Let's skip to the chase on this one so follow the break to see some screen shots along with our observations on Opera Mobile 10 Beta.
If you missed the announcement, Opera Software has released the Beta version of their mobile internet browser, Opera Mobile 10. You can download the cab file here (or from your mobile browser at m.opera.com/mobile) and installation is a breeze. Keep in mind that this is a BETA application, more or less a work in progress. It has been released to consumers to help identify performance errors as well as finding out what works right. Beta versions gives the application a fresh set of eyes to help fine tune the app.
Opera 10 is hoping to bring more of a desktop browsing experience to your Windows phone and the new layout of Opera 10 is a nice step in that direction. Opera 10 also has noticeably more zip to it at times. It can still be a little laggy in loading pages but for the most part, the speed is impressive.
When you open the browser, you are greeted with Opera's Index Page. It's a 3x3 button grid where you can associate favorite web pages to each button and display a thumbnail picture to help you remember what button is a which.
Here is where you find the first glitch. The thumbnails are automatically generated from the web page you've chosen for that particular button. Sometimes you get a nice thumbnail, sometimes you get a gray circle or plain white box, and sometimes you get a thumbnail from an unrelated site. It would have been nice to have had the option of choosing a text title or the thumbnail. It would also be nice to have the option to make the boxes smaller so you can increase the number of boxes beyond nine.
Page loads are, overall, quicker than with previous Opera Mobile versions. The page view seems more cleaner with Opera Mobile 10 and it occupies the full screen of your Windows Phone. Scrolling is more responsive and you no longer have the checkerboard pattern appear as your page redraws. The pages seem to load fully eliminating the need to redraw.
The URL window and Google Search window remains stationary on Opera 10 (hides itself on other versions) and as you scroll down the page, the URL window moves with the top of the page.
If you see the text columns of websites crunched to the left, don't worry, it's another glitch preventing the text from expanding to it's intended layout.
Zooming has changed a little in that you no longer have to double tap to zoom into an area, you simply tap. When a page is zoomed, a back arrow appears at the bottom left of the screen that you'll use to zoom out. The zoom bar on the Tilt2 did not work and I'm not sure if future releases of Opera 10 will recognize the zoom bar or other native zoom controls.
Opera Mobile has had tabbed pages before but Opera 10 takes the tabs to a new level. When you create a second web page, a thumbnail of that page appears on the tab and there is a nice carousel animation as you scroll through the tabs. Phil's video review highlights this animation and feature really well.
Previous versions of Opera Mobile used an icon bar across the bottom of the page that could be pulled up as needed. Here is where you could access your bookmarks, tabs, stop/back buttons, home page and the settings menus. With Opera 10 you still have that navigation bar (minus home page) but when you tap on the wrench/tools menu instead of getting a pull-up menu you get a series of icon buttons (widgets for the younger crowd).
With the "tools" buttons you can access your bookmarks, history, saved pages, settings, a search on a page feature, access the help menu and exit the application. The settings are just about standard for Opera Mobile with a few exceptions. Opera Turbo is an option to increase page load speeds. In comparing load time with and without Opera Turbo, I couldn't tell a difference. Full-screen mode hides the bottom navigation bar and I couldn't tell the difference with Mobile view on or off. You also have a pop-up window blocker under the advanced options menu.
Yep, it's a Beta
Make no mistake, Opera Mobile 10 Beta is a work in progress. Opera Software has done a really good job building a foundation for a very good mobile browser but there is still work to be done.
While I did experience some lag times with page loads, times have shortened. WMExperts.com took just over seven seconds to load with Opera 10 and about ten seconds with Opera 9.5. As the Turbo feature improves hopefully these times will be more consistent.
The one thing that was noticeably missing was a home page or button to send you back to the index page. If Opera Mobile 10 Beta has one, I couldn't find it. I liked the index page but once you leave it, you either have to back the pages up to get back to it or re-start the browser. There's enough room in the tools buttons that Opera could add a "index" or "home" button.
Stability wise, Opera Mobile 10 isn't the greatest. In running it on the AT&T Tilt2 the browser crashed with regularity. Most of the time the browser crashed during periods of inactivity.
I also liked the create bookmark icon that was on the previous versions' navigation bar. It made starting the bookmark process a one step process. With Opera Mobile 10, you have to tap the tool icon, then the bookmark icon. It may be a minor nit but I like the direct access.
All in all
All in all, Opera Mobile 10 Beta is an improvement over previous versions. Once the kinks get ironed out, it will be an admirable mobile browser for the competition to contend with. The page load speeds have improved, the appearance more desktop-like, and the touch navigation more responsive. Opera Mobile 10 has better multiple web-page capabilities with the improvements on the page tabs and the ability to search and save pages is a handy feature to have.
You can get your copy of the Beta version at Opera's website or by pointing your mobile browser to m.opera.com/mobile and take it out for a test drive yourself. Just keep in mind that it is a Beta application and glitches will be present.
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