Speed Test – Opera Mini, Bolt, Skyfire and UCWEB

About a month ago All About Symbian‘s  Rafe Blandford published an extensive set of browser speed test results. Rafe compared page load times for ten well known US and UK sites using eght different Nokia S30 3rd and 5th editon devices plus the T-Mobile G1, iPhone 3G, Skyfire and Opera Mini.  Latter Matthew Miller at Smartphones and Cellphones updated Rafe’s data with numbers for the iPhone 3GS and Opera Mobile 9.7.  Rafe and Matthew’s data showed that smartphone browsers are getting faster and faster. The N86, N97, 5800 and iPhone 3G  were  all about twice as fast as  the N95.  The iPhone 3GS lived up to Apple’s claims being about twice as fast as the iPhone 3G and latest Nokia browsers.  But the real speed champs were Opera Mobile and Opera Mini which were both about 30% faster than even the iPhone 3 GS.

Opera Mini is a server assisted browser. Pages are rendered on an Opera Server and them compressing into a compact binary format that downloads quickly and can be decompressed and displayed using relatively  little CPU and RAM on the phone. Opera Mobile 9.7 has an optional Opera Turbo mode which works like Opera Mini and was used by Mathew Miller in his speed tests.

This got me to wondering about the performance of other server assisted browsers like Bolt, UCWEB and Skyfire.  I repeated Rafe’s tests on those three browsers plus Opera Mini and the native Nokia browser on my N95-3. Rafe also tested the Nokia browser, Opera Mini and Skyfire. Including those browsers in my tests gives a good  baseline for direct comparison with Rafe and Mathew’s results.

I follwed Rafe’s methodology as closely as possibe, I used WiFi and repeated each test five times, discarding the best and worst results and averaging the three remaining.  There were differences of course, for one thing my ADSL line is only 1.5 Mbps compared to Rafe’s 8 Mbps line, but my numbers for the Nokia and Opera Mini browsers were very similar to Rafe’s.  However I got considerably slower performance from Skyfire. I’m not sure why, perhaps the lower DSL speed contributed along with  the fact that Rafe ran Skyfire on an N86 rather than the older N95. It’s also possible Skyfire’s UK servers  are faster than the US ones. Also I tested the time for each browser to display a fully zoomed page.  Zooming in on all the browsers is instantaneous except for Skyfire where it adds between one and eight seconds to the total time.  I don’t know whether Rafe’s numbers include the time require to zoom in but I felt that it was important to do so as zooming in is necessary to get readable text on most pages.

My results confirm that Opera Mini is currently the fastest mobile browser by a small margin, follwed by UCWEB,  Bolt and Skyfire.  All four server based browsers were much faster than the Nokia browser.  The Nokia browser’s numbers  would have been even worse except for the fact that the site refused to deliver its full web version to the Nokia browser always redirecting to the much smaller mobile web page.

On course speed isn’t everything.  For online banking and financial transactions having all your browsing traffic pass through a third party server has potential security implications. Direct browsers like the Nokia , iPhone and Android browsers and Opera Mobile with Opera Turbo turned off are theoretically more secure.  Speed is only one part of a browser’s feature set.  Of the five browsers, Opera Mini is the relatively feature poor, lacking tabbed browsing  which UCWEB and the Nokia browser support or the ability to copy text from web pages found in UCWEB and Bolt.  Skyfire is the only mobile browser that supports Flash 10 and Silverlight making it the best choice for watching online video on a mobile phone. Personally I have all of these browsers installed on my N95 and use whichever one is most appropriate to the job at hand.

Site Nokia N95-3 Skyfire 1.0 Bolt 1.04 UCWEB 6.3 Opera Mini 4.2
google.co.uk 6 5 3.5 7 1.5
theregister.co.uk 30 12.5 7 6 5.5
theguardian.co.uk 60.5 24 10 5.5 7.5
digg.com 52 14 14 7 5
techreport.com 27 17 11 4 6
bbc.mobi 8 4 6 2 2.5
en.wikipedia.org 21 11 7 4.5 5
nytimes.com 6 31 10 11 4
timesonline.co.uk 67 19 11 8 5.5
youtube.com 21 21 8.5 11 4
TOTAL 298.5 158.5 88 66 46.5

Mobile Browser Speed Rest Chart

18 thoughts on “Speed Test – Opera Mini, Bolt, Skyfire and UCWEB

  1. Have tried both opera mini & ucweb browser but l think both are wonderful & suits individual taste & needs,but for me am more homely with opera mini.but ucweb has a unique class of it own second to none

  2. I like to know
    Which browser is good for Nokia 5800 XM mobile also which browser is good to see youtube videos on Nokia 5800 XM?

    Thanks in Advance

  3. I have used opera mini it fails to open heavier links
    but when i tried
    Ucweb I get all those
    Ucweb work well and has more customize able options then any other and You can use it with out joy stick of your sonyericsson Phone if it is faulty because UCWeb provide a complete alternative for joystick by keypad numbers
    UCWEB …..Superb….Try It

  4. Hiii dennis, i have a problem. I have nokia 5130 problem is whenever i download a software or browser or flashplayer and lauch it, it says file format not supported. Help…. And a question is does nokia play streaming videos??? Rgrds…

  5. hi Dennis,
    great work.I feel ucweb is really very slow as compared to opera mini though it has very good options. Is it problem of browser or my gprs speed? Ahich one wil u prefer opera or ucweb?

    • I mainly use Opera Mini, however I don’t find UCWEB noticeably slower. The difference might be related to the performance of the network connection between your network operator and the UCWEB proxy server vs. the Opera one. If that’s the case there’s not much you can do about it.

  6. i have a problem bout my nokia phone how to activate the opera mini setting ? can any body help me?

  7. Hey denny,nice gr8 work. I have a problem in my nokia 5130,belive u can help. It has inbuilt browser opera ming 4.2 which work well with gprs. Problem is i installed other browser like bolt, ucweb opera 5.0 nd ucweb6, these r not working. Shows failed to connect though at same time inbuilt browser work fine. Is there any way to sort this out,so that other browsers work with inbuilt brwsr. Help plz :'( rgrds

  8. longfeng, timings are measured manually from the press of the “OK” button after entering the URL until the page is completely loaded and fully zoomed in. Tests were conducted on a 1.5 Mbps ADSL connection and each test was repeated five times, discarding the best and worst results and averaging the three remaining

  9. Carl, “Back” almost always reloads the page in the Nokia browser. It’s a bug that’s been around for years. I recommend you try Opera Mini or UCWEB which are both better browsers and have a working back button.

  10. Hi Dennis,

    I have browser question that I hope you can help me with!
    It is possible to “go back” to the previous viewed web page without reloading it with the Nokia browser?


  11. Thanks. although I can install unsigned apps, I don’t usually cover them. Not many people seem willing to get the certs and sign apps themselves or hack their phones.

    Do the unofficial translations still send Chinese accept-language headers or has that bug been fixed? I think a lot of the test sites would show their Chinese versions unless it has – which wouldn’t make a very good test.

  12. Wow, is all i can say. Superb job! But you really should have used the latest unoffi translated version(by Akushah) for ucweb, v6.7. Its considerably faster than v6.3. I hope you have got the certs to install it :)

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