Ars takes the new Opera R2020 browser for a spin & it bundles in some advanced UI features that Firefox and Chrome don’t have currently.

When the topic of Web browsers comes up, most people only think of Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and whatever Microsoft’s doing this week. (Just kidding, Microsoft—the new Edge is unironically great!) But today, we’re going to look at perennial bridesmaid Opera, which released a new version codenamed R2020 this Tuesday.  Opera offers a free VPN with unlimited bandwidth to anyone who wants to use one. On the plus side, it’s free and reasonably fast.

We’ve been briefly excited by lesser-known browsers many times in the last 20 years, only to eventually gravitate back to the most comfortable of the big, common options. But the tide may be turning for lesser-known options like Opera. Using the same Chromium open source browser upstream as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge do, there aren’t likely to be many compatibility surprises—at least for Windows and Mac users.

The Good

    • Opera feels both fast and familiar (enough) for anyone accustomed to Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Firefox
    • First-rate Linux installation and update experience
    • The stand-out features feel immediately useful—Snapshot, VPN, Workspaces, pinned Messengers, and My Flow all fit very neatly and obviously into our existing workflows
    • Chromium upstream base means sites render familiarly and accurately to Chrome or Edge users
    • Battery saver feature makes bloated sites feel less bloated and wasteful, even on a desktop

The Bad

    • Unit and currency conversion is still a little wonky and limited
    • DRM is completely non-functional on Linux

The Ugly

    • Many Linux users won’t care about broken DRM for philosophical reasons—but they won’t use a non-Libre browser, for the same philosophical reasons