Besides Opera Mobile, Iris and Skyfire there is another big name in the long list of Windows Mobile browsers called NetFront. NetFront has been longer around than other browsers like Iris, and therefore is quite sophisticated. Currently Access (the company behind NetFront) provides a public concept version of NetFront 3.5 for Windows Mobile. Can it match the usability and functionality of Opera Mobile? I will find that out with this review.
After installing the app i started out as always by browsing to my blog. My first impression was that the rendering engine used in Opera Mobile and the Iris browser is much nicer in my opinion. I think those two browser display the pages more like a desktop browser, since i don’t like the way text is rendered on NetFront. Another thing which i noticed was the missing navigation bar on the right column of my blog. No other Windows Mobile browser had any difficulties showing the navigation area, but NetFront just doesn’t show it at all, and i don’t know what the reason for this is. Just to give you a further idea of how NetFront renders pages, i also added a screen with ebay.
The main menu provides plenty of options, starting from different viewing configurations to browser modes as well as encoding and text modes. In this regard there is no other Windows Browser which is up to par, on NetFront you can really configure nearly every aspect of the browser. The rendering modes include full browsing, text browsing, simple browsing and rapid render. Text browsing will deactivate all pictures, while rapid render and simple browsing will also apply different ways of rendering a page faster.
You can also set the display mode to normal, smart-fit (all elements are adjusted to screen width) or just-fit (text is adjusted to screen width) rendering. The last two modes will show the page optimized to the mobile devices screen by using a one column layout.
By double tapping on the screen you will see a miniature version of the current page. That way it’s possible to quickly scroll through the page and zoom in by tapping on the selection box. I really like the scrolling of NetFront on the miniature view as well as on the normal view, since it’s very fluid.
Another nice feature is the way bookmarks are shown. You can see thumbnails of your favourite pages, which are organized on a circle. So it’s possible to scroll through the pages and easily open them.
The menu soft button will open different kinds of options including opening the page on a new window, checking out the browsing history and adding new bookmarks.
On the next screenshot you can see the general options. There is a huge amount of functions which can be set up here. I won’t go into detail on each function, but some of the options include defining the default zoom percentage and rendering mode, network configuration as well as dialog and memory options. There is also the possibility to define external tools which should be used to open different file extensions. One thing that is missing is flash support.
I already mentioned at the beginning of this review that NetFront has the widest variety of options for any Windows Mobile browser, and the good news is that the usability is also quite good. While the pure user interface is not as good as on Opera Mobile, and the rendering also isn’t as nice, NetFront still manages to get ahead of the bunch of other Windows Mobile browsers due to the overall quality. You can browse using many different rendering settings, and the speed as well as the scrolling will always be very fluid. I also like the double tap zoom which will give you a miniature view of the page without any delay. NetFront is a close second to Opera Mobile, which is still slightly better in my opinion, because of the rendering and fingerfriendly UI. But anybody searching for an Opera Mobile alternative should definitely try NetFront, since it’s the next best thing on Windows Mobile.
You can find the download on the official NetFront beta page. Also make sure to check out my other browser reviews: