Opera software recently cranked out a new alpha version of its upcoming Opera 12 web browser. Opera 12 has been in development for a little while now and recently added full hardware acceleration for WebGL graphics.
If you’d like to take Opera 12 for a spin, head on over to the Opera Next downloads page
Before you consider taking it for a spin though be aware that the new hardware accelerated WebGL features work best with “modern graphics cards and up to date drivers.” The Opera blog also notes that “testing Opera 12 alpha can trigger bugs in your graphics card and in worst case blue screen your computer.”
The new hardware acceleration features mean that every element on screen in Opera 12 — not just, say, the canvas element — is now handled by your graphics card (provided it’s up to the task). Right now the acceleration only works with an OpenGL backend though Opera plans to add support for DirectX (and more graphics cards) as Opera 12 progresses.
While the hardware acceleration is definitely the big news in this release there are a few other new features as well, including a new HTML5 engine, some improvements for Opera themes and a revamped address bar.
Also due to eventually make its way into Opera 12 is experimental support for the new CSS Paged Media proposal, but regrettably that’s not part of the alpha release.
I played with the Opera 12 alpha over the weekend and found that it was indeed a bit snappier, but unfortunately it also seemed to add almost a 100MB of RAM when loading the same dozen tabs that I had open in the current release, Opera 11.51.
Of course it’s still early in the development cycle, and, assuming Opera can bring the memory overhead back down to match that of Opera 11.51, and improve the range of graphics cards supported, Opera 12 looks to offer quite a speed bump over previous versions.