Vivaldi Browser (Beta) Review

Your Web browser is probably the most important piece of software installed on your device. It is your gateway to the information superhighway that is the web and it’s a no brainer that it’s critical to invest your time and energy into the browser that suits your needs well.

In continuation with the promised reviews, today I’ll be reviewing the newest kid on the block, Vivaldi browser and will also talk a bit about browsers in general.

Brief history of browsers

The Browser Wars
The Browser Wars

Browser wars have been fought between major corporations (and not so major ones) for over two decades now, starting from the rivalry between Netscape Navigator and Microsoft‘s Internet Explorer back in the 90’s.

IE continued to dominate the browser market with Firefox doing little to stop IE’s march. It took a billion dollar search giant to make it happen. The relief (at least at that time) came in the form of Google’s Chrome browser and it brought along a number of new features and also brought in a rapid release cycle schedule, which made for faster fixing of bugs and rolling out of features.

Now, in the midst of all this, there was this one browser that didn’t exactly dominate the market, but had it’s unique band of users. This browser also dominated the Mobile market with staggering numbers with it’s  ‘Mini’, this is Opera I’m talking about.

However, in 2013, the Opera management decided to ditch it’s Presto layout engine in favour of WebKit (now Blink), the rendering engine that powers the open source Chromium and Google’s own Chrome, starting from version 13 in 2013.

Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner, Opera’s founder was dissatisfied with this move and believed that Opera had ditched its loyal fanbase to target a wider audience.

Thus, as he states:

So we came to a natural conclusion: we must make a new browser. A browser for ourselves and for our friends. A browser that is fast, but also a browser that is rich in functionality, highly flexible and puts the user first. A browser that is made for you.

And so, Vivaldi is born.

It’s called Vivaldi. And the team says, “A Browser for our Friends.”

The team recently unveiled the Beta version on November 3rd, 2015 after being in alpha for over a year now. I decided to take this browser out for a spin.

Interface and Usability

Vivaldi Beta displaying Sheky Rambles Homepage
Vivaldi Beta displaying Sheky Rambles Homepage

The UI of Vivaldi is extremely functional. It has have standard components such as the address bar, status bar etc. but also has a side panel providing access to most used features such as Bookmarks manager, downloads and Notes. The team also claims to be developing a Mail client to provide IMAP, POP3 supported web accounts to display content natively in browser.

The thing about the interface is that it’s incredibly customizable. Everything you can think of can be customized. Do keep in mind that this browser is aimed at power users, web developers and “staunch technologists” and it’s not aimed at the general public, so the interface is not noob friendly and noobs aren’t their target market either.

Vivaldi Settings page
Vivaldi Settings page

You can customize a number of things in the interface such as the location of the address bar, panel toggle, tab bar, status bar etc.

You can also set custom keyboard shortcuts to speed up commonly performed actions.

Customizable Keyboard Shortcuts
Customizable Keyboard Shortcuts

Also contains Chromeless UI mode for minimal distraction that let’s you focus entirely on the content of the web page rather than the browser itself. Useful for gaming and other focus intensive tasks where you want every square inch of the screen without going fullscreen.

Chromeless UI Vivaldi
Chromeless UI is extremely useful for distraction free browsing

You can also choose between a dark and a light theme for the interface (much like Microsoft’s Edge). I prefer dark mode tho. Lastly, it has one Android-esq feature wherein it adapts to the page you’re visiting by adopting its dominant color, much like Material Design in Android Lollipop 5.0+.

They also claim to be working on a cross platform sync feature to help the user store and access data across devices.

8/10 for the interface and usability.

Performance

Vivaldi runs on the same open source rendering engine (Blink) as that of Chrome and Opera (pretty ironic), so speed wise there’s isn’t much of a gap between the competitors.

I ran Futuremark’s Peacekeeper and was quite impressed with the result.

Futuremark's Peacekeeper test running on Vivaldi
Futuremark’s Peacekeeper running on Vivaldi

The browser scored 3078 running on my Windows machine. Impressive, though Chrome did better scoring 3273 the last time I checked.

Futuremark's Peacekeeper result, Vivaldi
Futuremark’s Peacekeeper result, Vivaldi

On the other hand, Vivaldi’s launch time is significantly slower than its rivals. I took about 4.7 seconds to launch on a cold boot compared to Chrome’s 3.5 s. I think this is understandable primarily due to the loaded interface.

Multiprocess Architecture, Vivaldi

Multi Process Architecture

Vivaldi uses the same Multi Process architecture as that of Chrome so it’s quite intensive on system resources, but it’s highly reliable. I’m yet to come across this browser’s first crash and it has managed to perform well given for a beta.

7/10 for Performance

Extensions

Finally, let’s come to the fun part, extensions.

One good thing about Blink is that since it’s open source, the extensions you use on Chrome/Chromium/Opera can also be used for Vivaldi. You can hit up Chrome Web Store and install extensions as if it were Chrome, without any issues.

I installed Adblock Plus and Pocket extension and they both integrated smoothly into the interface.

Vivaldi, installing extensions from Chrome Web Store
Vivaldi Extensions

Since the extensions for Vivaldi is no different from Chrome, the rating would be no different from that of Chrome.

9/10 for extensions.

Verdict

As with any other new product, Vivaldi too is rough around the edges and has it’s own set of issues to work with. But it’s  extremely promising and it has been well received by critics and other reviewers.

Unlike other browsers, Vivaldi doesn’t have the pressure of mass market browsers, it’s just aimed at a target audience, the power users.

If you’re bored with your current browser and want to go for something different with high degree of customization options, give Vivaldi a try, you won’t regret it.

8.5/10.

Credits and Sources

 

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