Virtual private networks (VPNs) allow users to browse the web securely through an encrypted, tunnelled connection. As such, they have a number of potential uses, ranging from circumventing region-locked content to protecting your data on a public Wi-Fi network – so having a free VPN built into a web browser seems like a good idea.
That’s just what Opera 40 offers, as well as a number of other improvements. However, as we have stated previously, free VPNs generally have significant limitations and we would not recommend relying on their security for regular business use. Still, they can be useful where security isn’t a vital concern, such as occasionally viewing inaccessible content.
With that in mind, Opera’s VPN feature is disabled by default, so if you want to use it you can enable it by opening the Settings dialog, selecting ‘Privacy & security’, then ticking ‘Enable VPN’. Once enabled, a clickable VPN button appears in the Address Bar and users will automatically connect.
Configure the connection by clicking the VPN button – a pop-up window similar to the ad-blocker will appear, with a simple on/off switch for enabling or disabling the service, a graph revealing how much data has been transferred over the connection, and a dropdown menu allowing users to switch from the ‘optimum’ location – that which currently offers the fastest connection – to a specific country.
This latter option allows for location-spoofing and currently supports five countries: US, Canada, Germany, Netherlands and Singapore.
One caveat – the feature isn’t compatible with Opera’s data-saving feature, Opera Turbo. This feature re-routes user web page requests to special Opera servers that compress their content to reduce bandwidth and improve download speeds. Users should also be aware that VPN connections are slower than regular ones due to the extra work involved in securing them.
The new version of Opera also revamps the battery saver tool, which Opera claims can extend battery life by up to 40 percent through various tweaks, such as reducing tab background activity, pausing plugins not in use and dropping video frame rates to 30 frames per second.
These improvements see users able to choose when battery saver is implemented (look for a new ‘Save battery automatically’ option under Settings > Browser > Battery Saver), while an estimate of remaining battery is also provided on the Battery Saver flyout.
Other changes see users able to add their own custom RSS feeds to Opera’s Newsreader feature. Click the ‘Add Source’ button, then paste the RSS feed URL into the ‘Search catalogue’ box.
The video pop-out feature also gains support for more video sites and players, while the button itself has been redesigned to be less intrusive, and is disabled for short video.
Finally, Chromecast users will be pleased to learn that Opera now supports Chromecast – install the Chrome extension from the Opera catalogue, then install the Google Cast extension.
Opera 40 is available now as a free download for Windows, Mac and 64-bit Linux users. As of version 38, Opera now requires OS X 10.9 or later on the Mac.