Opera vs Chrome: Two Browsers Make a Close Shave in 2021

Aleksander Hougen
By Aleksander Hougen (Editor)
— Last Updated: 2020-06-07T12:39:01+00:00

Chrome and Opera are both popular browsers, though the latter has always occupied a more niche part of the market, compared to Google’s behemoth status. 

There used to be more differences between them, but ever since Opera transitioned to Chromium in 2013, the two have grown much more similar. Here, we’ll pit Opera vs. Chrome and settle once and for all which is the better browser.

Because this is a direct comparison, we’ll focus on what separates these two browsers, rather than reviewing them in depth. If that’s what you’re looking for, you can read our Google Chrome review and Opera review, where we take a closer look at each browser.

Setting up a Fight: Opera vs. Chrome

We’ll put the browsers through five rounds, with each being worth one point, which means the browser that wins three points will be the victor. We’ll start off with features, followed by ease of use, performance, security and privacy, all of which are crucial aspects of a web browser.

1. Features

Kicking things off, we’ll take a look at the features of each browser. This includes things like cross-device synchronization, extension libraries, built-in functionality and customization.

Opera

Opera comes with a lot of built-in features, both major and minor. There’s a snapshot tool that lets you take screen grabs of the entire webpage, regardless of length. Also included is a news reader that lets you customize the sources, giving you easy access to all your regular news outlets all in one place.

Opera-NewsReader

There’s some basic customization you can do, including dark and light modes, wallpapers and themes. Integration with popular messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, is also included, and you can access them through the shortcut bar on the left side of the screen. This is incredibly convenient, as you don’t have to dedicate separate tabs to these applications.

Opera-MessagingApps

In the same menu, you can also customize your own shortcuts to websites that you use frequently, giving you constant access to them regardless of what tab is active. 

The cross-device synchronization is also very easy to set up and syncs everything from bookmarks and open tabs to browsing history and preferences. Not only that, you can also send encrypted data between devices using My Flow, which is integrated into the browser.

Even with all these included features, Opera doesn’t skimp on third-party extensions, either. There are plenty of dedicated Opera add-ons, and because the browser is based on Chromium, it can also use a large share of Chrome extensions.

Chrome

Although there’s not a lot of advanced functionality included in Chrome, the extension library is absolutely massive. Pretty much any browser feature you can think of can be found as an extension, from ad-blockers and notes to security features, capture tools and much more.

Chrome’s synchronization between devices is solid, allowing you to sync every part of your browsing experience. The browser is also integrated with Google’s suite of applications and services, including Google Pay, Drive, Translate and more. Google Translate, in particular, is a great integration, as it’s easily the best free translation software currently on the market.

Chrome-GoogleTranslate

In terms of minor features, there’s a built-in PDF reader, which is nice even though it’s fairly basic, lacking support for more advanced features like signatures or dynamic PDF files. 

When you right-click a picture, a context menu option lets you do a reverse image search, which is very convenient. You can also configure multiple users, which is handy both for shared computers and to use as specialized browsing profiles.

Chrome-ReverseImageSearch

On mobile, there’s even fewer advanced or unique features included compared with desktop, with the only thing of interest being the reading list that lets you save webpages so that you can access them later when you’re offline.

Round One Thoughts

Chrome certainly has a larger library of extensions, but Opera is compatible with many of these in addition to its own dedicated add-ons. In effect, this neutralizes Chrome’s biggest advantage when it comes to features, as Opera contains far more advanced functionality built into the browser, such as a snapshot tool, messaging integration and a newsreader.

Round: Features
Point for Opera
Visit Opera1
Visit Google Chrome0

2. Ease of Use

Next up is ease of use. In this round, we’ll measure just how comfortable it is browsing the web with each browser, paying special attention to things like tab management, interface design, layout and convenience features.

Opera

Opera’s interface is easy to navigate and visually appealing. Because it’s based on Chromium (read our Chromium review), it’s quite similar to a lot of other browsers, but there’s still some parts of it that stand out. 

The easy access to both web shortcuts and customization settings is nice, as are the detachable videos that let you continue to watch something even when you switch to a different tab or application.

Opera-DetachableVideo

Tab management is also solid. Although there is no tab scrolling, there is a dropdown menu that displays all open tabs in a list. You can also search for keywords or phrases to find a specific tab, if you’re having difficulties hunting one down. Another neat feature when it comes to tabs is that you can click whichever one is active to scroll back up to the top of the webpage.

