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Opera Neon Review

Opera is known for its flagship Opera browser, but it has a wide range of other browsers in its portfolio. Among its several variants is Opera Neon, something the company describes as a "concept browser," or a browser intended for experimentation rather than for general use.

Max Pitchkites
By Max Pitchkites (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2022-01-09T13:29:02+00:00 Facts checked by Eugenie Tiu
Opera Neon slider 1
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By creating a “concept browser,” the company isn’t trying to replace its standard Opera browser with something new, but rather provide a testing ground for new features. It’s part of Opera’s effort to create the “browser of the future.” We’ll see if it succeeds in reinventing the wheel in our Opera Neon review.

Key Takeaways:

  • Opera Neon is the result of Opera’s project to create a “concept browser,” or an experimental browser to test-drive new ways of browsing the web.
  • Neon is not intended to be a browser for everyday use or to replace the standard Opera browser.
  • Neon can’t receive security updates, block ads or download extensions.

Opera is one of the most inventive browser developers operating today, and Opera Neon is one of their most creative projects yet. Its interface is visually unique and contains many features we haven’t seen anywhere else, but because it’s a laboratory experiment and not a tool for everyday use, some major drawbacks harm the usefulness of this browser.

  • 01/09/2022

    Expanded the features and privacy settings, and added the performance table for the browser.

  • Opera Neon lacks many basic browser features, so its usefulness is limited.

  • Opera Neon does not include a built-in VPN, unlike the standard Opera browser.

  • Neon is a relatively unsafe browser because it doesn’t block ads or receive security updates.

  • Regularly clearing your cache and cookies can help improve your browser’s speed. Neon is already pretty slow, so we suggest trying a different browser if your problem persists.

Opera Neon Review: Alternatives

Opera Neon: Strengths & Weaknesses

Pros:

  • Interesting graphics-oriented interface
  • Media tools

Cons:

  • Lacks basic browser features
  • Privacy & security issues
  • No mobile version
  • No extensions
  • No security updates
  • Slow; crashes regularly

Features

50 % – Poor

At first sight, Neon is a very different browser than its big-name competitors. Neon uses your desktop wallpaper as its own background, so it feels like your browser is integrated with your device. The “start” page resembles your computer desktop and every tab, window and app looks like a desktop icon.

Start Page

The start page acts like the “Speed Dial” page in the standard Opera browser. Speed Dial is the default Opera start page that displays links to several popular websites, so you can immediately access the web without manually typing in a website URL. Some of the websites Neon includes by default are YouTube, Facebook, The New York Times, Medium and a few others.

start page
The start page is meant to resemble a desktop with icons, and even uses your computer’s desktop wallpaper.

These default web pages and tabs are displayed as circular images that can be visually identified, much like desktop icons. You can customize the start page by adding your own icons to the mix by dragging and dropping an open tab onto the “desktop.”

We like the convenience and graphics-oriented nature of the start page, but the scattered arrangement of the site buttons is a little disorienting. However, there is a purpose to this design: Neon includes a “gravity” algorithm that lifts your frequently used tabs and web pages toward the top while letting everything else sink down, like bubbles rising to the water’s surface.

Once you have enough “bubbles” on the start page, they will drift below the screen and enable a vertical scrolling bar that you will need to access them. Whatever the web browsers of the future might look like, Opera Neon is certainly anticipating a very different look than the standard Chromium-based design.

Extensions

Speaking of Chromium, Opera Neon is based on Chromium, just like the other browsers created by Opera. It’s puzzling that Neon doesn’t support Chrome extensions, or even Opera’s own extensions.

There’s nothing you can do to expand the browser’s capabilities — you have to rely exclusively on its native features. While Neon certainly has a range of interesting features, most of them don’t amount to much more than novelties in the absence of an extension library. For this reason alone, we can’t see Neon drawing a very large crowd.

Device Sync

One of the major features it’s lacking is support for device sync. It has become standard for web browsers to have some way to transfer browser history, bookmarks and other data to your other devices, but Opera Neon users are locked into their individual installations.

It’s not surprising, then, that Opera Neon is only available for desktop, so there would only be an opportunity to synchronize browser data if you owned multiple desktop computers. It goes without saying that there are no user accounts either, as that’s the most common method for synchronizing data between devices.

