We mentioned some time ago that Opera was going turbo. Well, the popular mobile browser has done just that with the release of Opera 9.7 Beta. According to the news release:

"Opera Mobile 9.7 beta is now available to accelerate the mobile browsing experience for Windows Mobile-based phones. Speed is at the heart of this beta release due to the addition of Opera’s recently launched technology for faster surfing, Opera Turbo. Opera has also included its newly upgraded browser engine, called Opera Presto 2.2, for faster page loads and better overall performance. With the added bonus of Opera Widgets, Opera Mobile 9.7 gets you the Web content you want in fewer clicks and less time."

We had the opportunity to test drive the Beta Release over the weekend. Follow the break to see our initial impression of Opera 9.7 Beta as well as information on Opera Widgets Beta and a demo video.

In the few days I've had to tinker with Opera 9.7 Beta, one thing is for certain: It is noticeably faster than previous versions of Opera Mobile. It may very well be the fastest mobile browser on the market. Like Skyfire, Opera Mobile 9.7 utilizes serve side rendering to free up phone resources and improve download rates and overall performance. Quoting Jon Von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera Software:

“There are other mobile browsers on the market that claim to be faster and more Web site-compatible on Windows-based phones, but I challenge users to take Opera Mobile for a test drive and discover a new standard for speed and compatibility. Opera Mobile 9.7 leaves other “sluggish” and “painfully slow”browsers in the dust."

I will admit that the speed of Opera Mobile 9.7 was the first impression I had with the Beta application and it made 9.7 really stand out.

Keep in mind that Opera 9.7 is a Beta application and there will be hiccups, hangups, and quirks to the application. In using Opera 9.7 Beta, while page loads were fast sometimes the page rendering took a couple of seconds to adjust to the screen and, at times, a few tries to get it right.

I was testing Opera 9.7 on an AT&T Fuze and in going to my photography website I received some interesting results. While the download took only a matter of seconds, the rendering of the site wasn't always correct. The download speeds were consistent and more times than not, did Opera Mobile 9.7 get it right.

Overall, I was very impressed with the Beta application. I did notice the zoom feature took some effort to initiate. I had to firmly double tap the screen to zoom in on a page. There were also times when I'd double-tap an area to zoom into and a different area of the page enlarged. Links also took a little more effort to tap. Again, this is a Beta application and some bumps will need ironing out.

Navigation and menus appear to be your typical of other Opera browsers. The one excepting being the Turbo setting.

Along with Opera Mobile 9.7 Beta, Opera has also released Opera Widgets.  Opera Widgets allow users to access their favorite services with just one click. Widgets have been created to connect with Twitter, Google Translate and other services as well as RSS feeds, games and other online resources. You can find out more about widgets over at Opera's Widget site. I've got to tinker with widgets before I decide whether or not they are an advantage. Right now, I'm wondering how they are better than your basic browser bookmark.

While the widget concept verdict is still pending, the Opera Mobile 9.7 Beta is definitely worth a test drive. You can download your free copy here and judge it and the Widgets for yourself.

If you need a little more convincing, here's a demo video courtesy of Opera Mobile.