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Bolt Browser Review

January 19th, 2009 2 comments

When I first heard about Bolt Browser for J2ME mobile phones, I couldn’t wait to try it out and see how it compares to Opera Mini 4.2.

I’ve used WebKit based browsers such as TeaShark and the native Nokia S60 browser before and as far as rendering speed is concerned, these browsers take as much as 5 times the amount of time Opera Mini takes to render a page.

So it was interesting to test Bolt against Opera Mini and Webkit browsers.

Startup:

Bolt’s installation procedure is similar to Opera Mini’s but it takes a lot more time to start than Opera Mini.
Here’s how the startup screens look like:

opera_loadingbolt_loading Loading Screens

opera_startscreen bolt_startscreen Start Screens

Both start-screens are alike, except that Opera Mini displays History, Bookmarks and Feeds vertically while Bolt displays it horizontally.

Rendering Performance:

Bolt’s Rendering accuracy is really good, however it does mess up a few images i.e. the colour of the images is a little different from the original.

Speed-wise, Bolt is a lot faster than Webkit based browsers but is slower than Opera Mini. Although Bitstream claims that it is faster than Opera Mini, I didn’t think so. It is fast, but not as fast as Opera Mini.

It’s interesting to note that Bolt works flawlessly with Bloglines while Opera Mini and Webkit browsers don’t work.

However, on many pages Bolt throws up errors almost every time.

bolt_error Although errors like this can be resolved with a refresh, I encountered another error that announced that Bolt had an unrecoverable error and sent an error log to their server. I couldn’t take a screenshot as I couldn’t reproduce it again.

Data Reduction:

Although Bitstream claims that its data reduction ratio is 23:1, there’s really no way of verifying this as Bolt has no option to view web-page information. Opera Mini’s Page Information looks like this:

opera_pageinfo1 opera_pageinfo2

Features:

To be honest, Bolt’s features are basic at best. The only feature that is unique to Bolt and sets itself apart from other browsers (including Opera Mini) is the Split-Screen feature.

In Split-screen mode the screen is horizontally divided into half. The top half has the zoomed-out view of a page while the bottom-half shows a full-zoomed area of the page around the cursor and it looks like this:

bolt_splitscreen

Other than this, Bolt doesn’t have much to brag out. Bolt’s Bookmark and RSS Feed Managers are similar to other browsers.

If  the current webpage has a number somewhere, Bolt detects it and allows you to either call or send an SMS to that number. Opera Mini also detects numbers but only allows the user to call the number. Both browsers are terrible at recognizing phone numbers though, phone models (such as P230, N70, N95), addresses and version numbers are confused as telephone numbers.
Opera Mini on the other hand has Opera Link for bookmark synchronization, is skinnable, allows pages to be saved on phone or memory card, supports HTTP Authentication (bolt doesn’t) and supports multiple search-engines and even custom Search Strings like this:

opera_searchengines fdsf opera_customsearch

Customization:

Again, a no show. There’s hardly any options to choose from.
bolt_settingsbolt_pagemenu
bolt_mag bolt_https

That’s it. There are no more options in Bolt. Compare this with Opera Mini’s options:

opera_settings1 opera_settings2 opera_pagemenu

Final Word:

For a browser in its beta stage, Bolt is pretty good and I expect the final version to be a little faster and more feature-rich. Even in its beta stage it’s better than most Webkit based browsers. However, it lacks many basic features (such as tabbed browsing, copy-pasting and page saves) and if the final version doesn’t include any new features, then there’s absolutely no way Bolt can be an Opera Mini killer. Bolt has the potential, but only time will tell.