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Opera

Free
Reviewed
April 2014
by ConsumerSearch
Opera

Best browser for slow Internet connections

Pros
  • Uses less memory than other browsers
  • Loads quickly on slow connections and older computers
  • Improved customization
Cons
  • Not compatible with some sites
  • Fewer features than major browsers

Bottom line

Sleek and quick like Chrome and customizable like Firefox, Opera has a solid fan following even though the browser has never gained a large popular base. It's the best choice for older, slower computers, as Opera requires less memory and takes advantage of caching so it often runs when other browsers might crash.

Performance

Going "Off Road" for faster browsing. Opera sports an almost skeletal design that minimizes page-loading times. It's not the best browser overall, but Opera's real gem is Off-Road mode, which makes browsing even more bare bones by capturing a compressed version of a web page. Off-Road is critical for anyone who's stuck with a slow connection -- i.e. the majority of the world. Given that most browsers are tailored toward broadband users, there aren't many that cater to the billions of people who have slow computers or Internet connections. The Scandinavian browser is in its own league here, offering what very few other browsers can: faster, basic page downloads. 

Features

Easy ways to organize browsing. Reviews concur that Opera belongs in the top five among major web browsers, but doesn't have all the advantages of Firefox and Chrome. Loyal users of the web browser have balked at many of the changes since version 12, and Opera has yielded to its critics by including many of its older features like a bookmarks bar. (An integrated email client and its super-fast "Presto" search engine -- replaced by Google's Chromium -- are gone for good.) In addition to the traditional bookmarks bar, the speed-dial feature saves and tiles sites on a page for easy access. (You can drag and drop to add new sites in bookmarks and speed dial.) Stash lets you mark pages for later (similar to a reading list), and Discover is a content portal tailored to your interests. The browser's mobile and desktop versions are also linked for integration across devices. 

Privacy and Security

Smaller may be safer. Opera has many of the privacy and security features users have come to expect of a browser, including anti-malware, anti-fraud and pop-up warnings of potential threats. The browser also lets you browse privately and erase history in a single tab. Fair or not, the major criticism of Opera -- once an industry trailblazer known for creating features like tabs -- is that it just isn't unique enough anymore. One thing that's great about its understated status, says PCMag.com: It's not a target for hackers. (However, one yearlong study found that 20 percent of Opera mobile users were concerned about security.) Opera is now using Google Chrome's code and has been through several redesigns since launching the enormously popular version 12 of its browser, which it still supports. PC Advisor says Opera "is perfect for people that want Chrome's performance, but don't want a Google account."

Our Sources

1. PCMag.com

Opera gets a "good" rating here and proves to be very fast in its "Off Road" mode; in tests of Opera in its standard form against other browsers, it scores in the middle. This is the most in-depth review of Opera 20 and weighs the browser against competitors.

Review: Opera 20, Michael Muchmore, March 12, 2014

2. Download.com

This is a review of an older version of Opera (15). CNET's Download.com gives Opera an "outstanding" 4.5-out-of-5-stars rating, praising its various features including Discover, Off-Road mode, speed dial and Stash. Opera has also set up an integrated user experience across devices, CNET notes.

Review: Opera, Eddie Cho, July 5, 2013

3. PC Advisor

This reviewer compares the features and performance of Internet Explorer 11, Opera 18, Firefox 26 and Google 31, but does not formally test them. Opera is named one of the best because it's like having Chrome without needing a Google account.

Review: Battle of the browsers 2014: which is the best web browser for Windows?, By Roland Waddilove, Dec. 16, 2013

4. PC World

PCWorld's reviewer gives Opera 18 a rating of 3 out of 5 stars and isn't thrilled with the browser's "stripped down" browser and features. While the reviewer critiques Opera for being too basic (and therefore minimizing its innovation) the simpler version is undoubtedly easier for users with slower connections or computers.

Review: Opera 18 review: This browser's seen radical changes … perhaps too radical, Ian Harac, Dec. 9, 2013

5. Softpedia.com

Softpedia.com gives Opera 18 a 4-out-of-5-stars rating in this fairly detailed test review. Off-Road mode is praised for speeding up browsing, but Opera's decision to strip so many features from its browser is a drawback in the reviewer's eyes.

Review: (Re)Discover Opera Browser, Ionut Ilascu, Nov. 20, 2013

6. SoftwareCrew.com

This isn't a review but instead describes updates to Opera 20, including drag-and-drop features on the bookmark bar and speed dial.

Review: Opera 20 FINAL released, beefs up Bookmark bar, Speed Dial, Nick Peers, March 4, 2014

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