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Prasad Naik, Techtree, Jun 14, 2009 1000 hrs IST

Find out which one is better

Opera has had a field day with its Java based mobile browser the Opera Mini. With over 20 million users world wide, Opera Mini is now the world's most popular mobile browser. However, there is now a competitor vying for the crown the Mini has held so far. But is it really worth it? I took it for a spin and compared it with the reigning champion to see who emerges as the winner and the one that deserves the space on your phone's memory.

First things first

Bolt is a Java based browser similar to Opera Mini. Since almost all phones these days have Java support you can install Bolt on a wide range of phones without having to worry about compatibility. It is created by Bitstream based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and uses their ThunderHawk technology for browsing and rendering web pages. Just like Opera Mini, the actual page rendering is done at the server side of Bolt and the browser then merely downloads that data, which not only saves time but is also light on the data usage, something that people using limited data plans on their phones would appreciate.


To download Bolt, you have to go to Bolt's website and enter your name and email address after which you get the link to download the jad file. This process only exists because Bolt is still in beta phase. You then have to transfer the jad file to your phone and then click on it to initiate the download of the actual application, which then gets installed. The jad file is 74 kb and the main application is a 171 kb download after you click on the jad file. Compared to this, downloading Opera Mini is much easier. Just point your mobile browser to mini.opera.com and the site automatically recognises your phone and then provides you with the right version for your phone. The Opera Mini download is 124 kb in size.

On starting up both of them, I noticed Bolt started faster on my Nokia 5700 XpressMusic than Opera Mini. The home screen layout is slightly similar to Opera Mini. You see the URL field at the top. Below you see tabs for your favorites, history and feeds. Clicking on either of these tabs display their contents below.

The left soft key is for options and the right soft key is for going back. At the top is where you see the page title and the progress bar for when the page loads. Unlike Opera Mini wherein it shows you the progress in kilobytes, Bolt shows you the less informative percentage meter. Going in preferences you see that you can control the page magnification level, the image quality in three steps and the video quality. You can enable HTTPS, split screen mode, mobile layout and landscape mode. You can also clear the cookies from here.


I tried loading the Techtree home page on both Bolt as well as Opera Mini. At the time of using it I had Airtel EDGE connection activated on my EDGE Class 32 enabled Nokia 5700 phone. While Bolt took 40 seconds to load the site Opera Mini took only 30. This was with all the graphics settings set at high quality on both the browsers. When I set them to low, Opera Mini did it in 15 seconds, however, for some strange reason, Bolt still took 30 seconds. The browsing speed depended but mostly Opera Mini was still slightly faster than Bolt every time.


You can use the 2, 4, 6 and 8 keys to navigate within the web page. When you press 5 the browser goes into split screen mode. In this mode the browser zooms out like in Opera Mini but at the bottom you see a small window where the page is displayed at 100% zoom level and as you move your mouse around in the above screen you can see the zoomed in view of the current position of the pointer.


Other shortcuts include 0 for favorites, 1 for the home page, 3 to enter URL, 7 to search within the page and 9 to go forward one page. * shows history and # shows you your feeds.

Edited by savramesh

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When browsing I noticed that unlike Opera Mini, even when you set the image size as low quality, it does not shrink the size of the images. The images are of the same size with the page dimensions and layout maintained but you can see the compression artefacts which are not so clear on Opera Mini. Bolt also does not have the smooth sliding animations of the Opera Mini. This will be a boon for those who do not have a phone with a powerful processor to generate those animations, but I would have preferred if it had an option like Opera Mini to disable them instead of not having them at all.

Bolt also underlines the numbers on the web page in green which can then be clicked to dial them on your phone and better yet, it gives you the option to send an SMS to that number as well, something that Mini does not do. It also supports saving of entire pages on to the phone memory, which can then be used for viewing offline. Images on the page can also be saved.


Unfortunately, when it comes to downloading files, Bolt does not have a download manager of its own and instead relies on the built-in web browser of the phone it is installed on. So when you click on a download link the main web browser opens and the download starts from there. If you are using a phone that supports minimised Java application then Bolt goes into background while the download continues.

However you run into problems if you download something that the built-in browser does not support. Like for example the S60 browser only supports downloading those files that it supports natively, which means it cannot download .exe files. So if you are using Bolt on an S60 phone then you won't be able to download any .exe files, which, however, you can using Opera Mini.

Bolt also claims to support flash videos. However it is not what you might think it is. Unlike the SkyFire, videos don't exactly load in the browser window itself. The browser finds a low quality 3GP version of the video and then opens it in the built-in browser of the phone. This only works for YouTube by the way and not for all sites with flash videos.

The fonts on the Bolt don't look all that great. Firstly they are all small. Secondly they all look the same, whether it is in bold or in italics or of a bigger size. Opera Mini displays fonts far better and maintains the original style. Another thing I noticed is that if you click a link and then you click another one, the browser ignores the second one, even if you want to go to that particular one. In Mini you would go to the second link instead.

Page layout is another thing that is good on the Bolt. I did not notice any content overlapping on Bolt, whereas it is common to see it on Opera Mini. The browser also manages text layout very well on the pages. Pages look very similar to the way they look on the PC screen.

Final words

Bolt is still in its beta phase and it already shows a lot of promise. When compared to Opera Mini it beats it in certain areas such as page layout and arrangement of text, etc. But apart from that I did not find many reasons to switch over to Bolt from Mini. Mini still has a smaller download size, faster page loading and a built-in download manager that does not rely on the built-in browser. Pages, especially fonts, look better on the Mini. As of now, I think Mini is the better of the two and Bolt will need a lot more than what it offers right now to beat the best in the business.

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