Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Opera Mini vs. Opera Mobile: Exclusive performance test

For those who don't have an iOS (or maybe Android) device at their disposal, Opera for mobile devices may be the best web experience for them. I'm one of them. The mobile versions of Opera are just fantastic for my Nokia phone.

But there are in fact, two distinct versions of Opera that are available for mobile devices, Opera Mini and Opera Mobile. For those who are confused between the two, here's an official comparison between the two.

With these two browsers available, I decided to put them to test and see which one is better in terms of performance. Since Opera Mobile is available only for Windows Mobile and Symbian S60, and I have a Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, I could install both on the same phone and test them under the same conditions.

All these tests, as written above were tested on the same phone, separately, and under the same conditions, over Wi-Fi. However, performance may vary from device to device, and OS to OS, and also based on your connection and the websites you are visiting.

Versions used:
I used Opera Mobile 10.1 beta and Opera Mini 5.1.22395 beta. Click the images below to see them clearly.


I ran just the start time test and the page load tests, which are both described in detail further below. As benchmarks for mobile browsers are pretty limited (and mobile websites are too), it is not possible to test their JavaScript and CSS rendering. Probably they are not even capable of doing it.

App Start Time:

When tested individually, both browsers had a big difference in start times. This is probably because Opera Mobile is heavier and has more components to take care of (see the link to the distinction between the two above).

Averaged from three recorded start-up times,

Opera Mobile: 4.43 seconds.
Opera Mini: 2.33 seconds.

As seen above, Opera Mini has a big cut in start-up times, which can in fact compete with the Nokia browser, which has this great plus of starting up as soon as you touch it.

Opera Mobile, being so large requires a lot of data to be transferred into the phone's RAM before it starts up. So it takes almost two extra seconds to start up, compared to its little brother.

Page load times:

Both browsers were tested individually, under the same conditions to load up the mobile homepages of a bunch of popular websites. No desktop versions of websites were tested, because Opera Mini automatically redirects to the mobile version, and it is better designed to render the lightweight versions of websites. Since Opera Mobile is capable of rendering the same mobile versions of websites, it is certainly fair to test them on mobile sites.

Facebook was not used for these tests, since the news feed on the homepage keeps updating with all kinds of different media constantly, thus changing the download size of the page.

Wikipedia mobile:
Opera Mobile: 4.3 seconds
Opera Mini: 4.9 seconds

Lifehacker mobile:
Opera Mobile: 5.8 seconds
Opera Mini: 4.3 seconds

HowStuffWorks mobile:
Opera Mobile: 7.8 seconds
Opera Mini: 10.5 seconds

Twitter mobile:
Opera Mobile: 6.9 seconds
Opera Mini: 6.7 seconds

Here, though Opera Mobile was faster at rendering some sites, but in most of the cases, Opera Mini was much faster at downloading the pages. Maybe this is so because I used mobile sites, but Opera Mobile should not have had problems with them.

Other notes:

Opera Mini may be faster at loading pages and starting up, but there are still other criteria other than performance that one may want to consider when picking a mobile browser.

Overall, I see that Opera Mini looks better, with the thinner, crisper fonts and the new smooth animations that have been put into this new beta version. However, it is not that good at loading full size desktop webpages. It has been designed to be a typical mobile web browser. Comparing the rendering of mobile sites, I see that Opera Mini actually displays the sites as they are meant to be viewed. In Opera Mobile, I often have to scroll sideways to see the full width of even the mobile sites.

Opera Mobile, on the other hand has been better at viewing full, desktop sites. It doesn't perfectly work always, though as it doesn't yet have Flash support on Symbian. Testing the desktop version of Facebook on Opera Mobile didn't give me a good experience though. Opera Mobile also uses a lot of RAM to run, and when loading lots of desktop sites in tabs, it very often shuts down. But however, you will have a much better experience when using it on a newer phone, with more RAM at your disposal.

For myself, I see that Opera Mini is much better for me, as I like to browse around mobile websites when I am surfing on my phone, which even saves loads of data download when using it over your mobile network. In the page linked to above, that compares both versions, the author says that people would want to keep both browsers installed, while using Opera Mobile on Wi-Fi and Opera Mini otherwise.

What about you? Write it in the comments.

Oh yes, and you'll want to see these options to subscribe to this blog if you don't want to miss out on future posts. And do check out my archive.