When it comes to web browsers, Google Chrome is the undisputed market leader. The software commands so much popularity that most people instinctively think of it when you ask them to launch their browser. But it is by no means the only popular browser or the best one.
Alternative browsers like Brave and Opera have been gaining steam among internet users looking to abandon Chrome for good. Either because of its well-known RAM consumption issues or privacy concerns.
However, when you are in the market for the less obvious choice, a little bit of research is necessary to pick the right alternative. And for anyone considering which browser is better between Brave and Opera, there is plenty to consider.
In this article, I will go over the features that most people look for in a browser and how these two products compare. By the end, you will know enough about both browsers to determine which one is right for your needs.
Ready? Let’s boogie.
It is free and open-source, built on Chromium, the open-source codebase powering Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and other popular browsers. The browser also runs on Blink, WebKit, and V8 engines.
So what is Brave’s standout quality? It is a browser that focuses primarily on privacy and creating a streamlined browsing experience for users.
Brave achieves this by blocking website trackers and online advertisements by default. Instead of opting out of ads by installing ad blockers, you have to opt-in and can earn money for doing so.
This selling point, among others, has led to a massive rise in its usage since its initial release in November 2019. In that time, it has amassed more than 32.4 monthly active users and is available on all major platforms.
The Brave browser is available on mobile and desktop devices across Android, iOS, MacOS, Windows, and Linux. There is no massive trade-off in features between platforms either. Almost all of the browser’s features are accessible on any operating system.
Opera, on the other hand, has been around far longer than Brave. Developed by Opera Software, a Norwegian software company, it launched in April 1995 and is officially one of the oldest desktop browsers in the world.
Even though it is now freeware, it used to be commercial software running on its own proprietary engine, Presto. It currently runs on Chromium, using Blink and V8 engines.
The browser is also available to any user on any operating system in 42 languages. Its mobile versions are called Opera Mobile and Opera Mini.
As a browser, Opera’s standout quality lies in its number of features. It famously pioneered features like private browsing, tabbed browsing, pop-up blocking, and reopening recently closed tabs. These are now commonly considered features that any worthwhile browser should have.
Another thing worth knowing is there are different types of Opera browsers, each packing additional or other sets of features based on their primary purpose.
I have mentioned Opera Mobile and Opera Mini, but there is also Opera GX, a browser designed explicitly for gaming. It comes with integrations with apps like Discord, Twitch, and Instagram. It also has a mobile version, available on Android and iOS.
Now that you have good background knowledge on both, let’s get into specifics and see how they compare with each other, starting with their interface and customization qualities.
Right out the gate, let me say that despite some unique functionalities, Brave is easy to use. When you launch the browser for the first time, there is no significant difference in the interface compared to popular browsers like Edge or Chrome.
That said, new tabs on Brave come with unique wallpapers that give the browser a fresh look each time you open it. Also, at the top left corner is stats about the number of blocked trackers and ads, saved bandwidth, and loading time saved.
On the right side are cards for cryptocurrency and Brave Rewards. The latter is helpful if you want to earn money while using the browser.
Scroll down the new tab, and you will see Brave Today, its in-built newsfeed. It’s great for a quick check on the news, but some people might find the thumbnails too large.
However, you can customize the appearance of these elements using an intuitive pop-up window accessible from the start page. Here, you can choose your preferred sources for the newsfeed, disable the Cards, hide the stats, and more.
Although the layout is different, Opera equally has an uncomplicated and clean user interface. It is Chromium-based, the overall look is not that different from Chrome, so there is no significant learning curve.
You get a thumbnail of popular and favorite websites on the main page. You can add or remove sites from the list as you wish. There is a hamburger button at the right corner for quick settings to change appearance elements like the wallpaper or theme or add a newsfeed.
The main standout difference in Opera’s interface is the Sidebar. It contains additional tools like Bookmarks, Browsing History, Settings, and some of the unique features in the browser (more on this later).
You can also use it to cycle between Workspaces, a feature that allows you to open different sets of tabs inside one Opera window.
The SideBar, along with everything else, is fully customizable. You can choose what appears in it or remove it entirely from the interface.
A draw. Both have understandable interfaces for basic web browsing and their additional features are easy to access with extensive support for customization.
Will you need to upgrade your RAM size to enjoy either browser fully? Here is how they fare when it comes to the dreaded RAM consumption.
If you are coming from Google Chrome, you will undoubtedly notice that Opera consumes far less RAM. Its ability to function on comparatively lesser memory is one of the reasons it is renowned as a lightweight browser.
Opera consumed around 220MB of memory and between 0.2 and 1.5% of CPU for nine processes during a test with only the startup page.
When I opened ten tabs, including media intensive sites like Buzzfeed, eBay, and The New York Times, that figure jumped to roughly 1700MB from 46 processes. It is still slightly lower than Chrome, with a similar number of tabs.
