It may not enjoy the same level of attention as other heavyweight web browsers, but there’s still a lot to like about Opera. Rebooted in June 2013 as a Chromium-based variant, the new Opera’s early history was a troubled one, with many long-established features absent. Even now, some aren’t coming back – specifically Opera’s old built-in mail client, which is available on its own as Opera Mail.
The reboot was prompted by Opera’s decision to abandon its own proprietary web rendering engine (Presto) in favour of Google’s open-source Chromium engine. This left Opera room to focus more on the user interface, and while it’s taken a while to get all the key functionality back, Opera is now starting to fire on all cylinders, particularly now bookmark support has been restored after various failed attempts to move to a different way of storing favourites.
The redesigned Start page gives you a choice of three views: Speed Dial lets you place key favourites front and centre via a series of tiles, which includes the ability to group related sites together. The Discover tab can be customised to show you news and updates from a variety of topics focused on your chosen location.
And finally, the restored bookmarks can be displayed as a list or as a grid containing thumbnail preview images (or site icon). What was stored in the now-defunct Stash can be found here. It’s very flashy, but the key thing is it’s logical, and it works.
Other handy features include Opera Turbo – technology also found on its mobile browser that compresses data while you browse to speed up website loading. It’s designed primarily for slower networks, but will work on any network you choose. Also look out for Tab Previews (simply roll your mouse over any tab for a pop-up preview of its contents, which are dynamically updated along with the page itself).
Opera is still a work in progress, but it’s come a long way in the 15 months since we reviewed the first release of this new reboot. It’s now starting to feel like a genuine alternative to the better known browsers out there.
What's new in Opera v41 (compared to the previous v40)?
- Smarter startup sequence = faster browsing. Now, the new smarter startup sequence makes the browser start up faster by prioritizing which of the previously-used tabs are likely to be most important for you.
- Longer battery time when video conferencing. When using battery saving mode, Opera now detects which video codec can be hardware-accelerated and tries to choose that codec when doing video conferencing via WebRTC.
- Hardware-accelerated video pop-out. With Opera 41, you get a fully hardware-accelerated video pop-out. This should greatly limit the need for CPU support and free your PC resources.
- Personalized newsreader improvements. Opera’s personalized newsreader, one-stop news tailored for users’ needs, has received a long list of improvements
It's taken a while, but Opera's rebooted web browser is finally starting to come of age, particularly now it's restored key features like bookmarks. Well worth trying alongside your regular browser.