Compressing your incoming data isn't without consequence but Opera Mini can save you a bundle of it.

In a world where many of us take for granted high limit or unlimited mobile data plans, it's easy to forget that it's not the same for everyone the world over. Truth is, metered plans are more common that truly unlimited ones. And that can mean being frugal with your data in places.

When it comes to saving data, Opera is a name right at the forefront. We've previously looked at Opera Max, an all encompassing solution, but now it's time to focus on web browsing. You might not need to compress all your data, but if you spend a lot of time browsing the web on your smartphone then Opera Mini is something you should look at.

The browser has been around on Android -- and other platforms -- for some time and as the years have passed it's become more and more refined. The extra advantage Android users of Opera Mini have, of course, is that you can easily set it as your default browser.

So, what actually is it? What makes it special? After all, Android has a ton of web browsers to choose from.

As we've already mentioned, the party piece here is the data compression allowing you to browse the web and use less of your precious GeeBees while you do it. You don't have to use the data saving modes, but if you're using Opera Mini at all it's probably because that's what you want. Opera has another browser for Android if you just want to browse, full fat.

Browse the web and use less of your precious GeeBees while you do it

You have two basic levels of data saving: High and extreme. Extreme is what we've been using for the purposes of this review and have experienced a whopping 87% saving. Just 12MB received out of a full 90MB. High tones things down a little but still makes significant savings.

Opera Mini

What's also pretty fantastic is that you can further fine tune the experience beyond just the two presets when it comes to images. Let's face it, images are going to be a big offender if you're trying to not use your data. But, if you still want to be able to see them at high(er) quality, you can.

And for what it's worth, that high quality setting has been enabled in our 87% saving. So Opera is clearly indulging in witchcraft or something.

We also already mentioned right at the beginning that this type of browsing isn't without consequence, and we mean it. It's important to note that while you're using Opera Mini there are some sites that won't load properly, leaving you with a mess of text and links that might not mean anything. There are also some sites that just won't load at all and may even tell you to use a different browser. This only seems to happen in "extreme" mode.

In our experience the latter is thankfully still rare, but it's still something to remember. Mostly, though, you get a solid mobile browsing experience. How extreme any side effects are depends on the level of data compression you've imposed.

Mostly you get a solid mobile browsing experience

So, what else do you get besides the data compression. It's a web browser after all, so you expect certain features. And on the most part Opera Mini covers the necessary bases. If you have an Opera log in the first thing you should do is to enter it into Opera Mini and sync your particulars across your browsers.

You get bookmarks (obviously) and the ability to save pages for offline reading without using something like Pocket, which is nice. On the speed dial page you also get a selection of top current news stories interspersed with a couple of ads. Opera has bills to pay, too. Other regular browser like features are also present and correct, like in page search, sharing and history. All are quickly accessible just by tapping the Opera logo in the bottom right hand corner. Also on hand is private browsing for, er, those private things you want to browse privately, and switching between those tabs and normal ones is a breeze.

In fact the tab switching as a whole is very nicely done. A simple, yet attractive user interface, with headers for "normal" and "private" to flick between.

Opera Mini

A couple of other points worth highlighting:

  • Opera Mini is great for the Facebook junkies out there. Facebook's web app isn't awful these days and with Opera Mini you can be social and save your data while you're doing it. Especially since the Facebook app can just devour your allowance. If you log in to your Facebook account in Opera Mini you can get your notifications from the browser without ever going near the dedicated app. Nifty.
  • Just because you're conserving doesn't mean you don't still need to download files from time to time. Opera Mini will let you handle multiple downloads in the background and give you an easy way to get at them inside the browser.
  • There's a night mode and a setting to reduce eye strain. Both are probably OK for text but less so if you're looking at images.

For the most part Opera Mini is a web browser just as many others are. But the data compression stuff underneath is pretty extraordinary and reason alone to consider it. If you're on a tight data plan it could definitely help you out, and since it's free, there's no reason not to at least give it a whirl.

Download Opera Mini (Free)