Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

Summary: This perpetual also-ran Web browser keeps getting better, but it still lags behind the major Web browsers: Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.

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TOPICS: Software, Browser
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Opera's new default tab interface, Speed Dial, is both attractive and useful.

Opera's new default tab interface, Speed Dial, is both attractive and useful.

I want to like Opera. I really do. But, while this version is a step up from where it's been, it's still just not as good as its competition: Chrome, Internet Explorer, or even the beleaguered Firefox, are simply better.

On the plus side, Opera 11.6, which is available as a free download for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows, has a new HTML5 parser, code-named Ragnarök. For users, this will mean that Opera does well with HTML5 encoded Web pages. Still, its HTML5 compatibility score, 325 out of a possible 450 lags behind Chrome 15.

The user interface also comes with a new default tab page: "Speed Dial." This displays thumbnail images and link of your favorite sites. It's nice, but Chrome and the latest versions of the other Web browsers already have it. In another similar "following the pack" move, Opera's settings dialogs are now reached via the "wrench" button.

Perhaps the most significant change is that its built-in e-mail client's new interface has been greatly improved. Opera Mail now defaults to listing your messages on the left and showing the message on the right with the newest message on top, and showing message threads. Opera automatically groups these messages by date, but you can also group them by unread status. The overall look is both cleaner and more usable.

Which of the big five Web Browsers is the Best? (Review)

While I ran Opera on Mint Linux, Mac OS X, and XP and Windows 7, for benchmarking the Web browser I ran it on my Gateway DX4710 Windows 7 SP1 test box. This PC is powered by a 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor and has 6GBs of RAM and an Intel GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 3100 for graphics. It's hooked to the Internet via a Netgear Gigabit Ethernet switch, which, in turn, is hooked up to a 60Mbps (Megabit per second) cable Internet connection.

For my first test, I put Opera on Mozilla's Kraken 1.1 benchmark. In Kraken, which like most Web browser benchmarks measures JavaScript performance, lower scores are better. Here, Opera was, in a word, dismal. With a score of 13,010.6, both Chrome 15, 3968.1 and Firefox 8, 6,867.7 beat it hollow. It was better than IE 9, 16,576.4, but that's not saying much.

On Google's JavaScript V8 Benchmark Suite, where higher scores are better, Chrome easily took first with a score of 7,912, but, at least Opera, with its 3,382, was in the middle of the pack of other browsers.

In the old JavaScript test, SunSpider 0.9.1, where lower results win, Opera finished dead last with a score of 303.8. That was even worse than its Opera 11.52's score!

For the final benchmark, I put Opera through its paces on the Peacekeeper Web browser test suite. This test looks beyond just JavaScript performance and at HTML5 compatibility, video codec support and other Web browser features as well. With Peacekeeper, higher is better and this time Opera was competitive. With a score of 2,173 it beat all the other Web browsers... except for Chrome, which took first with 2,296.

Put it all together and what do you get? You get a browser that can't keep up with the competition. Opera swears it will introduce hardware acceleration, which will put some of the browser work on your PC's graphics processor, in the forthcoming Opera 12. Unfortunately, for Opera, this will just be a case of keeping up again. Chrome, Firefox and IE are already doing this.

So it is that, once more, while I'd like to recommend Opera, I can't. The browser has some innovative ideas and I like having an all-in-one e-mail client and Web browser, ala the old Mozilla browser, but the performance just isn't there. I really hope that by the time Opera 12 does arrive, Opera will be speedier, but, by that time, the other Web browsers are likely to be faster still.

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Topics: Software, Browser

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69 comments
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  • It Seems Like Opera Had Speed Dial First

    Opera is the first browser I can remember seeing the speed dial feature in, followed by Chromium and Midori (I can't actually remember which of those I saw it in first, but I think it was Chromium - Edit: The more I think about it, the more it seems like it might have been in Midori before Chromium, although an extension may have existed for Chromium.). It's been there a while anyway.
    CFWhitman
    • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

      @CFWhitman Opera invented speed dial, making the mention in this article ridiculous. Opera invented tabbed browsing, mouse gestures, and many other feature innovations. It's in the area of features where Opera matches or beats other browsers, not in benchmarks.
      jgm@...
      • Internetworks

        @jgm@... <br>Technically the first web browser to introduce tabbed browsing was Internetworks from BookLink Technologies in 1994. However, Opera was the first of the modern, popular browsers to incorporate it.

        In fact, that's why I said that "it seems like Opera had speed dial first." I knew it had it before Chrome/Chromium, Firefox, Midori and Internet Explorer, but I wasn't sure there wasn't some other browser I was unfamiliar with which had it.
        CFWhitman
  • There's Opera for FreeBSD too

    From the article:<br>"Opera 11.6, which is available as a free download for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows ...<br><br>Opera 11.6 is also available for FreeBSD i386 and AMD64:<br><br><a href="http://www.opera.com/browser/download/?custom=yes" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.opera.com/browser/download/?custom=yes</a><br><br>P.S. Opera ceased Solaris support when the OpenSolaris project ended.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Terrible "review"!

