Home' LAPTOP Magazine : November 2010 Contents SOFTWARE
Opera Mini 5.1
Fast load times are paramount, which is why Opera
Mini is so compelling. This mobile browser loads
full desktop web pages in less than half the time it
Opera Mini's interface does a decent job of
balancing simplicity and functionality. The basic
interface includes a title bar, an address bar plus
multi-search field, and a toolbar. Address/Search
disappears as you scroll down. In full-screen mode
the title and toolbars fade away.
A tap expands the search bar to the full-screen
width, revealing a dropdown of search choices.
Users can search Amazon, Google, Wikipedia, and
The toolbar features Back/Zoom Out, Forward,
Refresh, Windows/Tabs, and Tools. Oft-used fea-
tures, such as bookmarks, are two to three taps
away. However, this is mitigated by robust keyboard
Opera Mini's multitouch capabilities aren't as
smooth or intuitive as those of Dolphin HD, Skyfire,
or the native Android browser. There is only one level
of zoom. Snap-to columns reportedly make reading
and vertical scrolling easier, though we didn't find
this to be the case.
Users can choose whether the browser loads
the full or mobile versions of sites under Settings.
Opera Mini allows users to have more than a
dozen windows open at once. The Tabs button on
the toolbar shows how many windows are currently
open, and tapping the button displays thumbnails
of each open site.
On Android 2.1 phones, Flash 10.1 plays as
well in Opera Mini as it does in the stock browser.
On pages with too many instances, however, the
browser slowed down considerably.
Opera Mini's setting and customization offerings
are slim, which isn't surprising given the developer's
emphasis on a lean, fast app. Opera Mini's privacy
settings let users save or clear passwords, cookies,
and history; but there's no way to clear the cache.
Also, there's no private browsing option.
Opera Link synchronizes Speed Dial settings,
bookmarks, and the search engines between Opera
Mini and Opera on the desktop. Users can save
pages for later reading as an HTML download.
There's no easy way to share web pages or links
using social networks.
Opera Mini is light-
ning fast. The full/
desktop version of
in 5.7 seconds on aver-
age, and NYTimes.com
loaded in an average
of 6.3 seconds---more
than two and three
times faster than the
tively. For more speed,
users can choose not
to load images by default and toggle image quality
between low, medium, and high.
Opera Mini's speedy load times and conserva-
tive bandwidth usage are great for those with data
caps, slow connections, or little patience. However,
the browsing experience and the skimpy suite of
settings bring this browser's rating down.
Fast page loads
Reduces phone data usage
Multiple search engines available
from address bar
Mediocre multitouch support
Lacks robust customization options
No share capability
Important features buried too deep in menus
Skyfire's back-end technology lets even Android
1.5 users play videos from such sites as CBS
.com. Coupled with fairly fast load times and a
well-designed interface, this browser lets Android
owners do it all without much compromise.
Skyfire's interface struck us as somewhat busy
at first, but we quickly came to appreciate that
many oft-used functions were just one tap away.
The two-row toolbar contains the address field and
Refresh button, with buttons for Back, Bookmark,
Windows/Tabs, Mobile/Desktop mode switch, and
More. In landscape mode all of the buttons move
to a single bar, and this toolbar disappears as you
The SkyBar toolbar contains the Video, Explore,
and Share buttons. Fortunately, tapping the Menu
button dismisses this toolbar. Users can also disable
the toolbar permanently under Settings.
Skyfire has true multitouch functionality with
multiple levels of zoom. Unfortunately, text didn't
always reflow to fit the screen.
We easily toggled between the desktop and
mobile versions of a web page from the top toolbar.
Users can also force Skyfire to display one version or
the other, or let the websites you visit decide which
version to load.
The SkyBar's Video
button shows avail-
able clips on a page.
Flash clips play even
if your phone doesn't
have Android 2.2. The
files for smart phones
via Skyfire's servers,
translating the format
to improve battery life.
Skyfire's video render-
ing took a minute or more before the clip began, and
frame rates weren't as smooth as native Flash 10.1.
Hulu continues to block Skyfire and other Flash
video solutions for mobile browsers, and some
sites (such as CW.com) require a proprietary player
download that won't work with Android.
Skyfire is light on customization options. You can
set the initial zoom for web pages, and turn off Load
plug-ins such as Flash. Under the privacy settings,
users can clear stored data---passwords, history,
cache, form data, location info, cookies---and choose
whether to save this info in the browser at all. There's
no specific setting for Private Browsing.
The full version of NYTimes.com loaded in an
average of 18.3 seconds, which was slower than
the stock browser (14.7). However, Skyfire loaded
Laptopmag.com faster than both Dolphin HD and
the stock browser.
Skyfire offers customers with Android phones
stuck in pre-Froyo limbo a way to enjoy Flash video
without the official plug-in, and it even has some
features that would benefit Android 2.2 owners.
Plays back Flash video on all Android versions
Most options easily accessible
Poor zoom functionality
Sluggish video performance
Browser Speeds Compared (seconds; lower is better)
LAPTOP | November 2010
Links Archive December 2010 October 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page