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Review of NetFront

Symbian platform: UIQ
Review first published in: Palmtop User magazine, issue 8

Screen shotIt seems somewhat odd to have a browser war flaring up for UIQ. The P800 and P900 come with 'Internet', a fairly capable browser, and Opera for UIQ is a free download, for those that need just a little extra. And now there's NetFront, also released as a 'free demonstration version', offering even more features than Opera. In essence, both Opera and NetFront are fighting a war across many mobile computing platforms and want their name to be associated with the best browsing experience, even on a platform from which they won't make any money.

NetFront 3.1 is certainly comprehensive, with a mammoth, tabbed 'Settings' panel that includes control of frames, Javascript, memory and disk caches, language encoding and cookies, plus a lot more. There's also good support for current web technologies and we were able to use interactive sites such as eBay without difficulty. Just as with NetFront's initial offering for the Nokia 9210 though, version 3.1 is memory hungry and you'll need at least 5MB of free execution memory for it to work smoothly. Assuming that its even possible to load the current page-our test P800 ground to a halt when trying to access the particularly image-heavy Expansys site. Still, such pages are designed for desktop memory and processing power and perhaps its unreasonable to expect everything to load perfectly on a handheld.

Screen shot NetFront's interface is also immature in places, with pages part loading, blanking and then reloading, unresponsive hyperlinks and a fluctuating progress indicator. Like Opera, there's a useful Smart-Fit Rendering view, designed to eliminate horizontal scrolling. Windows aren't handled quite as efficiently, though-the tab paradigm looks good, but each window isn't kept fully rendered and has to be redrawn when brought to the foreground. Finally, like Opera, NetFront can use your desktop's Internet connection when your smartphone is cradled, which can be very useful for seeding a bookmark list or for testing purposes. Free, from www.access-sys-eu.com