Opera 8 review

Price when reviewed
Opera has a fight on its hands. Not with Internet Explorer (IE): that one’s already been lost. This time round, its biggest threat is Firefox. If Opera is to tempt mass migration, it has to outsmart the open-source upstart.

But there are problems. First, there’s the cost: you can either put up with ads on the toolbar, or pay a fairly steep €34 to have them go away. We recommend the latter, as the former drops cookies on your PC. Opera claims that only aggregate demographic data is collected, but on the issue of the cookies themselves it says little more than ‘the servers and sites that offer the banner images can send cookies, just as capably as any other image that you normally load into Opera when viewing a web document. Cookies don’t originate from the Advertising.com or Opera servers.’

We tried logging into Smile bank and NatWest. Even though we set it to identify as IE, and then Mozilla, it wasn’t smart enough to dodge NatWest’s defences, which wouldn’t let us in. Smile, too, was a no-fly zone, insisting we’d logged out every time we tried to log in.

On a more positive note, it’s very fast. It also drops an RSS icon into the address bar every time it finds a feed, so you can subscribe with a single click. This is a neat timesaver and, like the use of tabbed browsing, earns Opera extra points when compared with IE. We do wish it had stuck to the familiar for a new tab, though, rather than the more convoluted . Conversely, sets a bookmark here.

We also welcome the addition of Google searching from the toolbar, but would like to see better word searching on displayed pages. Firefox got it right with a live search on the status bar, but Opera’s default of garish dialogs for this and every message is distracting, and we soon found ourselves switching themes. Page rendering, too, was sometimes off-kilter in our tests, with some pages that appear without issue in Firefox and IE failing to load as we’d expect.

The email client is well thought out, automatically filing incoming attachments and integrating your RSS and NNTP feeds, but Opera is, overall, very much a mixed bag. Its worthy touches are overshadowed by shortcomings that make this a poor alternative to Firefox, the AOL Browser and, in some respects, IE. And neither does it justify its continued reliance on ads or a €34 fee.

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