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Opera Mini review

Opera Mini for Android is first and foremost for those of you who want and/or need to conserve data, just like its "bigger" counterpart, Opera Max. Maybe you have a very limited allotment or maybe you're on a pay-as-you-go plan. Either way, Opera Mini's High and Extreme data saving modes can save you gigs and cash.

That's great, but does it offer a good experience beyond the data savings? After all, it's about the journey, not the destination. And, for the most part, it is a decent browser; however, if you're someone who likes to enjoy absolutely everything the internet has to offer, warts and all, then Opera Mini might not be for you.

With the latest iteration of the browsing app, Opera has added two new features: a built-in ad blocker and the ability to make web apps. These might sound great in theory, but do they really add much to the overall user experience?

The overall layout is incredibly user-friendly.

To start, the ability to search the web, images, video, news, and Amazon, and scan a QR code right from the home page is wonderful. You get where you want to go without having to go through the motions.

Having local news on the homepage is also a boon to Opera's interface, since there's no need for Googling and you can also add news based on your interests through the customization feature. I also like the ability to sync your Opera browsers across devices. This way, you can seamlessly go from desktop to mobile without having to go back and find your place again.

Switching between tabs feels very fluid and is visually great, and you have the immediate option to choose a private tab if you so desire. The overall layout, in fact, is incredibly user-friendly. None of the settings are cumbersome to find, and the layout is full but not overwhelming in the slightest.

Now, the ad blocker ... or, what purports to be an ad blocker. I tried over and over again with various sites and still saw plenty of ads. Most sites that rely on advertising will have native ads that bypass ad blockers, but I was even getting pop-ups. I tried on both Extreme and High mode, just to see if there was a difference. Of course, Extreme eliminates many of the photos and banners that you see in High mode, but that's the way it works anyway.

The second "new" feature is the ability to make web apps. For those of you who don't know, a web app is a home screen shortcut to a website. Opera claims that this new feature is wonderful because web apps take up far less space than native apps. No duh.

Web apps are new to Opera Mini but have been around for years.

At this point, the term "web app" is altogether misleading. Web apps may be new to Opera Mini, but Chrome's had that ability for years and Apple's been doing it since before apps were apps (iOS 1.2). In the age of expandable memory for many Android users, this doesn't seem valuable; they should've had it from the get-go. The only thing a web app saves you is having to open the browser and tap the shortcut in your Speed Dial.

Now let's talk about speed. For starters, the app is a bit sluggish on open. With Chrome, I can open it, tap the search bar, and the response is immediate. With Opera Mini, it takes a few seconds for it to figure out what's what.

Opera Mini claims to get you to websites faster than other browsers thanks to data compression. Maybe my maple syrup Canadian LTE is lightning quick, but I haven't seen any difference in speed, even in Extreme mode. To its credit, my apparent data savings are a whopping 83% – I only received 2.3MB out of a possible 13MB – which is unheard of with other browsers that employ compression. If you're wanting to keep a close eye on your data, in real time, then Opera Mini will be your best buddy. That is… So long as you're OK with seeing half of the internet.

Extreme mode compresses sites to the point where Facebook looks like it did when it first launched. YouTube videos won't even play within the browser; Opera Mini shirks the blame by automatically opening the YouTube app, so keep a close eye. The YouTube app won't save you any data.

In Extreme mode, you'll be saving buckets upon buckets of data, but you'll feel like a second-class internet citizen. Even if my monthly data were cleaved in twain, I still don't think I could handle it.

At the end of the day, Opera Mini feels relatively similar to Chrome and if it was the only web browser installed on my phone when I bought it, I'd probably be using it exclusively right now. If you're tight for data, then definitely consider Opera Mini. (Remember: Opera Mini achieves these features by moving your traffic through a proxy server, as many other companies do.)

Even if you're not tight for data but still have a monthly cap, you should consider Opera Mini. Yes, Extreme mode is a little hard to get used to, but High mode will still save you bundles (well, in terms of percentages). Basically, if you data is of any concern to you whatsoever, then Opera Mini is the browser you've been waiting for.

In fact, you can go download it right now (opens in new tab).

Are you using Opera Mini as your exclusive browser? Sound off in the comments below and let us know about your experience!

Mick is a writer and duty editor for Android Central. When he's not on the job, he can usually be found vacuuming up pet hair or trying to convince his wife that he needs more guitars.
15 Comments
  • Opera Mini (Beta) my main browser. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I use Opera as my main browser because of text reflow when you zoom in. That is the one feature I must have in a browser. Posted from my Nokia 3310
  • I think you're missing a huge use case for Opera Mini: with all android version up to 4.4 now vulnerable to drive-by malware from malicious websites or malicious ads on legit websites, Opera Mini is the only safe way to browse with pre-5.0 devices, since it disables javascript and flash.
  • You can disable JavaScript on Chrome too. And of course you have to physically install flash plugin to use that, so... Posted via the Android Central App
  • I use it too. It's good when I'm away from wifi.
  • Opera has been sold to a Chinese consortium Posted via the Android Central App
  • I don't care. I use a lot of Chinese products. I just don't want ram managers and special offers pop ups. That what's keeps me from using Chinese apps. All the bloat. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Meesa tinks china dumba aholes.
  • Very useful when traveling and you're either paying for roaming data or are in a 2G 'free' network for companies like T-Mobile.
  • Another use case for Opera Mini is for when you have a spotty connection. I was recently on a camping trip with a unreliable signal. I needed to use the net, but most of the other browsers would hang or load forever while trying to grab every piece of today's bloated web pages. With Opera Mini the pages loaded much faster and more reliably. Obviously you won't notice any speed benefit if you're on LTE, since the simple process of asking Opera's servers to grab a page, compress it, then send it to you, would introduce delays. It's when you're on crappy connections that you'll see a benefit. Posted via the Android Central App
  • My savings in extreme mode is 91%! 7.7MB/78MB. Opera mini is amazing if you want to save your data cap. Posted with ❤Love❤
  • Extreme mode is the original Opera Mini's way of browsing the internet since years ago from Java smartphones. Once loading is finished, it convert web pages into static pages with links, just like a screenshot of webpage but you can click and select text on it, that's why it's extremely light, If you want to dismiss that hovering pop up? Page need to be reloaded. Opening that beautiful CSS drop down menu? Reload again. This works good if you just want to read or see static things, nothing is better than this, and you can open blocked sites too in this mode. Phone with 512MB of RAM and single core CPU would really love this mode. However if you have a modern phone, glorious LTE, and lots of data allowance, then this mode doesn't offer any benefit and more of a nuisance. The High mode is the same as regular Opera app with Turbo Mode enabled, or any other modern browser, just different interface, if you want to browse like you use another browser, choose this mode.
  • Mike Keep your shaky feet and blue shoes out of your videos and then I will retain the information you are trying to convey. Posted via the Android Central App
  • When opera started putting 'helpful' notifications in my notification tray, and provided no visible (that I could see) way of turning them off, I uninstalled it. I'm not putting up with that. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Settings | Advanced | Opera Notifications