While matching Mobile Safari for ease of use, Opera 9.5 also adds in a few handy extras of its own. You can select, copy and paste text, for instance - something you can't do on the iPhone at all without the help of third party apps. You can also download and save images and files, neither of which can be achieved with Mobile Safari or, for that matter, Opera's own (and otherwise excellent) Opera Mini.
Rendering speed is excellent, too. Using my home broadband connection to ensure the mobile connection wasn't a bottleneck, even the most complicated pages were rendered in their entirety in around 30 seconds - the BBC homepage took 29 seconds, Dabs.com took 32 seconds and the TrustedReviews front page, 38 seconds.
Troublesome websites are despatched capably, though it's not perfect. TrustedReviews' homepage doesn't display correctly, for instance, but other form-based websites that don't appear quite right on the iPhone do appear reliably here. Moreover, in the week or so I've been testing the browser I can count serious layout problems on the fingers of, well, one finger. It's really that good.
Being a beta, you're bound to come across the occasional glitch or two, though. Though the browser worked perfectly on the HTC TyTN II, when using it with the VGA screened E TEN Glofiish M800 it threw up continuous 'Out of memory' messages. There is a workaround you can employ, which involves adding an extra line to an obscure ini file, but I couldn't get this to work on this particular handset.
Another issue is that, though other versions of Opera Mobile work with Flash, this isn't the case right now with 9.5. Try and view Flash applications such as BBC's iPlayer and you'll be prompted with a message saying you don't have the right plug-in installed. On some handsets it has been reported that the phone's notification sounds were turned off on installation. I experienced no such problems during testing, however, and the problem has apparently been resolved in the latest 9.51b1 release.
While Opera Mobile isn't the revolution that Mobile Safari was last year, and isn't 100% perfect right now, it is well worth downloading, not least because at the moment it is completely free.
But, even if in time Opera ends up charging for it, as it does with earlier versions, I think it will be well worth paying the money. It's a brilliant mobile web browser and allows those who just don't have the option of buying an iPhone (or who just don't want to) experience the web in all its glory in miniature.