The absence of individual user profiles also means your data will not be private from anyone else using Neon on the same device.

Media Player

Opera Neon contains a handy media player in the side panel. The player app lets you quickly access tabs playing video and audio content, and even includes an animation showing your progress through the video, song or podcast.

neon player
If you want to play audio while using your device, Neon lets you easily access your media from the side panel.

The individual tabs stack vertically within the side panel, but they can’t be rearranged within the panel — you have to physically move them around on the browser’s “desktop.” But it’s not a major problem for this nice media feature.

Split-Screen Mode

You can view two tabs at once in the same window by dragging one tab on top of another. This calls to mind Opera’s side panel, which is a useful multitasking tool for accessing more than one website at once. Opera Neon can only accommodate two tabs at a time, but any more than two would most likely crowd the screen anyway.

split screen
You can make two tabs occupy the same window at once by dragging one on top of the open tab.

The two open sites don’t fully fill the screen, but there is still plenty of space to clearly see and interact with both of them.

Search Engine

Google is Opera Neon’s default search engine, but you can manually add whichever service you prefer. It comes with a selection of other engines by default, including Bing, AOL, Yahoo and Ask.

Screenshot

The side panel includes a tool for taking screenshots of the website you’re visiting. Your saved images will be stored in the “gallery” tab in the side panel. Clicking on images in the gallery will enlarge the image and display the source URL at the bottom of the screen.

crop to snap
Neon’s screenshot feature lets you crop selections from the screen and save them to the built-in image gallery.

It’s somewhat limiting because you can only take screenshots of cropped selections of the website rather than the full screen. Then again, you don’t have to manually crop your selection in a separate image editor after taking a full-sized screenshot, so it has its advantages.

Ease of Use

60 % – Fair

Opera Neon has a slight learning curve for new users since its design is so different. Once you’re accustomed to the desktop-like interface and tab bubbles, Opera Neon doesn’t behave too differently from other Chromium browsers.

Unfortunately, there is no mobile version of Opera Neon. If you’re looking for mobile browsers, Opera has three of them: Opera, Opera Mini and Opera Touch. Read more about their differences and similarities here in our full Opera review. If Opera isn’t for you, upgrade to another mobile browser from our list of the best browsers for Android.

Performance

10 % – Terrible

We tested Opera Neon with two browser benchmark tests alongside Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, standard Opera, Brave, Vivaldi and Firefox. We found that Neon is not a particularly fast browser. It scored lower than all the other browsers in our first test, including standard Opera, Chrome and Firefox.

Benchmark Test:Speedometer
BrowserRuns per Minute
Microsoft Edge131
Chrome121
Opera116.6
Brave102
Vivaldi97.3
Firefox95.5
Opera Neon61.7

Speedometer is a speed test that measures the responsiveness of web applications by simulating user actions. Opera Neon was the slowest browser of all in this test, and wasn’t even close to the next-fastest browser.

Benchmark Test:Motion Mark
BrowserScore
Opera Neon550.02
Microsoft Edge517
Chrome496.32
Brave444.67
Opera373.27
Vivaldi285.25
Firefox145.93

Motion Mark tests how fast the browser can render complex visual graphics. In stark contrast to Speedometer, Opera Neon soared to first place and left its parent browser in the dust.

We weren’t able to load Opera Neon into JetStream 2 — our third speed test. That test relies on JavaScript and WebAssembly in order to run, but Neon seems to have a problem properly loading applications built in those formats.

As you can see, we got mixed results with Opera Neon. While its speed is acceptable enough for browsing the web, sending emails and watching videos, it’s still not a very fast browser overall. It also had a persistent crashing problem each time we tried signing in to Google.

Security

10 % – Terrible

If novel and experimental features are Opera Neon’s biggest strength, then its biggest drawback is security. Opera Neon hasn’t been updated since its launch in 2017 because of its purpose as a laboratory of browser experiments rather than a general-use browser.

This means Opera Neon users are at a relatively high risk of malware, vulnerabilities and other risks. Update frequency is one of the defining traits of a secure browser because the faster a browser is updated, the less opportunity there is for exploitation.

