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Opera Is Easily The Best Browser Available

Posted by Alex Bailey On August - 25 - 2006

Everyone these days seems to be raving about Firefox, and how it should be used over Internet Explorer. I totally agree with these people, however Firefox isn’t anywhere near the best browser out there. Opera outperforms Firefox in basically all tests. The goal of this article, isn’t to get you to switch. I simply wanted to write a quick article giving facts on why Firefox isn’t the best. If you want a detailed report, stop reading. This is just a few quick facts.

Which browser uses less RAM?

I opened 9 popular websites in 9 different tabs in each of the browsers. The websites were as follows:

http://www.ebay.com/

https://www.paypal.com/

http://digg.com/

http://images.google.com/images?q=images&sa=N&tab=wi

http://pscode.com/

http://amazon.com/

http://www.yahoo.com/

http://www.aol.com/

http://www.microsoft.com/

I then minimized all browsers, and checked their memory usage. Firefox using ~22 MBs was by far using the most. Most browsers release their memory when you minimize them, however Firefox does not by default. If I didn’t configure it to do that it would be using ~50 MBs. If you’re interested in configuring it to release its memory see this article. In this test, Opera and IE were considerably less.
Minimized
The next test was restoring all windows and checking their memory usage. Firefox used the most memory at ~31 MBs. Opera used approximately half as much as Firefox.
Maximized

PC Requirements

Firefox:
Intel Pentium II or AMD K6-III+ 233 MHz
64 MB RAM
52 MB hard drive space
Windows 98 or higher

IE:
66 MHz processor
16-32 MB ram
12 MB Install size
Windows 98 or higher

Opera:
20 MB of free disk space
Any system running Windows 95 or higher

Cold and hot start times

Firefox 1.0 – 11.54 seconds.
Firefox 1.5 – 17.26 seconds.
Firefox 2.0 – 11.64 seconds

Opera 7.54 – 4.90 seconds.
Opera 8 – 3.66 seconds.
Opera 9.01 – 2.47 seconds.

IE 5.0 – 5.25 seconds.
IE 6.0 – 6.99 seconds.
IE 7.0 – 7.80 seconds.
Cold start was the amount of time the browser took to start up after you logged out and then back in. These tests were taken on an 800 MHz P3 Box with 256 MBs of ram.

Hot start times

A hot start is the time it takes to open your browser after the original opening of it.
Firefox 1.0 – 2.52 seconds.
Firefox 1.5 – 2.74 seconds.
Firefox 2.0 – 3.05 seconds

Opera 7.54 – 2.40 seconds.
Opera 8 – 2.38 seconds.
Opera 9.01 – 2.24 seconds.

IE 5.0 – 3.11 seconds.
IE 6.0 – 1.77 seconds.
IE 7.0 – 2.40 seconds.

Rendering times

Rendering CSS and tables. Simply the most part of using your browser is its ability to render websites. Opera is far faster than Firefox or Internet explorer at rendering. For the full list of rendering times and the hot/cold start times see this site

Which browser is more web compliant?

Simply put, Opera. Taking the Acid2 browser test reveals that Opera is the ONLY browser to pass the test. Internet Explorer doesn’t even come close, while Firefox is on the right track.
Opera
Opera’s perfect rendering.
Firefox
Firefox is on the right track but nowhere near correct.
IE7
“¦Uhm..Mr. Gates, care to explain?
See for yourself. For more detailed statistics on how compliant each browser is, view the chart. Opera wins in all categories. To be fair Firefox’s new version (3.0) which is currently in development passes the Acid2 test.

Security

Since Firefox 1.x has been released there have been over 125 vulnerabilities. Opera is the most secure browser out there. Firefox users might say Internet Explorer’s ActiveX is insecure, and should be removed. In IE7 on Vista it runs in restricted access mode, meaning any harmful AvtiveX installed, is not in fact harmful at all. The fact is Firefox extensions pose an equally dangerous threat to the users PC. Most people criticize Microsoft for being slow to patch its vulnerabilities. Well Firefox isn’t exactly perfect either, as shown here.

Cost

Some people are still living back in time when Opera wasn’t free. For over a year now, Opera has been without ads, and is 100% free for anybody. The only difference is that Opera is closed source while Firefox is open source. If you don’t know C++, then that shouldn’t make a difference.

Extensions

A lot of Firefox fanboys will claim that Firefox has extensions, and they can’t do without them. Stated the most is ad-block (which Opera has built in). Well opera has widgets, which is basically the same thing as Firefox’s extensions. They also offer a documentation to start making your own widgets.

