Is Opera 10.50 Really the Fastest?

Opera is finally making with the snapshots for 10.50 on Linux, but is it really as fast as they claim? Opera's upcoming release gets a shakedown this week, and the results might surprise you.

Good news for Linux users who love the Opera Web browser: After being snubbed for a big chunk of the pre-10.50 release cycle, Opera has finally started putting out snapshots for all platforms, including Linux. Now that we finally have our hands on Opera 10.50 development snapshots for Linux, does it live up to the hype? Is it really as fast as they claim? Don’t bet on it.

Opera is enjoying a bit of a surge in popularity lately, with the browser ballot in Europe bringing renewed attention to “alternative” browsers. The company seems to be putting quite a bit of polish on its desktop browsers to build on the momentum, and Opera is even taking a shot at getting its mobile browser on the iPhone platform.

So Opera is getting more attention than ever these days, but should Linux users be giving the underdog browser a shot? I took a look at the 10.50 snapshots released last week to see how it stacks up.

A quick note: I’m giving 10.50 an overview here, but not limiting to features that are brand new in 10.50. With less than a 4% market share according to almost all reports, it’s a safe assumption that many users haven’t tried Opera at all and have no basis of comparison with older releases.

Opera Speed

Opera is billing itself as “The fastest browser on Earth” these days. Which brings to mind a few questions: Is it really faster, and by how wide a margin is Opera faster than the other browsers? What about other features? And does it really matter if Opera is the fastest browser when you’re browsing sites that are pokey about delivering pages?

Let’s start by asking if Opera really is faster than other browsers. Luckily, we have quite a few benchmarks to choose from these days. I used the V8 Benchmark Suite (note that this is v5 of the suite, and that might change by the time you read this) and the SunSpider suite.

The results? Opera was slower than the development version of Google Chrome on Linux. Not by very much, but Opera scored 523.2ms vs Chrome’s 394.8ms and didn’t blow past Chrome as expected. Note that I re-ran the tests several times, but the links are to representative results.

Opera also didn’t do so well when compared to Chrome on the V8 Benchmark Suite. Opera scored around 2700 repeatedly, while Chrome scored above 5000. (Bigger is better.) Note that Opera is probably looking at results on Windows rather than Linux when making its speed claims, and I’ll allow for the snapshot release not being as optimized as a final release. Still, Opera doesn’t seem to be consistently the fastest browser in the world just yet.

The real question, does it matter whether Opera is faster by a bit here and there, or not? Compare to Firefox 3.6′s midterm report in November where it was scoring above 1600ms and Chrome was in the 700ms range on SunSpider. I get impatient when waiting for a Web-based application to do its thing just as much as the next person — probably moreso. But we’re approaching a point where all the major browsers have reached good enough. Speed is not going to be the primary feature that motivates me to choose a browser.

So what is? Features. Native features and the features you can get your hands on via add-ons, extensions, or widgets.

Opera Features and Widgets

Let’s start by stipulating that Opera is more full-featured than Chrome or Firefox. It has its own mailer, IRC client, and tons of functionality built into the browser. A major contrast to the approach taken by Google with Chrome, and to a lesser extent to Firefox’s approach. But what Mozilla and Google haven’t given, their developer communities have stepped up to provide.

The developer community around Opera is not quite as robust. Nor, apparently, is its Web site. The widgets.opera.com site was throwing an “unhandled exception” during part of the time I was testing Opera 10.50. I tried to reach the site using Chrome and Firefox, but it was a server-side error, not a browser problem.

But I was able to reach the site before and after. Opera has some innovative widgets. One of the niftier ones is a eBook reader, if you enjoy reading books at your computer. But I couldn’t find a widget for Evernote, to shorten URLs with Bit.ly (though the bookmarklets do work), and Opera is sadly lacking something like .

