Opera web browser for Android leaves Beta: we go hands-on

This week the folks behind the web browser Opera have pushed their Android-based mobile edition past Beta into its first full-fledged release. They've done so with little fanfare, too – so little that it's scarcely made waves here in the spring of 2013 – right between Google's developer conference Google I/O and the technology conference CTIA. It's a fine browser, all said, with a WebKit engine base and a free download set of innards that'll have it competing with the other big guns in web browser downloads.

This web browser works with a Discover page at the outset for users that don't always want to launch to the same initial webpage from the start. This is an odd addition, we're finding, as Google's initiatives with Google Now and push for search from any Android homepage make entering the web straight forward a thing of the past.

When you use the internet on your smartphone, do you click a web browser first, or do you start with a search?

Opera also offers a Speed Dial to collect your favorite unique web portals and pages in one place – this is similar to the browser's Discover page, but allows you to customize your experience to a greater extent.

This out-of-beta edition of Opera also offers up "Off-Road mode". This mode allows you to work with an internet in a sort of limited data way. According to Opera: "it keeps you connected and loads webpages faster when conditions get rough."

Off-Road Mode is what Opera used to call "Opera Turbo", here allowing you – hopefully – browse faster with some server-side compression technology. This means Opera makes things smaller for you, essentially – best for when you're only looking to get some reading done, not necessarily best for when you're browsing for an everyone-sees-this sort of situation. You may be seeing some pixel blocks appearing here or there if your connection is extra slow – we've only seen them appear for a moment before final rendering over 4G LTE on a Verizon device.

This web browser works for all Android devices – every one we've tested so far, that is – both smartphone and tablet-sized displays included. This new Opera app is a free download from the Google Play app store and you'll be able to get this final edition today for any Android device. If you're all about having a smaller experience for your ancient Android smartphone, you can also choose Opera Mini – it doesn't have all the same features, but it certainly gets the job done!