File Under: Browsers

New Opera 10.5 Delivers Speed, Windows 7 Tricks

Opera software has released Opera 10.5 for Windows, boasting that it’s “the fastest browser on Earth.” We took the beta version for a test drive last month and found that it is indeed snappy, besting Safari 4, Firefox 3.6 and even Google’s speedy Chrome browser in our informal testing. Now that the final release is here, speed lovers have yet another browser to add to their stable.

At the moment Opera 10.5 is available for Windows only; the Mac and Linux versions of Opera 10.5 remain beta releases, though Opera assures Webmonkey that the final releases for both platforms are coming soon. The beta releases for those platforms have only been a few weeks behind the Windows version on 10.5.

The main focus for Opera 10.5 is speed, and much of the speed comes from two new under the hood features in this release, namely the new Carakan JavaScript rendering engine and the Vega graphics engine.

If you want to make Opera 10.5 even faster you can also enable Opera Turbo, in which case Opera handily beat every other browser in our tests. Of course Opera Turbo involves a bit of a trade off — all traffic is routed through Opera’s servers, where the data gets compressed, and Turbo mode lacks some features , like secure connections.

Even without the added boost of Opera Turbo, this new release consistently bested both Safari and Firefox in our speed tests and held its own against Google Chrome.

At this point, it’s safe to say that all four major web browsers are so close in terms of speed that the real differentiating factor is the feature set. And it’s here that Opera really shines with nice Windows 7 features, like access to individual tabs — and even Opera’s Speed Dial sites — from the Windows taskbar. There are plenty of extras as well, including everything from a BitTorrent client to Opera’s set of Unite web server tools.

In addition to the Windows 7 integration, Opera 10.5 sports a somewhat different look on Windows, having eliminated the traditional menu bar in favor a new “Opera menu,” which looks and behaves much like the single button menus found in Microsoft Office.

The Opera menu is unobtrusive, hanging down like an inverted tab on the far left of your window, and saves considerable screen real estate, making it very nice for netbooks (If you don’t like the new Opera menu, you can turn the old menu back on by clicking “show menu bar”).

Also new in this release is support for HTML5 video. As Opera CTO Hakon Lie told Webmonkey last month, HTML5 video is the future of the web, “but only when combined with a free and open video format.” To that end, Opera has joined Mozilla in supporting the Ogg Theora codec for video playback in Opera 10.5.

Opera 10.5 also supports the HTML5 offline storage spec, which allows web applications to store data on your PC for things like offline document editing, offline web-based e-mail or offline RSS readers. The latest version of Opera also adds some new CSS 3 tricks with support for both transitions and transforms.

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