We had a chance to play with Opera 9.5 tonight and boy-o, let us tell you, it's good stuff. It was loaded on an HTC Cruise, a device which we're not as enamored with as you might think. Nevertheless the Opera 9.5 Beta we toyed around with was as fast as we expected. We also learned that it does a better job with javascript and ajax-heavy sites than previous versions. Also new to us: page saving for offline reading and a password manager (a feature which would, if it sync'd up right, make us seriously consider using Opera on my desktop as well).

There were a few beta-type bugs here and there (specifically we never quite managed to get YouTube working), but the tappy-zoomy-speedy-touchy goodness was there in full effect. It's due out “this summer” and right now it looks like it will be the browser to beat on Windows Mobile.

Oh, and if you can't wait for Opera Mobile, Opera Mini is going 4.1 any minute now -- with the ability to download files, auto-complete urls, save pages for offline viewing, and it's supposed to be 50% faster as well. Get your JVM going.