    What a horribly ignorant and uninformed review!

    The reviewer is using 3 tests made by specific browser vendors (V8/Google, Kraken/Mozilla, SunSpider/Apple) and concluding that because Opera seemingly doesn't win all of these artificial benchmarks it isn't "good enough"???

    Seriously, this is a terrible review. There's more to browsing than artificial, biased benchmarks.
    wuppez
    • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

      @wuppez
      worse even! he doesn't just use some benchmarks, he even pretends these minor differences in javascript performance can still be noted by the human eye!
      aardmaat
  • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

    The only thing I care about with Opera is that they keep .mht compatibility. I use that to archive some website entries that I like and that is all I really use it for.
    Lerianis10
  • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

    I'm a long-time reader of ZDNet, but I usually don't comment on articles (I don't care for most of the common arguments between fanboys and trolls.<br><br>I feel like I must step up and say something here though. Opera has always lead the pack in innovation, I'll cite tabs and speed dials as proof. In case you need a quick memory refresh, Opera was the first browser to publish the speed dial concept, though shortly afterwards a FireFox addon was created. Chrome followed up with the "most visited" sites page later on.<br><br>I won't comment on the benchmarks you performed, as I'm sure you did your job properly and the results you published are probably correct. I do remember reading an article shortly back on ZDNet that said such benchmarks aren't that important anymore though, since most users can't tell the difference between a few seconds of rendering time. I agree with that, which is why I think It's silly to not recommend a browser simply on benchmarks alone.<br><br>For future research, I suggest checking out Opera's Unite feature, their built-in email client (the primary feature upgrade in the latest release), as well as Opera Link, Opera Turbo, and of course, the My Opera Community. While on that subject, for your next review, consider checking our the "What's New" page on their website (which will give you a quick overview of the latest improvements) as well as the detailed changelog, if you want.<br><br>Lastly, I would like to request a quick apology for, or at least an acknowledgement of your error. The Opera Community is one of the closest I've ever seen, and they do fantastic work. The least that can be done is give proper credit for the things they invent, even if you don't personal like the browsing experience they provide. Thanks!
    PreferNotToSay
    • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

      @PreferNotToSay
      "Chrome followed up with the "most visited" sites page later on. "
      Even for that feature, Opera offered a "Top10 most visited sites" list on the default StartBar, a VERY long time ago, before Speed Dial. The feature is still available :)
      ra-mon
  • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

    Man, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, are you a fool sometimes or what! SpeedDial has been developed by the Opera team and introduced in the browser way before all the other browsers jumped on the idea. Same thing with the password manager (the wand), tab navigation, the side panels, cookies and session management, just to name a few of the options and funtions introduced by the Opera team and then imitated by everybody else.
    Speed? Opera is fast, period. And extremely responsive, that you have one tab open or one hundred. I'm not kidding: once, just for fun, I opened 100 tabs all at once from my bookmarks manager and man, in just a bit over 20 seconds they were all open and the browser was still functioning A1.
    Sorry, buddy, but Opera is the most innovative browser there is. And it's lighter on resources than any other browser. Believe me, I tried them all: IE, Firefox, Midori, Chrome, Epiphany, SeaMonkey, and Opera remains the best, the fastest, the coolest and the sexiest browser.
    Jean Chicoine
    • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

      @Jean Chicoine
      ++1
      stepan hakobyan
    • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

      @Jean Chicoine
      +++1
      macmilan
  • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

    Wow .. The Opera Fans came out of hiding ... All 7 of them :)
    JoseTorr
    • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

      @JoseTorr Regardless of desktop marketshare, Opera has over 220 million users. That's still not exactly a small number.
      PreferNotToSay
    • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

      @JoseTorr
      8 with my 11 year old daughter, ouh ah! who thinks Opera is the best, on her laptop and on her Android.
      Jean Chicoine
    • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

      @JoseTorr Wow, when people who know more than the reviewer about a subject (not a difficult task, apparently) comment, you think a proper response is this contentless snark? As that great American philosopher might say, "What a maroon. What an ignoranimous."
      dw.needham@...
      • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

        @dw.needham@... a-sphincter-says-what !!!
        JoseTorr
  • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

    did you ever use opera, or did you just have your interns or lackys put opera on those test sites likely paid by the other browser makers... you can't be serious ...I have had them all at one time or another ...they all stink ...opera stands out for customizing feature and I use it every day...
    toubib2@...
  • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

    @PreferNotToSay
    I find that 220 Million User Number hard to believe considering they have been around since 1996 and to date have a 3.1 Market share (via Statcounter)
    JoseTorr
    • RE: Opera 11.6: Better but not good enough (Review)

      @JoseTorr Bare in mind that Opera has a fantastic mobile browser. I do believe I said "Regardless of desktop marketshare", sorry if that wasn't more clear. Also, here's my source: http://media.opera.com/media/finance/2011/2Q11_press_release.pdf

      You'll notice that the 220 million figure is a combined total of desktop and mobile users (both Opera branded, and not).
      PreferNotToSay