It’s not an opinion that Opera is by far the best graphical browser out there, it’s fact. It’s incredibly fast, secure, resource light, and the most web compliant. I’m not saying Firefox is a bad browser, all I’m saying is it’s simply not the best.


37 Responses to “Opera Is Easily The Best Browser Available”

  1. jesse says:

    You should include popuptest.com/ in the test. I’d like to see those results too.

    Some other questions:

    Doesn’t Opera come with advertising?
    Is Opera as customizable as firefox (extensions & themes considered)

    As for the Browser Support Summary, that only shows minimal differences between Firefox and both versions of Opera. The Acid2 Test is a much more effective comparison, which shows me that though firefox comes close, it’s obviously not close enough.

    However, this has been the only rendering problem (aside from iframes) that I have ever experienced in firefox, which makes it a little less credible, though still legitimate (for me).

    In your security section, you mention how many vulnerabilities FF has or had, but bluntly state that Opera is the most secure. Can we know how many vulnerabilities Opera has had since its release?

    As for the boot times, yes, we all know firefox is a slowass when it comes to starting. :P It gets even slower when it’s packed with extensions. So far, we put up with it because it’s just firefox.

    For my final point: I don’t think Opera’s gotten this much fanfare: lug.oregon....sized.jpg

    If you intend to answer these questions, could you forward it to my e-mail?

    Thanks a lot, good show.

  2. Rub3X says:

    Hi, Opera is and has been ad free for months. It’s now 100% free with no ads. Opera widgets that are like Firefox extensions. I will check in to how many vulns Opera has had, I tried but couldn’t find it. Yea I saw that crop circle on Digg, very cool :D. Also I’m pretty sure all modern browsers handle that pop-up website just fine. Last time I checked it with Firefox like 1-2 of those got through, but none of them “popped” up.

  3. MOFfie says:

    “Doesn’t Opera come with advertising?”

    Nope.

    “Is Opera as customizable as firefox (extensions & themes considered)”

    It’s easier to switch themes, etc. (no restart required). It doesn’t have extensions, but there are lots of other ways to extend Opera.

    “Can we know how many vulnerabilities Opera has had since its release?”

    Check secunia.com.

    “For my final point: I don’t think Opera’s gotten this much fanfare: lug.oregon....sized.jpg

    Eh, that’s a marketing stunt, paid for by Mozilla Corporation.

  4. Angelpotion says:

    Boy, you should finally understand, the browser security is heavily dependant on popularity. IE has more vulnerabilities b/c it has far the most users and security people trying to find leaks. FF popularity is rising, so more and more bugs are being found. Opera has most few users. To put it simply: noone cares or bothers about Opera bugs yet.

  5. Rub3X says:

    That’s actually wrong, IE has less exploits than firefox.

    osnews.com...s_id=11899

  6. Angelpotion says:

    Well, I accept that. Believe me though, there’s no perfect software, and once number of Opera users will grow (if so), you will see plenty of bugs revealed soon. :)

  7. ryan says:

    opera is nice but the default theme is so fugly! and i haven’t ever been able to find a decent third part one… if camino (firefox) has more extensions, looks nicer and the speed differences are so negligible, why should i care?

  8. LeONC says:

    Opera is a brilliant browser, but why the hell is the Windows version so unstable? The Linux version is rock solid.

  9. Rub3X says:

    From my understanding it was coded for Windows, and works slightly better than the Linux and Mac version.

  10. rseiler says:

    I’m on an Opera user and seldom use the others.

    That said, the oft-quoted “Howtocreate” article, which through artificial benchmarking determined that Opera is the fastest browser at loading/rendering pages, leaves out one small test: the real world.

    In the real world, some sites (e.g. Yahoo’s vast array of sites) don’t bother to send gzip’d compressed pages to Opera, meaning that Opera needs to download 3x, 4x, 5x, or 6x the number of bytes on these pages.

    In the real world, sites are optimized for IE always, Firefox almost always, and Opera almost never. For reasons that aren’t clear to me, this translates into pages popping crisply into place in IE and Firefox, with Opera grudgingly bringing up the rear. And here I’m talking about sites that gzip for ALL browsers.

    I’ve seen this time and time again. Not on every site, but the majority of the popular ones I use. And yes, I’ve accounted for all possible opimizations (and consider myself an expert on them by now), and yes, AV is out of the picture (Opera has a sensitivity to AV for some reason).

