Opera’s littlest web browser, Opera Mini, just got a big update for iOS, with optimization for the iPad. This free browser underdog provides a great experience on Apple’s tablet, but it has too many frustrations to fully replace the iPad’s default Safari browser.
There’s a lot to like about Opera Mini on the iPad. The browser’s signature “speed dial” — a customizable grid of your favorite websites — looks quite inviting on the big screen, and tabs are handled through a drop-down box, which is faster to use than the clunky tab window in iPad Safari. Webpages scroll and zoom with ease, and using the forward and back buttons creates a slick-looking swipe effect across the screen. There’s also a share button for quick linking on Facebook and Twitter.
The hallmark feature of Opera Mini is server-side compression, which squishes web pages by about 90 percent. This cuts down on data use and loads pages faster when there’s not a lot of bandwidth to go around. In other words, it’s a handy browser when you’ve got a slow internet connection.
But on the iPad, Opera Mini’s zeal for speed is also its greatest weakness. In addition to compressing pages, Opera Mini loads the mobile versions of websites when available. As a result, you get feature-limited versions of Google Search, Gmail, Bing and countless other sites that are optimized for weak feature phones. That may fly on an iPhone, but on the iPad, it just looks silly.
I’ve got other nitpicks as well: Speed Dial is limited to nine slots when the iPad’s large screen should afford more; there are no suggested searches, like the kind offered on Safari and other alternative iPad browsers; and there’s no print utility, if you’re into that sort of thing.
But basically, I’m pining for an iPad version of Opera Mobile, the big brother to Opera Mini that’s already available on Android phones and tablets. This may not be possible, because Opera Mobile renders webpages in ways that Apple does not allow for third-party developers, but that’s of little consolation if you’re looking for a capable, free Safari replacement.
More on TIME.com: Top 10 Alternative iPad Web Browsers