Opera-TabSearch

Unfortunately, Opera Touch — one of Opera’s mobile browsers and the primary one on iOS — is hopelessly clunky. For some inexplicable reason, the browser hides all navigation controls behind a button that you have to tap and hold down for a second, which is incredibly annoying.

Chrome

Chrome’s user interface is well designed and pleasant to use. There’s not too much here that makes it stand out from other browsers, but this is mostly because other browsers’ designs have edged closer to Chrome over the years as its user base continued to grow.

Unfortunately, there’s no tab scrolling, which can make finding the tab you’re looking for difficult if you have many open at the same time. However, tabs are separated as cleanly as they can be without scrolling, and favicons remain easy to identify, even with a huge number of them open.

Chrome-Tabs

Round Two Thoughts

If this comparison only took the desktop browsers into account, this round would be an easy win for Opera. Unfortunately, the primary mobile version of the browser on iOS (Opera Touch) feels awful to use, which is a huge problem in this category.

This means that, despite sporting inferior tab management, Chrome takes home the point for this round by presenting an all-around more pleasant user experience on both desktop and mobile.

Round: Ease of Use
Point for Google Chrome
Visit Opera1
Visit Google Chrome1

3. Performance

Now that the score is even at 1-1, it’s time to check out the performance of each browser. The most important aspect here will obviously be speed, but resource consumption and data saving features will also play a part.

Opera

Opera is a fast browser, but still slower than some of the competition, like Firefox (read our Firefox review) or indeed Chrome. Resource consumption is also very high, as the browser uses quite a lot of RAM once you open more than a few tabs. This isn’t terribly surprising, as it’s an issue shared by most browsers that are based on Chromium.

One of Opera’s mobile versions, Opera Mini, is focused on data savings, which makes it an excellent choice for people with limited bandwidth. Unfortunately, this version of Opera is also incredibly slow, so it’s a bit of a trade off between speed and data use.

Chrome

Chrome is very fast, with only a few browsers, like Vivaldi (read our Vivaldi review), outperforming it in speed. Unfortunately, the browser also uses tons of RAM, which is an issue that has plagued Chrome since its inception. There’s also nothing in the way of data-saving features on mobile or on desktop.

Round Three Thoughts

At the end of the day, the most important performance factor for a web browser is its speed. Although resource consumption is also important, it mainly affects computers with low amounts of RAM, and both Opera and Chrome consume large amounts of resources, anyway.

Opera’s data saving mode on mobile is great, but it’s not enough to make up for the difference in speed. For that reason, Chrome wins this round, putting the score at 2-1 in its favor.

Round: Performance
Point for Google Chrome
Visit Opera1
Visit Google Chrome2

4. Security

Browser security is a never-ending race between developers and cybercriminals, and with Chrome just one point away from victory, it’s time to see how well each browser does at protecting its users. This includes safe browsing databases, unsecure connection warnings, update frequency and ad-blockers.

Opera

Opera uses two separate databases for malware and phishing detection. Yandex protects against the former, and PhishTank the latter. Unfortunately, these are not as effective as other security databases, like Microsoft’s SmartScreen, used by Internet Explorer and Edge (read our Edge review), or the more common Google Safe Browsing.

Update frequency is also poor, as the browser only receives an update roughly every six weeks. Ideally, you want to see updates released on a more regular basis, with one coming out at the very least every two to three weeks.

On the other hand, Opera also comes pre-packaged with both an ad-blocker and pop-up blocker. Although pop-up blockers are commonly included these days, the same isn’t true for ad-blockers, as you generally need to download an external add-on for this purpose. The unsecure connection warning is also clear and easy to notice.

Opera-AdBlocker

Chrome

As we concluded in our article on which web browser is the most secure, Chrome is among the best major web browsers when it comes to security. Its update frequency is excellent, with security patches generally rolling out within a day of a weakness being discovered.

To protect users against malware and phishing, Chrome unsurprisingly uses the Google Safe Browsing database, which does the job well. The unsecure connection warning you’re presented with when connecting through regular HTTP (rather than HTTPS) is also clear and easy to see.

