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Opera Mini 5 for Android
Today Opera Mini is continuing to conquer the world as actively as it was several years ago. These days it's employed not only by the owners of feature phones but also smartphone users and communicator aficionados, while various operators offer special Opera Mini related tariffs and conditions. As for the latest examples in Russia, Megaphone rolled out their "Unlimited Internet with Opera Mini" service some time ago. And up until recently the wonderful picture of Opera Mini's world dominance could only be spoiled by us complaining that it wasn't present on Android OS yet.
The reason is that unlike the S60 and Windows Mobile with their native Java support, Android-based devices are not capable of working with Java-apps out of the box. And Java-machines developed exclusively for this OS leave much to be desired, to put it mildly. That's why the users who had grown fond of Opera Mini and yet turned to Android for their new phones had either to put up with imperfection of an awkward bundle - java-machine plus Opera Mini for java - or search for another browser which is not an easy thing taking into account that many people opt for Opera Mini due to its absolutely evident advantage over all other browsers including Opera Mobile - it's not a traffic-hogging monster, which comes in handy considering the current trends in Internet browsing.
Several weeks ago Opera presented a "native" version of Opera Mini 5 for Windows Mobile and now it's Android's turn. Give a round of applause to Opera Mini 5 for Android, available in the Market app and not requiring any Java-machines to run properly.
Whether the brand-new browser supports various standards can be seen with the help of www.w3.org tests. I have runboth tests but, frankly speaking, I cannot assess them competently. That, perhaps, will be interesting for those who concern themselves with web standards, formats, etc., so I'll just throw in a couple of screenshots of tests results.
Links to the tests (in order to test the browser you should use a link from your Anrdoid-based device)
Opera Mini 5 (if I'm not mistaken) boasts an express-bar, much like its senior brother, Opera Mobile. Upon launching the browser you'll see an address bar, a search field; the remaining space is occupied by the express-bar consisting of nine tiny icons serving as shortcuts.
Clicking any of these thumbnails opens the link in the same window. In case the user wants to load another site he can just select the Tabs icon on the bar placed below. Its implementation is similar to that used in Opera Mobile 10.
With Opera Mini 5 you are free to have an unlimited number of the tabs open; it's quite another thing that it gets very fiddly when you use more than five in portrait more than ten in landscape mode.
The number of the pages open is displayed above the Tabs icon, thankfully it's easy to jump between various tabs. Clicking on the Tabs icon will bring up a small menu occupying about a quarter of the screen containing thumbnails of all pages you have opened. These thumbnails are lapped one over another in the way you can see a small piece of each site which is sufficient to understand what site it is.
Should you be unable to see the site content you can, holding your finger on the first page of the bar, move it left and right; at that the thumbnail that your finger is resting on at the moment get magnified so it becomes more or less easier to find the site you need. In case you want to close a tab from this menu, you can just punch the X icon.
There is one more question to clarify, and that's Opera Mini's hardware requirements. With 5 pages open the browser hogs about 4.5 MB of RAM; with 10 pages it's no different. The browser enjoys a memory leak free technology that works like that: Imagine that you have 10 tabs with different sites open, you skimmed through the first, then the second and the third and finally focused your attention on the fourth one. As time goes the browser sends the content of the pages, viewed long ago yet kept open, to cache or cleans it, while the page remains on the screen. And when you switch back to the page, the browser will offer you to refresh the page's contents or take it from the cache.
The browser allows saving an unlimited number of bookmarks. To view them you should enter the menu item with the same name. Each bookmark possesses a title that is displayed in the list as well as an icon (usually it is the favico). The icon is uploaded to the bookmarks menu after the selected page is fully loaded by the browser.
The bookmarks menu also allows adding new sites to the list. In the same window you can delete separate bookmarks or the whole folders.
Bookmarks can be stored not only in the general list; inside bookmarks menu you are free to create any folders you want, which is convenient; you can divide sites into various categories the way you do that on PC. The browser supports Opera Link service that helps to synchronize bookmarks, sites from express bar and search systems with PC and smartphone or between two devices.
Links and clicks
Any link in the browser can be opened in two ways. The first one is a simple click on the link that makes the latter load on the current page. The second way is to tap and hold it for about two seconds; after that a special menu where you can choose an option to open link in a new tab will appear.
When the page is displayed in its original size using cursor you can choose the part of the page you want to see in a given scale. Scaling with the help of finger gestures is not supported here except for the double click action. The browser also lacks multi touch and the feature won't appear in future.
Before the site, entered in the address line, gets rendered in Opera's Mini window it passes through a special Opera server where the information and pictures get compressed and reformatted for smartphone or handset's setup.
There are two rendering modes available with Opera Mini: mobile and standard. Should you tip towards the mobile type the page content gets stretched height-wise, rendered in the most phone-friendly way.
In standard mode, web pages are displayed "as is", i.e. as it would be displayed by your PC browser but once you press a zoom button or double tap on the screen it'll get stretched again. The browser offers two scales: overview ("as is" view) and close-up. Unfortunately you are deprived of opportunity to choose the extent to which you can zoom in.
Like in Opera Mobile the text scale is corrected all over the page. If in one part of the site the text is adjusted to the page width, shifting to another part of the site you will also see the text formatted to fit the screen width, even if it differs in size. For instance, on our site (www.mobile-review.com) this applies to the news feed (on the right), article preview (centre) and site menu.
Two black stripes, below ando n the right indicate your position on the page. Looking at these elements you can understand what area of site you are viewing, which is convenient when you've just zoomed in, but don't want to change the scale when you need to move to another area of the page.
Typing an address you can take advantage of automatic site selection - the browser offers variants from the list of pages you have already visited.
The browser supports cookies which allows you to save your logins on various sites and forums without entering your password any time you visit the page. When you enter your login or password on a site a pop up window will suggest saving them.
Opera Mini features a simple but quite convenient download manager that displays all downloaded and downloading files. Right from here you can open any of the files or delete them from the list.
Similar to Opera Mobile 10, in Opera Mini 5 you can make use of the page saving function. You should just upload a page and then click "Save" in menu "Saved pages" after that you are free to look the content of the downloaded page even if the device is not online.
Another useful feature is text search. In this case the text found is highlighted with a colored marker.
In terms of performance Opera Mini cannot be directly compared with other browsers. The very technology of channeling pages through a special server imposes some restrictions on the rendering speed; although in some cases it allows for higher rendering speed, compared to browsers deprived of this feature. In my case, however, Opera Mini loaded the pages a bit slower than Android's default browser. In some tests, with Engadget's page, for instance, the result is the opposite: Mini loaded it quicker. Probably the speed depends on many factors including site layout, servers location, connection type, etc.
But generally speaking Mini's speed is nothing to dwell upon; you won't have to yawn waiting when every next page is downloaded. And after the site is loaded navigation on the page is conducted smoothly without any hiccups.
There is almost nothing interesting to say as what can I really say about my experience with one of the most famous and popular browsers around? If you already use Opera Mini 5 in your handset then you'll feel right at home with its Android-based counterpart. If you don't then it is worth trying as in terms of usability Opera Mini doesn't lose much to the original Android browser and on some fronts is even superior and isn't as traffic-hungry.
One thing I have to say, though, it's great to see that Opera have already released a native version of Opera Mini for Windows Mobile and now Android. Effectively, they are removing all obstacles on Opera's way to all platforms. Until recently it was the lack of adequate java-machines that held it back, but now even this barrier is gone.
Published - 18 March 2010
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