When it comes to web browsers on Windows 10, the conversation pretty much begins and ends with Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. But despite relatively low usage, Opera makes a compelling case as well. And a recent change to the browser can improve battery life in laptops by about 50 percent, the firm says.
This is a big deal, of course. But before getting to that, consider this related issue: As I noted in Ad Blocking is a Step Forward for Microsoft Edge, individual browser features are always interesting, but you need to consider the bigger picture. For example, one reason I use Chrome is that there is a mobile app version of the browser on Android and iOS, and that means my bookmarks, passwords, and settings sync between all the devices I use. (This is why Edge is a bit of a non-starter for me, as I can’t sync Edge bookmarks, passwords, and settings with Android or iOS.)
What I left out of that conversation (since I do use Chrome) is that this functionality works for Firefox users as well, as there are mobile app versions of that browser too. But it also works with Opera. And if Opera improves to the point where it is the superior browser on Windows 10, then it could—would—make sense to use it everywhere.
One more point here: Chrome, for all its extensibility and power, still has issues in Windows 10. For example, it doesn’t scale well with the high DPI screens that are very common today in modern PCs like Surface Book or Surface Pro 4. And it’s still a battery hog, despite Google’s continued promises to fix that problem. This is why you should always use mobile apps in Windows 10 for media services like Netflix, Hulu, or whatever: Those apps provide much better battery life than accessing the services from Chrome (especially) or other browsers.
Put simply, for the reasons stated above, I’m interested in this change. (And thereare other reasons: Opera, unlike Google, is not beholden to advertising for its revenues, so their browser includes features like ad blocking and reading mode that are not found natively in Chrome; you need to find and install extensions instead.)
According to Opera, a new power saving mode in its flagship desktop browser will improve laptop battery life by up to 50 percent when compared to using Google Chrome.
“Depending on your type of hardware, it can mean several hours more browsing before you need to recharge your laptop,” Opera explains. “Since people spend almost all their time in their web browser and relatively speaking little time in other desktop applications, this is something we can do something about.”
Available now in Opera developer for Windows—a sort of “canary” or pre-release version of the browser aimed at developers—the new power saver mode works automatically, or you can trigger it at any time.
When enabled, power saver mode reduced background tabs activity, wakes the CPU less frequently, automatically pauses unused plug-ins, reduces video frame rates to 30 frames per second, tunes video-playback parameters and forces the usage of hardware accelerated video codecs, and pauses browser theme animations. The results are allegedly impressive: Up to 50 percent more battery life over Chrome on the same Windows 10 hardware, and very similar improvements over Opera (sans power saver) as well.
“Modern processors do an amazing job in saving power by taking tiny naps multiple times per second, and what our development team focused on was writing code that would wake them up as infrequently as possible,” Opera says.
You can download Opera developer for Windows from the Opera web site. There isan experimental Windows x64 version and a version for Mac as well. I’ll be checking this out of course. (Coincidentally, I had just installed the non-developer version of Opera the other day to look at another new feature, an integrated VPN.)