Opera Mini 4 finally sheds its beta

Opera announces the stable version of its Opera Mini 4 browser and an impressive set of enhanced features for advanced mobile viewing.

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Today Opera announced the full release of Opera Mini 4, after three beta releases. I tested the second beta version of this powerful mobile browser on a BlackBerry Pearl back in August (read review) and was eager to reproduce my experience today on the same phone, particularly to see for myself that the landscape view that never worked for BlackBerry still isn't ready. It's not.

The first thing I should point out is that in the complex dance between manufacturer, carrier, and third-party software, some toes get smashed. Before you download Opera Mini 4 over the air, via SMS, or by PC-to-phone push, it's best to input your phone details and read up on any instructions to make Opera Mini 4 compatible with your particular phone. Here's an example: North American users of BREW phones (e.g., anything on Verizon) are out of luck with Opera, and T-Mobile and AT&T users may have extra steps before they can get Opera Mini 4 going.

Create a new search box for any Web site with Opera Mini 4.

So what are the major differences between Opera Mini 4 Beta 2 and the full-grown release? As far as I can tell, the only front-end feature addition between the two Opera Mini 4 versions is support for Opera Link (story), an account-based, server-side operation that syncs bookmarks between your Opera desktop and mobile browsers. That shows up on Opera Mini 4 as a small green icon at the bottom of the page (which you can access quickly scrolling down with the 8 key). As nice as bookmark syncing is, it's hardly as interesting or novel as Opera Mini 4's features enhancements over Opera Mini 3, namely the keypad shortcuts for zooming and scrolling, creating searches for any Web page, a familiar browser mouse, and landscape mode.

A divergent rendering engine also makes Opera Mini 4 more sensitive than Opera Mini 3 to HTML, including tables, lists, and text formatting. Like the Opera 9.5 Beta, CSS is also improved in Opera Mini 4, which gives Web designers a green flag to tweak away.

The bottom line: Beta-bashful users who have been waiting for the stable release should upgrade to Opera Mini 4 as fast as they can. Those who have already been using any of Opera Mini 4's betas can wait a heartbeat longer, but die-hard fans will be eager to test the Opera Link bookmark synchronization.

What do you think? Be sure to add your ratings for the new Opera Mini 4 browser on CNET Download.com.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.