Compared to other Windows Mobile devices, the HTC Advantage X7501 seems capable of providing a much more enjoyable mobile web browsing experience because of its 5-inch VGA display and 624MHz Intel XScale PXA270 processor.
But with both Internet Explorer Mobile and Opera 8.65 preinstalled on the Advantage and several third-party browsers available for Windows Mobile, which one can do it best? To find out, I tested the load times, page rendering, and stability of some of the most common mobile browsers around.* Read on for the results.
Update 10.04.07: NetFront Browser results added.
As in my previous test on website load times, I cleared each browser’s cache and visited ten websites that varied in complexity. Other testing parameters:
- Load times were measured in one sitting (NetFront tested separately) from the click of the "Go" button in the browser’s address bar to the complete page load according to the progress bar and/or loading icon.
- All devices were connected to the Internet through the same 802.11g wireless router from the same location (about 12 feet away, unobstructed).
- Browser rendering was set to desktop mode in all cases; that is, content was not optimized for the small screen.
Times are in minute:second format. Automatic redirects to mobile versions of websites (not timed) are indicated by "redirect."
||Opera 8.65||IE Mobile||Minimo 0.2||Picsel 1.0.0||NetFront 3.4|
|Micro PC Talk||0:21||0:24||0:26||0:33||0:18|
To put these numbers into some context, please refer to my "Website load times on portable gadgets" article, which includes results from devices such as the iPhone, Nokia N800, and Archos 604 WiFi. Keep in mind that load times can vary according to time of day, number of images, types of advertisements, available bandwidth, and other factors.
Here are some images of how the browsers render Pocketables, YouTube, and Engadget.
Clockwise from top left: Opera, Internet Explorer Mobile, Picsel, Minimo.
Since I tested NetFront separately, here are some examples of its page-rendering capabilities in full (i.e., desktop) mode.
The instant-on aspect of Windows Mobile devices (which should provide quicker access to the Internet than devices with long boot times) and the way web pages are rendered can quickly become meaningless if the browser isn’t stable.
During my few hours of testing this afternoon, each browser crashed at least once. Update 10.04.07: NetFront experienced no crashes, but it nearly choked while loading CNET.
Here’s the crash breakdown:
IE Mobile: 3
Four of the IE Mobile and Minimo crashes were so bad that the HTC Advantage needed a soft reset to become responsive again.
Based on my testing, the best mobile browser for the HTC Advantage X7501 is, without a doubt, Opera 8.65.
Not only does it load web pages more quickly than Internet Explorer Mobile, Minimo, Picsel, and (to a lesser extent) NetFront, but it also loads them more completely and truer to their desktop forms. Opera is also very stable, and although not covered above, I find it to be the easiest to navigate and use.
*Deepfish may be a viable alternative to Opera, but Microsoft hasn’t accepted new testers into their pool for several months and hasn’t updated their team blog since March. I also looked briefly into ThunderHawk, but I don’t think anyone should have to pay $50/year for a subscription to a browser.