    So the real world is still a harsh place for Opera. If it had Firefox’s 15% market share, perhaps that wouldn’t be the case.

  11. sadcox66 says:

    I am using Opera Now on Win2K. I do not know why Rub3X says it’s unstable on windows. I use it all the time. Some features not mentioned.
    * resumable multithreaded downloads (and files download FAST !!! )
    * Integrated News Reader
    * Integrated eMail with inbuilt spam filter
    Rock Solid for me… and did I mention FAST !

  12. Rub3X says:

    I never said it was unstable, in fact I said it worked better on Windows than Mac or Linux…You also forgot to mention it has a built in torrent client, and IRC client.

  13. starkill3r says:

    Just because Opera doesn’t have extensions doesn’t cut down on functionality. Many of the most popular Firefox extensions are adding things to firefox which are built into Opera. For example: mouse gestures, blocking images, tab dublicating, etc…. And there are a lot of themes available for Opera, though I do agree the default one is terrible.

  14. Rub3X says:

    You guys are forgetting Opera has Widgets!
    widgets.op...ategories/
    Glad to see all the support for Opera though. I don’t think the default theme is that bad but out of 85 themes I’m sure you can find a decent one =P my.opera.c...ize/skins/

  15. Howdy,

    It is interesting to read some of these arguments going back and forth. While some people are rubbishing opera, rub3x and some others seem to be standing firm alongside opera.

    I am a professional blogger and I haven’t used Opera (ever). I think now is the time to test and review it myself. I hope it’s alright with the author of this article if I link this article to my review (whenever I write it).

  16. Angelpotion says:

    Yeah this browser war is becoming nonsense. Simply, as in democracy, the best thing/feature/choice is what you are told is best. Why are not more people using Opera? The vendor is probably not that good (at marketing at least), if I presume the software is good enough.

  17. srikanth says:

    I have been using both Opera and Firefox for quite sometime (and IE& in between). While the Firefox memory hog is painful to say the least, in terms of flexibility and the superb extensions, it leaves Opera far behind. Widgets in Opera are poor cousins of extensions. They are cumbersome, and there really are not enough useful ones (world clocks are not THAT useful!). I have got SiteAdvisor, Google Browsersync, colored tabs, Adblock with auto-update, world clock(!), undoclosetab, time tracker and most importantly Bugmenot, etc, that just aren’t there in opera or poorly implemented. Most importantly, Firefox is the best in handling popups (ref the popup test mentioned earlier in the article).

  18. Bawked says:

    I started using opera last month and dont know why i hadnt started using it sooner. Firefox needs plugins to add functionality that opera comes with built in and opera is faster than firefox with no plugins, when firefox has plugins its pitiful really. The only Downfall of opera that i see is that most sites are designed for ie.

  19. kam says:

    Hi i have tried using firefox many times even when it was paid for… i did not like it, when firefox came out, it was easy to use, it was free (Opera copied firefox and now is free “using the same model has firefox”) and firefox introduced ext, opera introduced them later… firefox ext are useful and being developed regularly and is gaining market share… firefox is open source and flexible… opera is closed source just like microsoft… firefox has a better marketing strategy and following is growing firefox is improving and competing with IE, Opera is static, the only thing Opera is doing better is promoting its browser to other devices.

    Opera might me the fastest browser, they need to get there marketing in order… and go open source.

  20. KnThrak says:

    There is also one other big problem with !not! using Firefox anymore:
    AdBlock. Yes, the AdBlock extension, to be precise with the Filterset.G-Updater.

    Now you might argue “Just an extension”, but browse 2 months with it, and you’re incredibly addicted by it. View your “normal” pages afterwards in Opera, and you are turned down by the sheer amount of ads, banners and stuff you simply couldn’t care less about.

    Seriously – until Opera gets free extensibility, Firefox for me. That is THE thing why I love FF, after all ^_^

    (and yes, otherwise Opera would be best)

  21. JS says:

    Very good article… I agree that Opera is the best standalone browser at this moment.

    I personally consider it the extreme quality piece of software.

    BUT… you miss two important points.

    1. The only thing about Firefox that makes it a good browser are extensions. There would simply be no reason to use Firefox if there were no extensions.

    2. Firefox is open-source, I remember times when Opera displayed ugly ad banners in the top of the main window. Who says this will not happen again? Who says Opera will not go bankrupt? With OS software, this cannot happen.

    Simply put each one of these browsers is better for different people.