Opera Neon doesn’t exactly alert you if you connect to a website over an insecure HTTP connection. The browser will display a green padlock in the top-right corner when you’re connected over HTTPS, but there will simply be no notification at all if you’re connected with HTTP.

Even a security-conscious internet user might be caught off guard by a malicious website without a clear notification, so be doubly careful when browsing with Neon.

http https
Neon doesn’t clearly notify you when you reach webpages over an insecure HTTP connection.

One of Neon’s biggest problems is the absence of an ad blocker. Most browsers don’t have one included by default (except Brave) because they rely on extensions, but remember that Neon can’t download any extensions at all.

Ads aren’t just annoying — they’re also security risks. Hackers will commonly use ads as a vector for spreading malware, and they’ll also slow down your browser’s performance. There is no ad blocker in Neon, but at least the browser includes pop-up blocking functionality.

Privacy

50 % – Poor

Opera’s biggest privacy problem concerns its new owners. The company was acquired by the Chinese app developer Qihoo 360 in 2016 and is therefore subject to Chinese law.

The Chinese government has been embroiled in a number of technology-related scandals over the years, including incidents in which the government has compelled private entities to install backdoors in their products. It’s impossible to know exactly how much of your data (if any) will wind up in government databases, but it’s also not a reassuring development.

Opera’s Privacy Policy

Beyond its change of ownership, Opera’s privacy policy reveals another range of privacy concerns. Like most browsers, Some of Opera Neon’s features rely on analyzing user data and therefore requires some amount of data to be collected. Data is collected by both Opera itself and some third-party app developers.

The privacy policy on Opera’s website begins with the statement that user data is anonymized and cannot be used to identify individual users, not even by the company itself. The anonymized data includes information about the user’s behavior and hardware specifications.

Many of the browser’s applications are sourced from third-party developers and therefore send user data to these third parties. It isn’t self-evident from Opera’s privacy policy just how much data these developers collect, what kind of data, or if the data collection is strictly limited to the same categories of anonymized data that Opera itself collects.

Data collection is used to provide various services within the browser including autofill, predictive search and safe browsing features. While you can opt out of some of these features in the settings, you will still be subject to some amount of data collection while using the browser, so it’s best to practice good cybersecurity habits while using Opera Neon or any other browser.

neon settings
You can manually opt out of certain features if you want to limit data collection.

We recommend following the advice outlined in our anonymous browsing guide and checking out our list of the most secure web browsers.

Incognito Mode

Opera Neon features its own incognito mode. It will launch in a separate window and have a different wallpaper specific to incognito mode. None of your browsing or download history will be stored while using this mode.

neon incognito
Incognito windows refrain from storing your browser and download history while throwing in this stylish background.

Opera Neon’s incognito window will help you keep your activity private from others if you’re using a shared device. This is especially useful with Neon, since there’s no way to create individual user profiles. However, it’s important to keep in mind that incognito windows do not conceal your IP address or activity from your ISP or the websites you visit.

That’s what VPNs do. We suggest turning your online privacy up a notch by using one of our top 10 VPN providers, which you can read about here. If you want to cut to the chase, ExpressVPN came in first place, thanks to its near-perfect combination of fast speed, strong privacy protections, reasonable long-term plans and a variety of features.

Opera’s Concept Browser: The Verdict

Neon is by far the most unique browser out of Opera’s many browser variants. Its appearance is noticeably distinct from its competitors and contains an assortment of novel features like split screen, a desktop-like interface and a media player.

Whether or not Opera Neon is the browser of the future is another question — it sacrifices basic browser features like device synchronization, extensions and security for the sake of novelty, and feels more like an unfinished experiment than a final product for everyday use.

Granted, Opera’s stated goal was to create an experimental browser, rather than offer a fully featured replacement for standard Opera. While it’s an interesting concept, and it may be useful to some users as a supplement to standard Opera, we can’t see many people using Opera Neon as their default.

What do you think of Opera Neon? Is its design a breath of fresh air, or is it a failed experiment? Does it have any other noteworthy traits we’ve overlooked? Let us know in the comments section below, and as always, thank you for reading.

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2 thoughts on “Opera Neon”

  1. Loved Neon. Used it for social medias mostly for at least a year or so. Loved the whole homepage concept and having the tabs down the side. Wished they had seen this one through to a fully functional browser.

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