Opera Adds Built In VPN and Ad Blocking To Web Browser

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | October 28, 2016 - 12:46 AM |
Tagged: editorial, web browser, vpn, Privacy, Opera, Blink

It has been some time since I last looked at Opera, and while I used to be a big fan of the alternative web browser my interest waned around the time that they abandoned their own engine to become (what I felt) yet another Chrome (Webkit) clone. Specifically, it looks like the last version I tested out was 12.10. Well, last month Opera released version 40 with just enough of a twist to pique my interest once again: the inclusion of a free built-in VPN.

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I (finally) got around to testing out the new browser today, and it works fairly well. While setting the default to share usage data is not ideal, offering to enable the ad blocker after installation is a good touch. The VPN feature is a bit more tucked away than I would like but still accessible enough from the settings menu. Further, once it is enabled, it is easy to turn it off and on using the icon in the search/address bar.

According to Opera, the built-in VPN (virtual private network) comes courtesy of SurfEasy – a company that Opera acquired last year. SurfEasy uses OpenVPN and 256-bit encryption and also lauds itself on being a no-log VPN (they do not maintain logs tracking users' usage). Opera is not currently imposing any restrictions on the free VPN built into Opera with bandwith and data usage not being capped. Not bad for a free offering! For comparison, I've used the free version of ProXPN on occasion (public Wi-Fi mostly), and while the VPN is for the entire PC (not just the browser like in Opera's case) they heavily throttle the download speeds to entice you to pay (heh).

In a quick test, I got the following results:

  Ping (ms) Download (Mbps) Upload (Mbps)
No VPN 13 90.26 12.14
Opera VPN 108 89.72 12.06
ProXPN Basic 38 1.74 11.19

Considering the exit point was much further away (SpeedTest chose a Kansas test server, and it looks like the VPN server may have been in Houston, TX), the performance was not bad. Download and Upload speeds were only slightly slower, but (as expected) the ping was much higher.

Opera offers five locations for its free VPN: Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, and the United States.

Users can enable the VPN by browsing to opera://settings and clicking on Privacy & Security in the left hand list then checking the box next to "Enable VPN."

On another note, the included ad blocker seemed to work well (it apparently has already blocked 86 ads even though I only hit up a couple sites!). My only complaint here is that it does not make it as easy as AdBlock Plus to block/unblock specific elements (or if there is a way it's not intuitive). It is only a minor complaint though, and not really relevant for the majority of users.

I am by no means a browser benchmarker, but it feels fast enough when switching between tabs and loading websites. Fortunately, Michael Muchmore and Max Eddy put Opera through its paces and compiled the benchmark results from several synthetic tests if you are into the nitty-gritty numbers. From their data it appears that Opera is not the fastest, but by no means a slouch. The one test it fell hard on was the Unity WebGL benchmark, though it was not the only browser to do so (Opera, Chrome, and Vivaldi were all close with FireFox and Edge getting the top scores).

Other features of Opera 40 (41 in my case) include a personalized newsfeed that can be fed with any user-supplied RSS feeds, a new battery saver mode, hardware accelerated pop-out videos, Chromecast support, and a number of under the hood performance and memory optimizations (especially with more than 10 tabs open).

I am going to keep it installed and may switch back to using Opera as my daily browser. It looks like it has come a long way since Opera 12 and while it is similar to Chrome under the hood, Opera is doing enough to set itself apart that it may be worth looking into further.

What are your thoughts on Opera 41? 

Source: Opera

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October 28, 2016 | 02:28 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

WTF IS OPERA??

October 28, 2016 | 02:40 AM - Posted by zme-ul

when a guy is stabbed in the back he doesn't die, he start singing - that's what opera is

October 28, 2016 | 11:43 AM - Posted by serpico (not verified)

:D

October 28, 2016 | 01:20 PM - Posted by Tim (not verified)

A web browser by a Norway-based company. They used to run their own engine (Presto) but these days it is similar to Chrome under the hood (Blink /V8). It has always been kind of an odd browser but built up a decent following back in the day.

October 28, 2016 | 03:33 AM - Posted by JohnGR

Pity they totally destroyed the Opera Mini. The new Opera Mini in my (not so new) Android 4.4.2 phone(quad core, 1GB RAM) is so slow and with so many performance issues that I had to go and find the old one, without the add blocking feature, and that old one works so much better.

As for the desktop, I have to give them credit for being innovative in trying to find ways to grab market share away from Chrome and the other browsers. They advertise also lower battery usage and for the latest version faster loading times for pages.

October 28, 2016 | 01:17 PM - Posted by Tim (not verified)

Yeah, I used to run Opera Mini as well for the compression feature to reduce data usage and load faster over 3g heh. Have not used it in ages though. Sucks that it went downhill.

October 28, 2016 | 07:54 AM - Posted by dragosmp (not verified)

Downloading as I type, nice mini review. I ditched Opera 10 years or more ago as it needed way more resources than firefox and gave worse battery life.

October 29, 2016 | 10:25 AM - Posted by DieH@rd (not verified)

I am a opera user for 10 years now. It's a great browser, and these recent updates make it even better.

October 30, 2016 | 05:43 AM - Posted by Sheila Cullinane (not verified)

I gave been using Opera for the past 2 yrs but the past couple of weeks I had to change to Internet Explorer as with yr browser I cant send webtext or comments on peoplrd pages. Do u know why? has something changed. thanks

November 1, 2016 | 07:14 AM - Posted by Gabby (not verified)

I still use opera, both in my Lumia and in my LG G3. It's a decent browser but the VPN isn't something to be too proud of. This was ll over the news a few months ago, but now i think it's pretty much established that with a mere add-on and a handful of features, opera may be able to give come competition to browsers like Edge and UC, but it's not gonna take on paid VPN giants like Ivacy and/or Nord.

November 2, 2016 | 10:23 AM - Posted by Glenn Marston (not verified)

Neither Opera nor Chrome use the Webkit layout engine. Google forked Webkit to create the Blink layout engine in April 2013. Shortly afterward, Chrome switched from Webkit to Blink for rendering. Likewise, Opera switched from its Presto engine to Blink, at the same time basing its browser on the Chromium, which is Chrome's sister open-source project. In short, Opera and Chrome have been Blink-based for about 3.5 years.

November 22, 2016 | 11:26 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I downloaded Opera about a month ago, and tried testing it on different websites to see if it really hides your IP. Seem pretty good on that level, but when I tested by downloading a movie, I received a letter that I downloaded a pirate movie and my IP address was recorded as doing such. So, is this secure or not, doesn’t seem too secure to me if they can see my IP using this browser. You tell me if that is secured.

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