    The good thing about both of them is that they take away IE’s share ;-)

  22. Matt says:

    I think most people will agree that the alternatives are better than IE, i cant really comment much on Opera, Ive only used Firefox, but I cant see myself wanting to switch any time soon.

    From what I’ve heard the “widgets” for Opera are much more limited and less useful than FF’s extensions, i assume this is because FF is open source and has hundreds of people programming the stuff theyd like to see in the browser. Stuff about FF extensions being built-in to Opera isnt necessarily an advantage – if you dont want that feature then having it installed is essentially pointless bloat

    The extensions are a major part of why I love firefox, almost anything you want the browser to do, theres an extension for. The adblock one is, as has been said, awesome – i didnt even know hotmail had that ugly banner ad for canon (so annoying, it blinks several times) until i saw it in IE because hotmail wasnt properly working in FF for a while

    That, along with all the other nice extensions and themes and whatnot, as well as all the other advantages that are re-stated over and over until they lose all meaning, is why im sticking with FF.

    The memory leakage is a tad annoying to learn of, but not really noticeable for me, i dont have loads of ram, but enough that i can spare a few mb

  23. Matt says:

    oo, i just remembered another thing – IE uses more meory than it says it does in task manager because its so entangled into Windows

  24. cw says:

    Good discussion going on here.

    I used to use Opera and do remember it being extremely fast (using FF now).

    I think one of the biggest differences here, as others have said, is the open source factor. Firefox has become a symbol of open source internet software and loads of people appreciate that.

    Another thing – it’s very tempting to install a large amount of extensions with FF. The vast community is a double-edged sword here. Many useful extensions to chose from, but they bog down the browser. I imagine that there are a lot of people (although probably not those in the comments here) that install extensions and forget about them and blame the lack of speed on Firefox itself. It should be recognized that this is one of the prices we pay for popular open source software.

    That being said, I really do dislike the amount of memory FF eats up. There are some workarounds that make it more tolerable, but it’s still pretty high. What I’d like to see is a super basic FF that comes with your main client. Something you can use while multitasking it with other intensive programs, if you want to read a helpful website while you’re working on a project for example.

  25. Rub3X says:

    I don’t see why open source really matters. Most people don’t know C++ yet rave about how FF is open source. Doesn’t make a difference to me. Both are free, and I download the binary of both. I don’t think opera widgets slow down opera as much as FF either >.<

  26. Krishnan says:

    Am using Opera as my default browser, and i like it

    I have Firefox 1.5, and 2 Beta, IE, Avant, AOL, Mozilla, Netscape browsers but i like opera

    1. Opera have inbuilt Ad blocker and mouse gestures

    2. Memory Usage is very good in Opera

    3. It is very fast comparing to other browsers

    4. This is the most customizable browser

    isn’t that enough?

  27. Li Nikki says:

    I have been using FF for years today I decided to try Opera. I like it, the default wasn’t that bad, but I downloaded another theme and I think it rocks. Since I play Everquest, an online multiplayer roleplaying game, I often tab out of it to surf and boy does it take a whole lot of memory, which is what lead me to research other browsers, well any other than ie of course. Anwyay, I am impressed with the amount of space it does not take up but I do miss some features on FF one which comes to mind is just clicking in the blank space and having my saved info pop up..sure the widget is cool but I guess I do prefer to click the space and if I have several accounts I can use the drop down menu to the one I’m logging in.

    I’ve surfed a lot today just testing and I really have no complaints which I can pinpoint specificially with Opera, but I wouldnt be surprised if I went back to FF.

  28. Harry says:

    Opera is faster then Firefox yes. It is more standards compliant, probably yes. It takes less space and less memory. Probably crashes less. All that is true.

    But is Opera as customizable as Firefox? Hell no. Not even close. As a programmer and heavy power user I have complete control over pretty much every single aspect of my browser’s operation and that’s how I like it. I think up of any kind of feature I want, no matter how dumb or trivial, I can code it up and have it running in an hour or so. That’s why I use Firefox.

    You say you don’t see the advantage of open source. That’s unthinkable to me, and I guess you can have that point of view because you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of an open source even if you did appreciate it. For those that can, there’s no substitute.

    All that being said, when I know someone is just a ‘light’ user, someone who I know is just going to end up browsing a couple sites a day and reading blogs and whatever, Opera is the browser I do always recommend. But for anything other than that type of ‘casual newbie’ user, Firefox is irreplaceable.

