Opera Mini review for Windows Phone

Opera is one of the most popular browsers on the market, especially in mobile where it adopts the 'Mini' moniker. The reason for its popularity, especially in emerging markets is due to its ability to compress upwards of 90% of the data between external servers and your phone. Having a data plan with multiple gigabytes is common in the U.S. as well as abundant free Wi-fi networks. However, for many markets or people traveling, things are more reserved making every byte really count.

Windows Phone users have limited options when it comes to browsing due to Microsft's constraints. Opera Mini is one of the few well-known browsers to make it to the Store. Today, it received a nice update to version 8.1.0.118 and here is our review.

Interface

The interface of Opera Mini is certainly one of the browser's highlights. The first page you see is the so-called 'Speed Dial' section that displays websites that are often frequented. The format should be very familiar to Windows Phone users with its square Tile design. Indeed, users can drag and drop Tiles onto to each other to create folders to group similar sites together. Users can add or delete any sites on the page at any time, making it feel very customized.

Looking at the lower toolbar you can see the Browser Tabs selector and a giant 'O' where users can bring up numerous options. These settings include Bookmarks, Downloads, Share feature, Find on Page and General browser options. Users also get a nifty 'data savings' graph that displays how much data was saved in a graph form as well as actual numbers. For instance, I only used 9.2 MB from an actual 70.8 MB resulting in an astounding 87% savings.

Browsing history can be cleared individually or all at once giving users fine-grained control. There is also private browsing for when you do not want to leave any tracks.

Opera browser can open Zip files directly, and users can download and save images. Later, downloads can be revisited using the download manager. Files are saved to the default areas of the phone, which you can configure in the OS settings.

Another data-savings feature is the ability to save articles and web pages for offline viewing. If you find a webpage, you would like to read later just tap the 'plus' button near the address bar. This file is then saved to the Speed Dial page under 'Saved Pages'.

On the Speed Dial page, there is a universal web address and search bar present. By default, the search engine is Google and unfortunately it cannot be changed to Bing, which is something I would prefer. However, you can set the search engine to Amazon, eBay or Wikipedia by tapping the icon in the bar. This change lets you directly search within those sites and is very convenient if you use that function often.

Today's update

Version 8.1.0.118 came today and with it a few performance improvements and bug fixes. Additionally, users also get:

  • Wide Tile that is also Live, flipping to reveal your data savings
  • Change Background, under Settings
  • Scroll to top/bottom buttons, which appear whenever you scroll down/up

These are certainly welcomed additions, and the browser does feel and work better than the previous release from June.

Performance

Overall, Opera Mini does what it is supposed to do: save massive amounts of data. In terms of raw performance, there is a bit of a lag due to the compression needed from Opera's servers. There are also occasional visual glitches and empty boxes as a result of the compressions. It is not a deal breaker, but obviously you are not getting the prettiest version of that web page due to the data savings.

Another issue is the browser cannot be set as default. So every time you click a hyperlink in an email or WhatsApp message, Internet Explorer opens instead. This limitation is no fault of Opera's as Microsoft just does not allow other default browsers on Windows Phone.

Users have also left some negative reviews in the Store, mostly pointing to stability issues. We have not experienced those, but it is clear others are so your mileage may vary. Today's update is certainly worth checking out to see if things have improved.

Opera Mini is a good choice if you are traveling, data roaming or have a limited data plan. It is not exactly ideal for those with unlimited LTE connections as those users should be okay with Internet Explorer.

Opera Mini Live Tile

Although performance in the browser is slower than what I would like, it is not clear if this is completely Opera's fault. Microsoft's developer tools for Windows Phone 8.1 are quite limited in creating quality third-party web browsers tying the hands of Opera's developers. Will this be better in Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile? Likely but Opera has not yet committed to Windows 10 and a universal app, so it remains to be seen if they will attempt a new version. (Currently, Opera Mini is unable to be found in the Windows 10 Store, but this appears to be a temporary glitch with Microsoft's new format).

For now, those who like Opera's design and need to save data will benefit greatly from Opera Mini, even it can be frustrating at times. Options are always wise, and I'll likely use this browser when I am data roaming when traveling abroad.

Do you use Opera Mini? What are your favorite features? What would you like to see Opera do with Window and Windows Phone? Let us know in comments!

Download Opera Mini for Windows Phone 8.1 (Free)

