Though still young in the development cycle, Opera 10, which hit the web today in beta 1 form, is shaping up to be a potentially must-have release for Windows, OS X, and Linux users alike. The smoking fast browser packs some great innovations and puts older competitors, like Firefox 3 on notice.
First of all, the new browser uses advanced compression technology to deliver better performance on low bandwidth connections like public Wi-Fi, dial-up, or throttled connections. Secondly, the browser is compatible with the highest current web standards. Built on the Opera Presto 2.2 engine, it scores a perfect 100/100 on the Acid3 compatibility test. The new engine adds Web Fonts support, RGBA/HSLA color, SVG improvements, and more.
Where the browser truly shines is its speed. It loads pages extremely fast. DailyTech took it for a spin on a Fedora 10 desktop installation, to try some page loads. DailyTech.com loaded in 1.2 seconds in Opera 10 beta 1, versus approximately 2.2 seconds in Firefox 3.0.10. Likewise, SportsIllustrated.com (via CNN) had first and second load speeds of 4 seconds and 1 seconds in Opera, versus 11 seconds and 9 seconds in Firefox. It may not sound like much, but like Internet Explorer 8, the difference over Firefox's latest build is noticeable -- and Opera 10 even appears to surpass IE 8 in load speeds.
One improved feature of the release is Speed Dial, an exclusive Opera feature which allows you to see and pick from your favorite sites when opening a new tab. Refined, it now supports up to 25 favorites, and the ability to set custom backgrounds. Opera 10 also adds nicer integration with web mail clients like Gmail.
Another highlight-reel addition is the ability to resize your tabs. By dragging a bar beneath the tabs downwards, the tabs become tiny thumbnail screenshots of the page. While primarily a graphical effect, it certainly adds "wow" factor to the browser, and gives it a decidedly next generation feel. The effect resembles the "Windows Peek" feature in the upcoming Windows 7.
Other additions include an impressive inline spell checker. Also, if you want a lightweight email client, akin to Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird, Opera sports a refined version of Opera Mail. And for developers, the new browser packs a new and improved version of Opera Dragonfly. The new version includes tools to edit the DOM and inspect HTTP headers of pages you're debugging.
While the official release of Opera 10 may be some time away, the browser is already shaping up impressively. Ultra-fast and packing a great set of features, the browser definitely will lure away some Firefox users, and maybe even a few Safari or IE 8 users. It’s definitely worth a download, if only to take it for a quick test ride.