Faster page loads for Opera Mini 4.2

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The launch two weeks ago of a new server park in the US gives graphical mobile browser users the promise of faster performance. Since that time, the makers of Opera have been finalizing their 4.2 edition for various smartphones.

Today, Opera's Web page officially recommends using version 4.0 with the BlackBerry 8830 we're using as a test system (still with BlackBerry OS v4.2, since v4.5 won't be ready until Q1), although we'd already been using version 4.1. Seeing that we could download the final edition 4.2 anyway, we gave it a shot.

The number one reason for upgrading to Opera Mini 4.2 -- perhaps the only real reason you need -- has to do with performance. Opera promised a 30% speed increase as a result of throwing the switch two weeks ago for its proxy server farm for the US. That's where a lot of Opera Mini's real functionality actually lies -- it's where some of the more difficult Web page graphics get crunched down to size, for instance.

We didn't need a stopwatch. Prior to upgrading to 4.2, our page performance during business hours for OM 4.1 was so pitiful that many pages would not even load to completion -- BetaNews itself among them. Today, we noticed page loading performance that actually transcended into the "acceptable" range -- still a few thumb twiddles, but nothing requiring strong analgesics.

Another much touted feature for version 4.2 is "skinning," and for a desktop PC user, that term implies a great deal of customization. For Opera Mini, whose most convenient mode for reading the screen is often full-screen mode, skinning frankly isn't all that important. There's a title bar over the window when you're not in full-screen mode, and skinning here allows you to change that color to any of a handful of others. It's not something to write a press release about (although these days, whenever Google changes the color of something, it does tend to take after Sir John Gielgud in "Arthur" and "alert the media").

Speaking of full-screen mode, changing to that mode still requires a trip through the menu system -- specifically, the Settings panel. For more convenience, there should be a hotkey that turns on and off full-screen mode, so users can get rid of the title bar when necessary. Right now, Opera Mini's hotkeys are dialed up using a * sequence, and they're reserved for most-used bookmarks -- what OM calls "speed dial." It would be convenient if users could also assign a program function to this list, and full-screen mode would be my nominee.

UPDATE One BetaNews reader contacted us this evening to say the * * key sequence -- which doesn't work for us, even now -- is working for him on his BlackBerry 8100 running OS 4.2.

The other major change in OM 4.2 is improved support for video; though unfortunately, your device of choice needs to support it first. Support for YouTube video is coming for existing Verizon BlackBerry users in OS 4.5. Until then, awkwardly, whenever OM 4.2 tries to launch a video, it launches the BlackBerry built-in browser instead.

In our particular situation, Opera Mini improved enough to enable us to be comfortable with using it every day in place of BlackBerry's built-in browser. And that's a good enough qualification for recommendation.

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