Furthermore, Opera scored 76 on the industry-standard WebXPRT3 browser test, which may not be the best, but earns it A- or B+ if you have stringent standards.
Overall, if you have had bad experiences with RAM usage on Chrome, Opera represents a slight but notable improvement.
Brave consumes slightly less RAM than Opera with the same number of tabs and websites opened. It ate up only around 1650MB, sometimes lower. It also opened a much smaller number of processes, only 27 for ten tabs.
However, on startup, the Brave browser consumed more memory than Opera, at over 340MB compared to Opera’s 220MB. That is because Brave opens a lot more processes (16) when you launch it.
Regardless, Brave still manages to deliver minimal RAM consumption overall. On the standard WebXPRT3 browser test, it performed comparatively better, with a score of 83.
While this might seem negligible, the benefit becomes a lot more apparent when you have over 100 tabs opened. You are still mostly guaranteed a smooth browsing experience.
Additionally, this smaller use of resources means less strain on your battery, guaranteeing longer browsing times when you are away from an outlet.
Since both browsers are Chromium-based, there are only marginal differences in RAM consumption between them or Chrome. However, Brave registers the best performance, and thus, wins.
Browsers allow you to access web pages on the internet. The faster the pages load, the better your browsing experience. Here is how these two perform when it comes to speed.
Brave claims it is three times faster than Chrome as part of its marketing. Putting that to a practical test shows that it is not necessarily true. When I checked load times using the in-built network tool, some pages load faster on Chrome (with the adblocker extension) and others on Brave. However, there are only marginal differences between both either way.
The browser can achieve this thanks to its in-built ad and script blocker. By preventing ads and ad trackers from loading on a website, there is more bandwidth to download the main content from a website.
If there is any main advantage here, it is not having to install an ad blocker to achieve Brave’s speed.
Also, speed is not just about load times. Speed dials at the Start page allow you to get to frequently visited websites quickly. It also has a tab management feature for grouping and naming multiple tabs by category. This enables you to reach specific web pages faster.
Again, having the same engine means Opera has the same base speed as other Chromium-based browsers, including Brave. However, on top of that, it comes with an in-built ad blocker that strips out ads and ad trackers that come with modern web pages.
It doesn’t just do that, either. Opera’s in-built ad blocker is also capable of blocking cryptocurrency mining. This translates to faster load times and a smoother browsing experience, all without the need to download a blocker yourself.
Browsing with Opera is also an efficient experience. The browser was the first to use Speed Dial, and it remains a feature to date.
The main interface contains two categories of customizable website shortcuts. The first is based on your selected favorites, while the other are suggestions based on your browsing history.
Opera wins this round. While both achieve their impressive speed with in-built ad blockers, Opera’s is more efficient. Its interface also lends itself to easy and quick web navigation.
After speed, security and privacy are two of the most critical qualities users consider in a browser. Brave and Opera are notable for their performance in this regard, but which is better?
Right out the gate, Opera scores high on the privacy scale with its in-built ad blocker. Once activated, websites can no longer track you and use your online behavior to show you personalized ads. Users can view the number and names of blocked ads and trackers on a page at any time.
It also comes with a free VPN that lets you browse privately with a virtual IP address, hiding your location. The VPN feature does a good enough job of protecting users’ IP addresses from hackers.
There is no data cap on the VPN, so you don’t have to worry about exhausting your data limit. However, users only have access to three locations with varying server speeds.
Also, the VPN is disabled by default. You have to enable it yourself by diving into Settings. However, Opera has a simple and intuitive Settings page, making it easy to find and activate.
Brave equally puts up a strong show when it comes to security and privacy. Like Opera, it protects you from personalized ads with its in-built ad and tracker blocker. It comes enabled right out the gate, so you don’t have to worry about setting it up.
Should you be interested in tracking its performance, you can access it in the Brave Shields section beside the address bar. One cool thing about Brave’s blocking feature is you can choose the level of effectiveness. There are Standard, Aggressive, and Disabled options.
You can also see the different categories blocked by Brave Shields. It includes trackers, scripts, and cookies. It also has a fingerprinting protection section.
Another thing, Brave Shields allows you to upgrade website connections to HTTPS, which provides a more secure connection.
Also, while it doesn’t come with its own VPN, Brave offers Tor, a software that enables anonymous connections. That is besides its regular private browsing mode, which also uses DuckDuckGo for online searches.
With additional privacy features like DuckDuckGo and the Tor software, Brave is the better option by a clear margin.
No matter how feature-rich a browser might be, it still needs extensions. Brave does not have its own extension store, but it does support all the extensions available on the Chrome Web Store.
It means you can install all the extensions and themes in your Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or any other Chromium-based browser on it.
