Hands On with Opera 10 Alpha  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , ,

Today Opera Software made available a preview of its next major browser version, Opera 10. The pre-release alpha version showcases a new rendering engine, Presto 2.2, which the company states will improve browsing performance over the previous version by 30 percent. The company also claims that the reengineered browser and rendering engine will lead in standards support, saying that it manages 100 out of 100 on the Web Standards Project's Acid3 browser test. The previous best among major browsers was Google's Chrome, scoring 79 out of 100. In my testing, I confirmed the rare 100 score, as you can see from the accompanying slideshow.

The very lightweight installer is a mere 6MB download. Firefox is just a bit bigger, at 7.2MB. Internet Explorer 7 dwarfs both, at 14MB. Installation itself is straightforward and quick. When you launch the browser, it loads in less than 2 seconds. On the same machine, Firefox 3 and Google Chrome take slightly over 2 seconds. But startup speed for all of the browsers is good on a reasonably up-to-date machine.

For speed, Opera 10 won't set any records, but it's fast—and it's still an alpha. Chrome's performance on the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark, however, vastly exceeded what the new Opera engine managed. The test runs a balanced variety of JavaScript operations—such as string manipulation, graphics operations, and decompressions—multiple times. Opera took 8,088ms (a lower score is better), far faster than Internet Explorer 7's 256,116, and slightly lower than Firefox 3's 6,535, but still substantially trailing Chrome's 2,763 on the same Vista machine.

Of course, according to Microsoft, JavaScript performance accounts for just a small fraction—under 4 percent—of actual Web-page loading time. And anecdotally, a PCMag.com page that took 4 seconds to load in Chrome took only 2 in Opera 10. But in a test called Lots of Text, which evaluates a different aspect of performance, Opera took only 92ms compared with IE's 128ms. Chrome blew both of them away, clocking a mere 12ms Firefox posted a respectable 64ms. I should note, though, that the developers may not have optimized Opera's memory usage yet in this alpha build. I loaded the same ten popular media-rich sites into Opera 10 and Firefox, and Opera required 156MB of RAM, and FireFox only 111.

In real Web site testing, the Opera 10 alpha works well with Facebook, though it didn't seem any faster than Firefox, despite the Opera team's claims. And Yahoo mail (in its newest form) still presents an error page stating that the browser isn't supported. Opera had no trouble with Citibank's site, but the Fidelity Investments financial site claimed that the browser didn't support 128-bit encryption, and it wouldn't display in my account.

The new version keeps all of the former's helpful and unique browsing helpers, such as tab previews, mouse gestures, and its trademark speed-dial page. With speed-dial, whenever you create a new tab, it opens and shows nine favorite sites of your choice, any of which you can visit with a single click. Of course, you still get a predictive address bar, much like what you'll find in Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer 8. And Opera still boasts one of the best implementations of tabs in any browser. The "new tab" button is the clearest of that in any browser, and you can drag tabs out to a new window or to the trash can. This version adds spellchecking and a streamlined feature for updating the browser.

Developers, too, get new capabilities, including support for CSS3 Web Fonts and transparency using RGBA and HSLA. There's also an improved Dragonfly Web-site debugger that's capable of editing the DOM and inspecting HTTP headers. (full Story)

This entry was posted on Dec 10, 2008 at 9:31 AM and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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