  29. harman says:

    Opera Rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    FireFox Rocks too!!!!!!!!
    Internet Explorer stinks

  30. cipher_nemo says:

    I completely agree with Harry. You’re bashing Firefox and promoting Opera, but you’re doing so on a level that is apples and oranges. Opera isn’t open source, and the fact that you’ve ignored that (“I don’t see why open source really matters.”) shows how little you understand this, Rub3x. It is a monumental difference.

    Opera is a good browser — I’ll agree with you there — but it isn’t part of the “non-restricted” Linux community because it isn’t open source. This is much more important for our freedom of computing, even though being able to edit Firefox code and make extensions is useful. The makers of Opera are a company, while the makers of Firefox are an open source community. If Opera decides to put ads back into their browser tomorrow, Opera users are screwed.

    The advantages of Opera’s performance and the fact is passes the Acid 2.0 test really don’t amount to much if your freedoms as a power user are taken away. If you don’t care about your freedom, by all means, go with Opera. For those of us who prefer to actually “use” programs to their fullest, we’ll hold on to our Firefox.

  31. Thrawn says:

    Also, IE uses a lot of the same files/memory that windows uses, so its “actual” memory usu age may be slightly more than FF or Opera.

    I like Opera just as much as the next user (An avid Linux user myself) but it has its issues all in its own.

    “I don’t see why open source really matters.”

    Open source is a HUGE part of what makes firefox one of the best browsers. Acually, most of the “errors” were found because it IS open source, (opera flaws are not found as easily because it is commercial).

    Also, it allows the user base (who a good number DO know how to program at LEAST C++/C#, to alter the program to suit their needs. For example, do ANY widgets support 512 bit encryption OR a Tor ring network? I thought not. Nothing against opera, but open source and stability are two things that FF is built on.

    I still prefer opera over all (except maybe Torpark), but just stating some additinal information :D

  32. Ramzez says:

    Well, on Mac OSX for example Opera used 108Mb for the list of the website. Safari at the same time used only 87Mb.

  33. Heliologue says:

    Well opera has widgets, which is basically the same thing as Firefox’s extensions.

    No, no they aren’t. Widgets are just that, offering some small piece of functionality; extensions can actually increase Firefox’s utility by a wide margin.

    I’ll be the first to admit that Opera has the best raw performance of any available browser. I will also be the first to point out that users will run into problems with some sites (not Opera’s fault), and also that Opera has nothing approaching Firefox’s library of extensions. Give Opera’s adblocker support for regex and we’ll talk. Find me a decent analog for Firebug and we’ll talk.

  34. Bawked says:

    Firefox is opensource and the most buggy pos, i cant have more than 10 tabs open without it going over 250mb :\ Opera can easily handle over 20 tabs with less memory usage.

  35. Joe says:

    [quote comment="327"]There is also one other big problem with !not! using Firefox anymore:
    AdBlock. Yes, the AdBlock extension, to be precise with the Filterset.G-Updater.

    Now you might argue “Just an extension”, but browse 2 months with it, and you’re incredibly addicted by it. View your “normal” pages afterwards in Opera, and you are turned down by the sheer amount of ads, banners and stuff you simply couldn’t care less about.

    Seriously – until Opera gets free extensibility, Firefox for me. That is THE thing why I love FF, after all ^_^

    (and yes, otherwise Opera would be best)[/quote]

    Oh yeah, have you tried Opera’s ad block yet?It is build into the browser, so we don’t have to download any stupid extensions and run it along with the browser. Just right click on any blank space in a web page and use block content to block all ads.

  36. Heliologue says:

    Joe, that’s all well and good, but it requires that users manually build up a list of blocked content, and it’s not very fine-grained. Why Opera would introduce a content blocker that doesn’t support regex is beyond me. Once they fix that, everything will be peachy.

  37. fish dude says:

    What you are missing by the thought that “If you don’t know C++ then it doesn’t matter if it’s open source” is that Opera is going to be enhanced and developed at the owners expense and with their goals in mind.

    The owner of Opera has to pay someone to design new features, new architecture, write the code, test the code, etc, etc, etc.

    FireFox (open source) on the other hand has thousands of developers working on new features and new ways of architecting the product.

    YOU may not know C++, but some 12 year old super-genius in his basement does. And he will come up with an awesome feature or a better way of doing things that will end up in Firefox that Opera will never see, or at least not for months or years after.

    I don’t know how to build a jet engine, but I’d still rather fly across country on a jet than a propeller plane.

    PS> I do know C++ which, perhaps, gives me more insight into why open source is important.

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