookmarks
Opera mobile bookmarks

The tabs icon will show you all the currently open tabs, as well as the option to open new tabs. The maximum number of tabs in opera mobile 9.5 is three. I think there are some registry keys which can change that limit, but depending on your device and the free ram it doesn’t make sense to have much more than three open tabs at a time.

Opera mobile tabs
Opera mobile tabs

Opening the main menu will give you access to the settings, your downloads, the page info, the browsing history and saved pages. You can also close opera mobile here with the exit button.

Opera mobile mainmenu
Opera mobile mainmenu

I think most options on the main menu are clear, so let’s take a look at the general settings as the final part of this review. You can set up the home screen url, change display options like deactivating the automatic fullscreen mode, delete data (cookies, cache, history, saved passwords) and configure advanced options (activating javascript, defining cache size, enabling plugins, enabling cookies).

Opera mobile general options
Opera mobile general options

Opera mobile is one of the best browsers out there. It easily outclasses the internet explorer, and while i didn’t really play alot around with the netfront browser, i have to say that no other option on windows mobile devices gives you this perfect combination of good speed and incredibly fingerfriendly user interface. I think it’s definitely on the same level as IPhones safari browser, and any windows mobile user who wants to use his device to surf around the net should get this app. The only reason it doesn’t get a five star rating is that there are instances where i would like it so be a little faster. But the upcoming opera mobile 9.7 should remedy this.

You can find the download of the beta version on the opera mobile homepage.

Rating: ★★★★½