Opera shares most of its guts with Google Chrome, but the Web browser distinguishes itself with features like a built-in ad blocker, claims of improved battery life on laptops, and the option to watch YouTube videos in a floating window.
Since Opera and Chrome have so much code in common, it’s not difficult to create native Opera versions of popular extensions like LastPass, uBlock Origin, Reddit Enhancement Suite, and Pocket. And if a developer hasn’t created an Opera version yet, Download Chrome Extension can install extensions directly from the Chrome Web Store, so Opera users shouldn’t miss out on many Chrome add-ons.
Opera does some clever wizardry in the background to extend battery life on a laptop. We can’t guarantee any particular number, because battery life depends a lot on your screen’s brightness and resolution, and whether you’re streaming HD videos or just browsing Wikipedia. Either way, enabling or disabling power saving is a quick toggle at the top of your screen.
When you browse YouTube with Opera, you can click an additional button in the top of the video frame to pop the video out to a separate window. You can drag it around and resize it, and it will float on top of other windows. That is, it won’t disappear if you put another app window in the foreground, so you can multitask without losing your video. The original browser tab where you found that video must remain open, though
Opera Software routinely advertises its browser as a “safe” option. However, it uses navigation prediction services that require sending (anonymized) data about your usage habits over the Internet to be analyzed by a remote server. This can be disabled, but it’s not by default, and you have to search Google to figure out how these services work and what they expose. Form autofilling is also enabled by default — another feature that favors convenience over safety. If an unauthorized person gets access to your device, they can pull up what you’ve entered into a form just by experimenting with the alphabet, potentially giving them your home address, phone number, and other sensitive info. Opera also has a setting to “protect me from malicious sites,” but the setting doesn’t explain what this entails.
We got some odd search results on Opera’s website when looking for extensions to install. Searching for Gmail produced two pages of extensions, which was good. But searching for Google produces only six extensions, none of which are Gmail. Why does a more generic query return a fraction of the results and exclude an obvious ingredient?
Adobe’s once-universal Internet streaming video tech is finally on its way out, but many legacy websites still require it. Unlike Chrome, Opera does not have Adobe Flash built in. Googling for ways to add it produces outdated instructions from Adobe and Opera Software about enabling a setting that no longer exists. You have to go to the Adobe Flash plug-in webpage (once you’ve Googled it) while using Opera; the website uses its own voodoo to determine which Flash installer to deliver to you. But you won’t see the download button if you have an ad blocker enabled
Since Opera is basically Chrome’s fraternal twin, if it wants to compete with Chrome, it has to be better, and that’s a hard act to follow. However, Opera’s benefit to battery life is one point in its favor — Chrome has a reputation for inefficient battery use. And some users will appreciate the video pop-out. Since you can get all the major Chrome extensions without much fuss, it’s hard to make a case against Opera. It’s definitely a worthy Web browser in its own right and might make Google reconsider some of its decisions on Chrome.