Opera 10.5: Better and Chrome-ier

By  |  Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Norwegian browser company Opera has released a Windows beta of version 10.50–a follow up to 10.0, which shipped back in September. It’s definitely a beta–it’s not available at all for the Mac or Linux yet, and quirky enough that I couldn’t post this article using it–but it’s a promising one. And all the changes make Opera feel more like its much younger rival Google Chrome.

Opera’s makers are calling version 10.50 “the fastest browser on earth,” apparently based on the performance of its new JavaScript engine, which the company says is eight times faster than the old one. (The previous engine performed poorly compared to other browsers in the SunSpider benchmark test.) Judging browser speed based largely on JavaScript doesn’t make a lot of sense, but all of Opera’s competitors except Microsoft do it, too.  (It may not be a complete coincidence that IE is the other browser besides Opera that lags in the SunSpider test.)

I’ve only used Opera 10.5 a little bit so far–and some of that has been via iffy EVDO (I’m at Macworld 2010 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center…which is one enormous basement.) So far, it feels snappy. WebMonkey seems to agree.

If you want still more speed, you can turn on the Turbo mode, which compresses graphics on the server side so they download more quickly. Opera recommends it only for use when you have low-quality bandwidth–such as in the basement of a big convention center, for instance–but it could come in handy in such circumstances.

Opera 10.50’s emphasis on zippy JavaScript is at least partially a response to Google Chome–and there are a few other new features that are also distinctly Chrome-esque. Versions of Opera prior to 10.0 had a busy, crowded interface that 10.0 went a long way towards cleaning up. And 10.50 introduces a much sleeker default look that opens up more room for the Web site you’re on by doing away with standard menus:


Okay, it hasn’t done away entirely with menus–it’s really collapsed everything onto one button in the upper  left-hand corner. It’s reminiscent of Microsoft’s Office 2010 interface, except there’s no “Ribbon” to take up space. So far, I like it. (You can opt to go back to standard menus if you choose.)

Opera 10.50 also finally introduces a private browsing mode, much like Google’s Incongnito (and the similar features in IE, Firefox, and Safari):

And like Chrome and Firefox, Opera has rolled the functionality of its search bar into the address bar itself, so you can enter either URLs or search terms–which leaves me wondering why it’s also retained the now-redundant search bar.

Opera still has a bunch of unique features, including applike widgets, a neat tab view that shows thumbnails of pages, and the controversial-but-interesting built-in Unite Web server. In terms of market share, it’s the smallest of the major browser players by far: only about 1.35 percent of Technologizer visitors run it. But 10.50 looks like a strong upgrade–there’s more that I like in it than there was in 10.0, come to think of it. If you check it out, I’d love to know your thoughts.

 
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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Alkaloid Says:

    The claims of speed are not just based on the new javascript engine (Carakan). 10.5 also benefits from Opera’s new hardware-accelerated graphics library (Vega).

  2. Alkaloid Says:

    More information:
    http://my.opera.com/chooseopera/blog/2009/02/05/meet-carakan-and-vega

    (sorry for the double-post)

  3. Sirnh1 Says:

    “Opera has rolled the functionality of its search bar into the address bar itself, so you can enter either URLs or search terms–which leaves me wondering why it’s also retained the now-redundant search bar.”

    That’s because opera has had searching from the address bar possible for some time now. You could go to tools, preferences and then the search tab allows you to add/edit/remove search engines. In the url bar you could enter ‘keyword searchterm(s)’. For example: ‘g browsers’ to search ‘browsers’ on google. or ‘a browsers’ to search ‘browsers’ on the search engine you specified with ‘a’ keyword

  4. RRR Says:

    What do you mean by “And like Chrome and Firefox, Opera has rolled the functionality of its search bar into the address bar itself, so you can enter either URLs or search terms–which leaves me wondering why it’s also retained the now-redundant search bar.” ?!

    Opera has that since… ever… :))
    So did other browsers. Only Chrome felt the need to change the name of the address bar to something pompous like “omnibar”. Probably to impress little girlies and newborns… =))

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