Norway-based Opera has built a reputation as a very fast and reliable independent browser for desktops and mobile devices. Opera Mobile -- available just for Android -- includes Off-Road mode, which speeds up browsing, and a design that makes the most of small screens.
Fast or faster -- it's your choice. Opera Mobile is currently only available for Android; Opera Mini, a stripped down version of Opera, works with iPhones. Thanks to its support of the latest web standards, Opera Mobile is a top performer in speed tests, often going toe-to-toe with Chrome and other fast-loading browsers. While its speed out of the box is impressive, you can use an "Off-Road" option in its menu bar that uses a cached version of pages for even faster loading, like on its desktop sibling Opera. This is especially helpful for users who might find themselves on a slower mobile or Wi-Fi network. (For those on limited data plans, an app called Opera Max, currently in beta form, claims to save impressive amounts of data by significantly compressing pages.)
Multiple layout options and easy tab management. Opera Mobile boasts customized layouts: There's a phone, tablet or "classic" view, the latter of which makes it easier to navigate if you're holding the phone with one hand. Opera Mobile also offers text wrapping, a viewer that adjusts page sizes automatically and simpler tab management than its competitors. In one survey, however, Opera users' biggest complaint was that the text and images on pages did not seem to load properly. (This likely is a casualty of Off-Road mode's quick-loading compressed pages; Opera Mobile also doesn't support Flash.) Tabbed web pages have thumbnails with previews, making it easier to navigate multiple open websites.
Privacy settings need to be activated. Like all mobile browsers, Opera Mobile isn't at the forefront of the privacy wars. Opera's main focus is on speed and features, not privacy and security. While private tabs can be opened easily, private browsing is not the default and Opera Mobile does not contain a Do Not Track option. Opera Mobile users also listed security concerns as their No. 2 issue with the browser in one survey, even though the browser has fraud protection and warns you that a site may pose a security risk. If privacy is your main concern, consider the new Dolphin Zero, which claims to leave zero trace of your browsing history.
1. Laptop Magazine
Opera Mobile takes the top spot in this comparison of Android browsers. Editors like its clean interface, speed and up-to-date standards support.
Review: Best Android Browser: Chrome vs. Firefox vs. Opera vs. Dolphin, Cherlynn Low, March 31, 2014
Opera comes in third in Fixya's Mobile Browser Usability Report, a reliability indicator that focuses on how many "fix-it" requests there are for each browser, with 20 percent of users reporting security concerns (40 percent had issues with screen real estate).
Review: Fixya Mobile Browser Report: How Users Feel About Chrome, Safari, IE, Opera, and the Android Stock Browser, Editors of Fixya.com, Oct. 16, 2013
This reviewer focuses on Opera's new tablet interface. Hindy likes that tabs are treated like tabs on a desktop and that the browser tried to optimize every inch of space (or screen real estate as it's called) in the tablet view.
Review: Opera Browser updated with new look for Tablets, Joe Hindy, Nov. 22, 2013
In this older review, PCMag.com gives Opera Mobile 12 an excellent rating because of its clean design, ease of use and features like bookmark syncing and shortcuts to sites (called speed dials.) Dolphin wins the Editors' Choice award for Android browsers.
Review: Opera Mobile 12 (for Android), Sara Yin, William Felton, March 26, 2012
5. IT Pro
In this roundup of top Android browsers, Opera Mobile is praised for using less data than competitors. The reviewer prefers Android's stock browser and Chrome, however.
Review: Android browser head-to-head: Chrome vs Dolphin vs Firefox vs Maxthon vs Opera Mobile vs Skyfire, Gareth Halfacree, Oct. 29, 2012
Cunningham praises Opera Mobile's new features including the speed dial page that collects favorite sites and bookmarks.
Review: New Opera for Android looks like Opera, tastes like Chrome, Andrew Cunningham, May 21, 2013
CNET offers a useful walkthrough of Opera Mobile, highlighting its interface, usability and features like Off-Road mode. Shankland doesn't review the browser, but provides a wealth of information about it.
Review: A tour of the WebKit-based Opera for Android, Stephen Shankland, Feb. 26, 2013
CNET editors give Opera's mobile browser 4 out of 5 stars -- an "excellent" rating -- because of its easy syncing, automatic adjustment of page views and text wrapping. CNET declares: "Opera Software markets its Opera Mobile application as providing the best user experience on the market, and the company is telling the truth."
Review: Opera Browser, CNET staff, March 5, 2013
This short write-up of Opera Max beta isn't a review, but it outlines all the new features offered. Molen says Opera Max compresses data at unprecedented levels, and thus makes it easier to interact with rich multimedia websites.
Review: Opera Max beta compresses most of the data going through your Android device, Brad Molen, Dec. 17, 2013