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Review: Iris browser for Windows Mobile

The Iris browser is not as widespread as Opera Mobile, Netfront or Skyfire but it’s still one of the more useful windows mobile browsers out there. Iris is using the webkit engine to render pages, which is the same rendering method that is used for the Iphones Safari browser. Therefore the rendering is very clear, as you can see on the following screenshot, and in my opinion much better than Skyfire and netfront. Only Opera Mobile is up to par (on the windows mobile platform). Iris doesn’t support flash as for now.

Iris browser showing my blog
Iris browser showing my blog

One thing i immediately noticed after browsing on some pages like engadget is that while the rendering and full screen fit is working quite well, scrolling and zooming out will nearly always result in reloading of the page borders. So Iris will really only render that small part of the screen you are currently seeing and not much more. I think Opera Mobile is handling this in a better way since it seems like Opera Mobile is storing more information of the page in the background and not every scroll or zoom action will result in reloading the screen since opera is buffering more page content. This will of course cause more ram to be used by the browser, which is the downside of operas method. So only if you use an old device with very little ram (64MB or less) the approach Iris chooses might be making more sense, for all other users Opera Mobile method is providing the better usability.

The two soft keys “page” and “navigate” are available on the browser screen, which will give you access to different options. Using the page softkey will open the following menu:

Iris browser page options
Iris browser page options

You can open bookmarks and your browsing history, zoom settings, tabs, viewing options (mobile mode, desktop mode, column mode, fullscreen), tools (saving page, image capture, search in page) and the general options menu.

Iris browser tabs
Iris browser tabs

It is possible to open up to 4 tabs. One tab more than on the default Opera Mobile settings (which can be changed via registry keys).

Iris browser history
Iris browser history

The history page is quit nice and shows screenshots of each visited site. You can navigate through the pages, and choose the one to open.

Iris browser options
Iris browser options

By choosing options and then preferences in the menu you will get on the general settings page. On this page you can change the basic browser options, as seen on the screenshot above.

Iris browser navigation options
Iris browser navigation options

The right soft key will give you the standard navigation options like “back”, “forward”, “reload” and so on.

Torch mobile is providing a good browser with Iris, but while Skyfire adds flash support which is at least one point were opera mobile can’t compete, the Iris browser doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The rendering is very nice, but the user interface on Opera Mobile is much more advanced, intuitive and fingerfriendly. Rendering speed is also very similar. So i think Iris is an option for devices with less hardware power, because it uses less ressources than Opera Mobile. If your device has more than 64MB of RAM, there is no real need to switch to Iris. But even though Iris doesn’t support flash, i still like many aspects of it, in example the way pages are beautifully rendered. Therefore i think it deserves to get the same rating as Skyfire with Opera Mobile still being slightly ahead of the bunch.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Tested on: XDA Orbit II, 400mhz Qualcomm CPU, 128 MB RAM, 320*240 QVGA resolution.