Chrome-HTTPSWarning

Chrome also has a pop-up blocker built into it, but if you want the browser to block ads, you’ll have to download an extension. There are tons of options to choose from, though, so it’s not really a problem. Our list of the best pop-up blockers is a good place to start, as they also block regular ads.

Round Four Thoughts

Even though Opera comes with a pre-installed ad-blocker, this isn’t that big of an advantage, as finding a good third-party ad-blocker on Chrome is a simple task. 

Furthermore, Chrome sports far more frequent updates and a better safe-browsing database. Although passwords are protected with your system credentials by both browsers, we still recommend one of our best password manager choices.

All this together gives Chrome a significant leg up in this category and the victory in our fourth round. That puts the score at 3-1, making Chrome the winner of this comparison. However, we’ll carry on with our final round, anyway.

5. Privacy

Finally, it’s time to examine how well the browsers protect their users’ privacy. This round is always a problem for Chrome (as shown in our Firefox vs. Google Chrome battle), but Opera isn’t exactly great on this issue either. 

Important factors we’ll consider are data collection policies, privacy scandals, how trustworthy each company is and, of course, any features that help users stay anonymous online.

Opera

Opera used to be solid on privacy, but after Chinese investors bought the company in 2016, this all changed. Given the level of control that the Chinese government has over companies in the country, this is incredibly worrying for anyone hoping to stay anonymous while using Opera.

Its privacy policy also took a turn for the worse, as Opera now reserves the right to collect all sorts of data on users — including names, IP addresses and browsing history — and share it with anyone it likes. That said, the tracking and privacy controls included in the browser are decent, but nothing extraordinary.

Ordinarily, including a VPN would be a huge bonus to privacy, but SurfEasy — the company that provides the VPN service — has a very dodgy privacy policy.

Furthermore, the VPN only lets you choose between three regions — Europe, America and Asia — which makes it practically useless if you want to circumvent geoblocking. Additionally, SurfEasy is based in Canada, which is a member of the Five Eyes spy network.

Opera-VPN

Chrome

Privacy is by far the biggest problem with Chrome. Because Google’s revenue stream relies on advertising, it won’t outright sell your data to third parties, but it will collect everything it can and use it to tailor the ads you see.

There’s a bunch of features enabled by default that hurt privacy, such as the search suggestions or address prediction, which collect your search terms and browsing history, respectively.

Although you can turn these features off and even delete the data the company has on you (check out our guide on how to erase your Google history), it’s hard to trust Google when it says this stops them from spying on you.

Chrome-GoogleServices

This lack of trust is owed in large part to the numerous scandals Google has been involved in, from cooperating with the NSAs PRISM program to collecting data from unencrypted WiFi networks using its Street View cars.

Although the privacy and tracking controls are decent, they’re not as flexible as those of Firefox, for example, so we recommend our anonymous browsing guide if you want to protect yourself. Because Chrome also doesn’t come with a VPN like Opera does, you’ll want to download the best VPN for Chrome to compensate (check out our best VPN for Chromebooks roundup, too).

Round Five Thoughts

This one was essentially a tie, as both Opera and Google are terrible when it comes to privacy. They both have troubling and convoluted privacy policies and collect tons of data on its users. 

Neither company is very trustworthy, either, as one is now based in China and the other has been involved in countless scandals through the years.

That said, we’ll give this one to Opera, even though it’s by the slimmest margin possible. At the end of the day, Google bases its entire business model on serving you ads, and although Opera’s included VPN isn’t great, it’s better than nothing. 

The reality is that no browser will be able to properly protect your identity on its own, so consider downloading some of these 99 tools to protect your privacy.

Round: Privacy
Point for Opera
Visit Opera2
Visit Google Chrome3

6. Final Thoughts

With that, the battle is over. Even though Opera started off strong with a win in features, Chrome then scored three consecutive wins in ease of use, performance and security, gaining the overall victory. 

Although, the final round on privacy was essentially a tie, as both companies are awful on this issue, Opera managed to squeeze out a win there, reducing Chrome’s victory margin to a single point.

Winner: Chrome

If you want to see how Chrome and Opera stack up against some other browsers, you can read our Chrome vs. Edge and Opera vs. Firefox articles to find out.

What do you think of Chrome and Opera? Do you prefer the latter’s more extensive list of features, or do you agree that Chrome’s superior performance and security is more important? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.