Opera becomes first alternative Android browser optimized for Chromebooks

Chromebooks are centered around the Google Chrome web browsing experience, but there are alternative browsers available as Android applications. Opera launched a new version of its app that has some Chrome OS optimized features.

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Image: Opera

For the past three years I've been using a Google Pixel Slate as my primary home computer and ZDNet writing platform. While I dabble in using Android apps, most of my time is spent in the default Chrome browser.

For users who want to try out other web browsers, possibly different ones for work and play, there are options such as Firefox, DuckDuckGo, Opera, and more. A couple of days ago Opera launched an updated version of its Android app that is advertised as being the world's first alternative browser optimized for Chromebooks. Just to be clear, this is not a full replacement for Chrome and your default desktop browser can not be switched from Chrome to Opera.

Also: Pixel Slate review: Google tablet vs iPad or Surface? It's beyond compare

With the global pandemic and the immediate need for a massive number of computers for remote work, remote schooling, and communications between family and friends, more than 30 million Chromebooks were sold in 2020. Experts estimate that 40 million more may be shipped in 2021. Some unique functions present in this Chromebook optimized version of Opera include:

  • Messenger mode: This option provides all of your WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Instagram, and Twitter accounts appear in one simple Messengers tab in the left side of the browser.
  • Flow: Chat with yourself by taking notes, saving links, and storing images in a mode that mirrors the My Flow experience between the Opera browser and your connected smartphone.
  • Integrated VPN: Help securing your browsing experience with a simple VPN solution. The VPN works with private browsing sessions.
  • Ad blocker: Block annoying ads as you surf the internet.
  • Crypto wallet: Manage your cryptocurrency accounts through a simple quick launch icon in the Opera browser.
  • Night mode: Help protect your eyes late at night while browsing and binging Netflix with night mode as blue light is reduced with this mode.
  • Color themes: Easily switch between five color themes, available in light and dark mode.

I installed the browser on my Pixel Slate and found it to be very fast and reliable. The integrated messaging function is handy since I typically jump between Telegram, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger throughout the day. I would like to see the Google Messages functionality added as well in a future update.

Also: One year with the Google Pixel Slate: My favorite computer and tablet for getting work done

For some reason, the formatting of many sites I visit, including ZDNet, is a pretty terrible experience in the Opera browser on my Pixel Slate. Maybe this 3000x2000 pixels resolution device is not the intended market for this browser. Even when toggling between desktop and mobile modes, most of the webpage content is small and centered on the big screen. You can easily zoom in and out, but then you spend time scrolling right and left to view the page as it doesn't reflow the page. Visiting those same sits in Chrome is much better. If there is something I am missing here to optimize the website formatting, please let me know.

The new Opera browser is free for your Chromebook and I highly recommend you check out Kevin Tofel's hands-on experiences with the browser since he is a Chromebook expert and offers a great perspective on the new browser option.