Skyfire really is incredibly fast when it comes to initial page loading times, but as we’ve seen this is because it uses a server to pre-render the page before sending a compressed version to your phone. The only other browser we know that does this is Opera Mini (Opera Mobile takes a more traditional approach) and when you compare Skyfire to Mini there’s less of a speed difference. However, Skyfire is still faster. For example, using Skyfire on the O2 Zest we were able to load the Guardian website in nine seconds whereas it took 15 seconds using Opera Mini. Furthermore, Skyfire retained the original formatting of the page.
But page load speeds are only one part of the browsing experience. There are also other factors such as the speed of a browser when panning and zooming pages. In this respect, Skywire is a bit less impressive. As you pan pages around the screen, it first loads chunks of it in low-resolution before gradually covering these over with the high-resolution render. This introduces a bit of lag when you’re trying to quickly move around a page. Its zooming speed was also slower than that of Opera Mobile.
However, Skyfire does offer other advantages. It supports Flash, Silverlight, Ajax and even Quicktime because all the heavy lifting for these formats is done by the server rather than the phone. This means that you can use the browser to watch videos streamed from sites like YouTube, BBC iPlayer and NBC. However, the video quality isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Even over Wi-Fi it looks much jerkier than the original source. Also, due to lag it can be difficult to control playback and sometimes it seems to ignore attempts to fast forward through a video or to stop and restart playback. Nevertheless, despite these issues, videos are on the whole very watchable.