OK, this isn't exactly a fair fight, but forget about that for a minute. To the average user it probably doesn't matter whether your browser is being rendered through a proxy, security and privacy implications be damned.
So casting that difference aside, our own resident Nokia Expert and regular ZDNet contributor Matt Miller set forth to test the beta version of Opera 9.7 against a number of other phones, including the T-Mobile G1, iPhone 3G, Nokia N97, Nokia 5800, Nokia N85 (hey, we told you he's a Nokia Expert) and iPhone 3GS. For the WinMo side, Matt was rocking Opera Mobile 9.7 on a Pharos Traveler 137.
And what did he find? In straight page-loading tests, Opera Mobile 9.7 won. Read his full findings here. Matt's also keen on the rendering.
Opera gets it right with Opera Mobile and is much smarter about optimizing your display size and resolution. The custom HTC builds of Opera Mobile even allow several custom zoom levels where the text always fits on the display just right. There is still work for Apple to do in the browser, but they definitely have the loading speed down pat.
Browser wars are a favorite pastime of smartphone nerds (Exhibit A, Exhibit B) and there are a ton of variables to take into account (not to mention one's own patience level). But if it's good enough for Matt, it's good enough for us. If you've got a touchscreen device, head on over to Opera and try out the 9.7 beta for yourself.