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

105 Comments
  • Scrolling is still horrible on my L730 otherwise I've seen this browser evolve into a great browser, slowly replacing IE which misbehaves sometimes
  • Yeah, I wish performance was better. Hopefully they can make some progress there but my guess is there is only so much they can do with the current tools Microsoft gives them. Windows 10 is different if only because the APIs and tools Microsoft gives out to devs are the very same ones they are using to build their first-party apps. That was not the case with 8 and 8.1.
  • I remember using Opera MIni on my Symbian phone five years ago and it was so much smoother than it is right now on a much more powerful hardware. Shameful for whoever is serving as a bottleneck.
  • This browser is painfully slow.... I did really try to like it but meh.
  • It isn't supposed to be better or as good as other web browsers that are connected to decent data speeds. It's designed to work better than other browsers at poor connection speeds, while saving data usage. If only 2g t-mobile data is available in the USA, this can be usable while IE is beyond painfully slow, to the point of being way worse than Opera mini. That is the comparison that needs to be made.
  • Very good point and it's why I point out if you are on LTE or having unlimited data, this browser is really not meant for you. I'm sure people in emerging markets appreciate the data savings and improved speed.
  • I had issues with it rendering multiple websites incorrectly, so I stopped using it. If it can't even display pages properly, why would I waste my time.
  • Team pls bring good optimization and little ux lacks in that much and and can be made more the ui can be improved not still satisfied ..can imagine as opera want like opera browser white like
  • Just tried it yesterday. UI looks good but it is utterly slow on 925 to download/render. Scrolling and zooming is stuttering too. It still has the potential, I'd say, though with Edge coming...
  • in short use IE don't use this one
  • In short use this on a limited data plan.
  • Opera link still not supported so bang goes all my stored speed dial entries then
  • Opera Link works perfectly fine for me. The only headache is their Mobile Bookmarks all stay in an Opera Mobile folder, so you'll have to reorganize them from a desktop or maintain two separate bookmark organizations.
  • How do you even login?
  • I tried this but jt just wasn't for me. I'll stick with IE but I am glad to see more choices nonetheless for those who need them
  • But, can't link it to my opera account..and that is very unfortunate for me..
  • I think opera mini is now finest in Windows phone store,after few updates they can beat UC browser if not bargained. Also they should introduce a new universal Windows app which can run on Phone/tablets/PCs after the launch of Windows 10/mobile.
  • Finest? Not yet bro. It lags like hell :/
  • We finally get a good alternative to IE on Windows Mobile. We have yet to see what Opera and Mozilla will do for Windows 10 Mobile and whether or not they will release a universal web browser app. As for Opera Mini on WP8.1, I have tried it but IE tends to work better since web pages don't have any lag in them and most of the content shows up. I tried disabling Data save feature in Opera Mini but once I close the app, it resets my settings.  
  • I like some of the controls / options, but I've seen speed / stability and rendering issues as well. Being unable to select Bing as my search engine is a absolute deal-breaker omission for me.
  • Much better than IE for me!
  • Even after so many updates to the Opera app, it still has a rating of 2.6 on the store !! So what's the point of reviewing the same app after each update which hardly brings anything new except bugs ??
  • This is our first review of Opera Mini. Not sure what you are referring to. Also, it takes time for positive reviews to balance out negative ones if things have fixed.
  • Sorry to say Dan, but things haven't improved. They seem to remain the same even after so many updates. Open more than 2-3 tabs and there crashes Opera. Upon startup takes 5-7 seconds for the speed dials to shpw up and sometimes wouldn't show up at all. :/ BTW, it was a grat review and you guys are doing a great job. Thanks to you all :) Edit: Things are much better after this update :) 
  • Thanks, glad you liked it. Yeah, I saw the reviews about tab crashing but even yesterday when we tested the older version, we could not reproduce it on a few phones. Not discounting the criticisms, which is why I specifically point it out in the review. Glad though to hear things are getting better with today's update!
  • Being a loyal fan and user of Opera browser (Desktop, Windows Mobile 5 and 6.x and now WP) I was very frustrated with the slowness of this beloved browser. But after this update, I am more confident that the guys in WP Opera team are finally making this browser worth while. The time for Opera Mini loaded on my phone is 1 second. The speed dials now shows instantly once the browser is up. Rendering is much better and faster, even with 8 open tabs, Opera Mini WP never crashed on me (at least not in the last 3 versions). As Dan said, this browser is good if you are abroad or when every byte of your data plan counts. Opera Mini is finally heading to the right direction and it is just a matter of time when it will be one of the best (as it was irreplaceable on Windows Mobile 6.x devices, remember those?). Everything with this latest update works faster, except that damn non-smooth scrolling and they can make option to change Speed Dial background with our custom wallpapers from our phone, just as Surfy (maybe the best WP browser atm) have it. Bottom line, I am sticking with Opera Mini for WP, because i use it and because i want to see how it will evolve. Excellent review btw Dan. :) Oh, btw, I am on Samsung ATIV S i8750 (with WP8.1.1 + Official Samsung latest firmware)
  • haven't used opera since windows mobile 6.5, so it's been a LONG while. maybe i'll give it a shot over the weekend.
  • I am an Opera fan, but Opera Mini has alwasy been very slow on my L930. I just installed the latest update, and I am not able to display any page. I always end up with a blank page. I like the UI, but Opera has to load the pages - and with speed similar to IE.
  • You forgot to indicate that private tab has been added to opera mini
  • I mention private tabs.
  • Not yet available in stores for windows 10 mobile.
  • This is noted at the end of the article.
  • Its available on windows 10(mobile store), i just checked & installed it
  • I dont think its available still it shows page not available
  • Trust me its available, how do i show you screenshot
  •   it is available : check screenshot  ( http://imgur.com/pfc6O3I  )    windows 10 mobile OS - windows store ( you can install ) opera 
  • So what is happening is there is a glitch. None of us here at Windows Central can see it in the store or download it. Obviously it is hit and miss for some users.
  • In the web its showing its available when it redirects to windows 10 mobile store it shows page not found
  • When i changed my region from india to usa it worked now opera mini is showing in the store
  • Finally got it.
  • I can see it an istall it, but the store page was in Spanish for some reason :D  
  • Thanks a lot Opera mini team finally I got background downloading option in wp......
  • hello !  daniel_rubino . hope they change their mind         
  • No landscape mode :(