Opera 9.5 Looks Good!

The alpha version of Opera’s Web Browser is out… and it looks pretty good! I like it’s “integrated” e-mail feature (current versions of Opera have this as well… I could get spoiled on it. BUT, I still am a Firefox kinda guy!

First impressions: Opera 9.5 alpha a worthy contender

“Opera has always defied conventional wisdom: in the past, the company was able to survive by selling web browsers when Microsoft and Netscape were giving them away. More recently, the company shifted to giving away its desktop browser, pulling revenue from sales in the mobile arena and affiliate deals integrated into the browser. The company has proven to be rugged and focused on quality. Now, the company has released alpha builds of the latest version of their desktop product, Opera 9.5 (code-named Kestrel). While it doesn’t quite add enough features to justify a full version number bump, it is a welcome update for any Opera fan and may well get users of more popular browsers to take a second look. Despite being an ‘alpha’ release, we’ve found a solid improvement to an already very strong browser. Opera claims that the latest version is faster than ever before, and our experience bears this out. When running various JavaScript speed tests, Opera 9.5 scored slightly higher (281ms) than the previous released version, 9.23 (546ms). And Opera 9.x, let it be known, smacks silly the likes of Firefox and Internet Explorer, which tend to have results in the 900-1500ms range on this test machine (a 1.8 GHz Core 2 Duo with 2GB RAM). Opera was 50 percent faster on average than Firefox, and 100 percent faster than IE7 on Windows Vista, for instance. (In all versions, the speed of the test depends on how many tabs are open, so your results may vary. In our experience, Opera always came out on top.) Opera also claims that the user interface itself also received significant optimizations for speed, and while it’s tough to accurately benchmark this, the new alpha does feel slightly ‘snappier’ than its predecessor. While this is still an alpha and there are undoubtedly still bugs present, Kestrel on Windows XP was stable and did not crash once during testing. The Macintosh version, unfortunately, had some serious UI display problems running under Panther on my PPC iBook, likely due to the new skinning code that is in this version. Performance enhancements aren’t limited to browsing speed, either. The integrated BitTorrent client (first introduced in 9.0) has been reworked, and support for Peer Exchange should make torrent downloads faster. While still not as full-featured as a standalone BitTorrent client, being able to download torrents with a single click on a web page is an extremely useful feature and is one that I use all the time. Speed isn’t the only thing that Opera has addressed with 9.5. Plenty of refinements have been added to make things more convenient. For example, the Zoom mode in previous versions was a great way to magnify not just text but entire web pages. Kestrel makes the magnification control immediately available in the bottom-right corner of the status bar, along with a toggle to view/hide images. Like most controls in the Opera user interface, these can be removed or repositioned if desired.”

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