You can take a look at the most popular Opera widgets. It’s an interesting contrast to the more popular add-ons for Firefox. Some of the more popular add-ons for Firefox are replicated by Opera itself. For instance, Opera has a sync feature built in so you don’t need Xmarks — unless, of course, you use multiple browsers and want to sync between them. Opera already has the preview feature for tabs.

Opera’s Install Widget feature has a nice extra for Linux users that almost makes up for the sluggish pace of getting us snapshots. When you choose to install a widget, if you click the Advanced button, Opera provides the choice of installing the widget for yourself or to create a Deb package to install the widget for all users on the machine.

Opera Widget Dialog
Opera Widget Dialog

Next: Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Comments on "Is Opera 10.50 Really the Fastest?"

tzrick

While Opera is tab-based for life, you can take a tab and make it into its own window, simply by dragging the tab outside of the main browser window (Works like this in Windows…I had issues upgrading 10.10 to 10.50 on my virtual Ubuntu install to test).

You can also replace that tab by dragging the tab in the newly-created window back into the tab area of the main window.

Reply
chavoux

I am a long-time Opera user and fan and must confess that Opera has become too big and slow for my taste. I am still using slow internet connections, so a fast browser is important. To me one of the most useful features of Opera is turning images (and download of big images) off and on using a singe click.

Reply
perfmonk

There is an EPUBReader extension in Firefox that reads electronic books.

Note that you must use the minimum extensions if you want maximum speed with your browser.

Regards,

BT

Reply
radagast

chavoux : does opera turbo help you? i use firefox on my work machine and opera on my netbook for exactly this reason – it\’s smaller, faster, and turbo enables itself when you\’re on a slow network.

Reply
matador

A note about speed:

I\’ve been following the \”Opera Desktop Team\” blog for a while now and there\’s a lot of interesting information you can get from it. Usually Windows, Mac and Linux builds are released simultanously. With the EU browser-choice thing, Opera decided to push out the Windows version and work on the rest later. The specifically mentioned speed is not on par througout the OSes, yet. So lets wait for the release and see how fast it is ;)

Also, they rewrote the complete UI to make it use whatever toolkit is appropriate (GTK for GNOME, Aero for Win7, Qt for KDE and Cocoa for Mac). Internally they always used their own Toolkit which in the end translated everything to Qt on all platforms. For some that made Opera look a bit out of place.

I guess using GTK is more work than they expected ;)

Reply
heu

Not at all. Opera 10.50 on Linux SUCKS (literally). I\’ve been using Opera on both Linux and Windows since about 2001 because of its low memory footprint, speed and customization features. Needless to say that I love it and usually Opera is the first software I install and make the default browser with every new install I make despite the long time problems with flash on linux. I made the mistake of installing 10.50 beta (because of some problems that appeared with the dialog boxes after a Qt upgrade) and I\’ve been updating it to the latest snaphshot.I can say that 10.50 on linux is NOT EVEN THERE. It\’s slow, it gets as slow as a pachiderm to open dialog boxes, crashes every now and then and after its crashed there\’s some web sites that just won\’t open anymore so I have to keep chrome open along with opera. If I were sure that I can revert to the prior version (which I am happy with on both OpenSUSE and Sabayon) without damaging my emails (Yeah I use opera as my email client) I would do it right now and without a blink. As you can see, with me speed (actually the lack of it) is the last concern.

Reply
hartford3

It just didn\’t work for me. Too much junk. Way to complicated. Not fast as Chrome or FF. I may be imagining things but when I dumped it in trash had a hell of a time getting rid of the system changes it makes.

Reply
lrirwin

The reviewer stated that most browsers were fast enough…
Intimating that speed is no longer a top issue…
We write AJAX apps with tons of editable fields on the screen served up in local environments – speed IS the top issue.
Google Chrome processes AJAX apps (read javascript) much, much faster than IE, FireFox, Safari or Opera.
We support them all, but recommend Chrome because of it\’s speed and conservation of screen real-estate.

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