first_imgOpera Beta is the company’s third browser to arrive in the Google Play app store, but it’s the first one to make the switch to the Webkit rendering engine. Opera’s other browsers will all eventually join Chrome and Safari in running Webkit, a move that’s drawn praise from some and jeers from others. Fears of browsing engine duopolies aside, the new Opera Beta is — as Opera itself puts it — the company’s best browser for Android.While the engine has changed, key features remain intact. You’ll still find the bandwidth-saving Opera Turbo feature, but it’s been renamed Off-Road mode. The name switch makes sense, since Opera Beta generally performs much better than its Android siblings when compression is disabled. In effect, Webkit and V8 already have Opera Beta running at Turbo speeds. Off-Road is a nice, non-techy description of when Opera’s server-side compression tech will help you out — when you’re slogging through a slow data pipe, off the beaten path of your familiar, high-bandwidth connection. You’ll find the Off-Road toggle under the Opera menu at the top of the app, along with actions like sharing and browsing your history.Opera’s trademark Speed Dial page still appears when you open up a new tab, and there’s a new icon that appears which lets you quickly access any pages you’ve saved for offline reading. Content discovery also features prominently, and it’s available with a flick to the left (and also under the red O menu). Pull up the page and you’ll be presented with stories from across the web that suit your interests. It’s configurable, of course. Just tap the gear icon on the discovery page and you can change your preferred country and switch topics off and on. There are 13 in total, covering everything from the arts and sports to science and travel.The Opera Beta app has a long way to go before it’s ready to be anyone’s daily browser. At times pages load in odd chunks, and it can be a jarring experience if you read at a brisk pace — scrolling down into a large, black void only to see content appear a split second later. Gesture controls like pinch-to-zoom and panning are generally smooth, though, and pages do seem to render more quickly than they do in Opera’s Presto-powered Android apps.Long time Opera users should be aware that Opera Link hasn’t been built in to the browser yet, either. There’s a button that will take you to Opera’s web login so that you can browse through your saved data there, but no direct synchronization functionality appears to have been enabled yet.It’s a good first step for Opera in its evolution toward a more feature-focused mobile browser — and that’s precisely what the company was going for when it decided to make the jump to Webkit.last_img read more