Off-Road with Opera Browser Beta (Webkit)

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Opera browser beta is a completely redesigned Webkit-based browser. Opera recently announced that it was moving away from their proprietary Presto rendering engine that they had been using for their browsers and adopting Webkit instead. Webkit is the same engine that powers Symbian/Belle browsers, iOS’ Safari and Android’s own browsers. The new Opera Mobile browser has a new user interface too. I took it for a quick spin on the Sony Xperia P and have some screenshots and comments for you.

Opera Beta

On launching the browser, I was presented with a Welcome page, followed by a series of introduction pages detailing features of the browser.


Off-road mode, which can be enabled or disabled as the user wishes, routes traffic via Opera’s servers, compressing data and speeding up page load times. Opera is well known for this.


The well-known Speed Dial feature is here too.


Opera Discover helps you find useful stuff on the internet from Opera’s recommendations.


After the introduction pages, I was presented with the Speed Dial menu, which is what loads when a new tab is launched. Any website you visit on the browser can be added to the Speed Dial menu.


Tabbed browsing is available here by hitting the “Tabs” icon beside the address bar at the top of the browser. It really looks nice. The page you were viewing is presented in the background, while running tabs are presented in the foreground at the top of the menu.


Tabbed browsing includes the option to open a tab for private browsing.


Opera browser beta offers saving a page for offline reading, history, among other standard fare.


The option to set what country you need recommendations for (in Opera Discover) is also available, but South Africa is the only African country listed there. Bummer. Not that a lot of countries are covered there though. I counted only twenty eight (28).


Still on the Discover service, there is an option to select “Global” though. You can select what categories (labelled “Top Stories” to receive recommendations from. The greyed out icons in the screenshot above are categories that I have de-selected.

Performance wise, it is probably too early to rule on Opera browser beta, but it seems to kick in slowly when you first launch a website, but overall speed is good and rendering is fine. That is without Off-Road Mode enabled.

In Off-Road Mode, I didn’t find it any faster, though this might just be due to the fact that the MOBILITY site which I loaded is optimised for mobile from ground up, so there can’t be much to compress (check out our mobile-optimised website design services). Page rendering and formatting is worse though. This is what the MOBILITY homepage looks like in Off-Road Mode:


Notice how the top navigation is distorted with all the wasted space. Note also how the logo does not fit into the page anymore. Yuck. I don’t like the page rendering in Off-Road mode.

This version of the browser is beta anyway, so no biggie. It looks fresh and offers the traditional Opera advantage of data compression. Of course, the average user does not know anything about rendering engines and the switch from Presto to Webkit is tech jargon to them. I shall keep my eyes open for the proper launch and hope to see Opera do cool stuff with this. If not, besides the server compression, we would have to ask what the switch to Webkit was really all about.


  1. .If not, besides the server compression, we would have to ask what the switch to Webkit was really all about.

    I have been asking myself that same question.

    It is similar to a major car manufacturer like Honda suddenly deciding not to build engines any more, preferring to concentrate its energy on other aspects of the car.

    Perhaps rendering has reached its Zenith, and no other improvements are possible.?

    Perhaps the differentiating factor, or USP will now just be the interface and other features?

    Me no know!

  2. From this review, I can deduce that maybe, this version of Opera Browser should not have made it to beta stage yet. The review is detailed enough to convince me that I have to wait a little before giving it a try, maybe in the next release.

    Thanks Mr. Mo.

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