All you have to do is visit the Chrome Web Store with the Brave browser and follow the process as you would on Chrome.
Besides enabling their installation, Brave also vets each extension and warns you if you are installing a malicious or unvetted one.
Opera is Chromium-based, so it does allow the installation of extensions from the Chrome Web Store. However, the process is not as direct as in Brave. Still, it has its own extension store named Opera Addons.
At 2,500+, it has an ever-growing collection of extensions and themes, including one named Install Chrome Extension. You need to install it from the Opera Add Ons store before you can install Chrome Web Store extensions in the browser.
Between the Add Ons store and Web Store, you can customize your browser in a way that feels truly yours.
Opera wins this round. With its own web store, users have an alternative to extensions and themes unique to the browser along with access to the Chrome Web Store.
Besides a functional and reliable browser, what else do you get when you opt for either browser?
Opera is already renowned for leading the line when it comes to additional browser features. It maintains that reputation with features like Integrated Social Media.
You can add and access messaging apps like Whatsapp, Messenger, Telegram, and social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook right inside the browser.
That means you don’t have to open separate tabs or use your phone to access your messages or keep track of the latest trends.
The Norwegian-developed browser also comes with unit converters. You can convert currency, measurement, and time zones by simply highlighting the text.
Other unique features available on Opera include –
- Battery Saver
- Music and Podcast player
- Snapshot tool
There is also the Opera Flow, which enables the data sync between Opera browsers across devices. You can use it to share files and links between your computer and your phone or tablet.
Additional features available when you install Brave browser include Brave Rewards. It is a feature that allows you to earn tokens for allowing specific ads on your browser. You can also use Rewards to donate to content creators, like a tip.
It is also possible to become a creator and earn through donations from other Brave users.
There is also a Cryptocurrency feature that enables the buying of cryptocurrencies from the start page.
Asides from finance-related features, Brave also has a Search Tabs feature. You can use it to search open and recent tabs by name.
Opera has several features that improve users’ browsing experience. While Brave extra features do have their uses, they are too niche for the average consumer. Opera wins this round.
Finally, how easy is it to set up these browsers? How much effort would you have to put in from installation to making them a daily driver? Here is how the setup process for Brave and Opera works.
Installing Brave is easy. You only have to visit the website and hit the download button to get the setup file. The website will automatically recognize your operating system, so you don’t have to worry about downloading the right one.
After that, the entire process is like installing Google Chrome, down to the installation interface. It keeps things familiar and avoids confusion.
Transforming Brave into your main browser after installation is also simple. Brave walks you through the process in clear and understandable terms, including the importation of bookmarks and extensions from your previous Chromium-based browser.
The whole process will take less than ten minutes. Simple, easy, and efficient.
Similarly, Opera automatically recognizes your device when you visit the website. All you have to do is click the Download Now button, and the installation process will begin. First, with the setup file and then the installation on your computer.
The default settings are good enough that all you have to do is launch the app after installation and import your bookmarks.
Besides bookmarked links, you can import saved passwords, cookies, and browsing history from every browser installed on your computer.
Suppose you have Opera on your mobile device, such as a phone or tablet, and you have an Opera account. In that case, you can also import your browsing data by simply signing in.
Both browsers are easy to install and fit to use right out the box. The importing process is also straightforward and efficient. This one is a draw.
- Both browsers are Chromium-based
- Both come with in-built ad and tracker blockers
- Both have a cross-platform presence
- Both are free and easy to install
- Both browsers are compatible with Chrome extensions
- Brave offers Tor, while Opera has a standard VPN
- Opera has integrated social media support. Brave has none
- Opera has a battery saver mode. Brave doesn’t
- Brave only has Chrome extensions. Opera has its own store
- Opera focuses on user functionality while Brave is privacy-oriented
- Comes with a built-in ad and tracker blocker
- Tor is available
- Very fast
- Customizable with Web Store support
- Allows users to earn through ads
- Doesn’t remove search engine ads
- Chromium-based, thus, dependent on Google
- Has speed dial for easy website access
- Comes with multiple user-friendly features
- Built-in ad and tracker blocker
- Low RAM consumption
- Suitable for slow internet connections
- Not fully open source
- Has fewer native addons
By now, you have probably realized that there is not that much difference between Brave and Opera. Both of them are excellent alternatives to more popular browsers like Chrome and Edge.
However, hard as it may be, there has to be a winner, and that title goes to Opera. While Brave is well ahead in security and privacy, the attendant features are not as relevant to most internet users.
On the other hand, most users care about functionality, and at that, Opera has Brave beat. With features like integrated social media, music and podcast player, and unit converter, Opera offers plenty of tools to improve users’ browsing experience.
Scott L. Macarthur is a marketing consultant and an online author. He is mostly engaged in providing his expertise to startups and SMBs. He is also an author on TheNextWeb.