Abhijit DeyJun 12, 2019 21:35:55 IST
The world’s most popular and important gaming event, Electronic Entertainment Expo or E3, is underway and it’s the best opportunity for any company to launch a gaming-related product. Web browser maker Opera has jumped on this opportunity to launch the “world’s first gaming browser” called Opera GX.
Now, don’t let the phrasing fool you. Opera's ‘gaming browser’ isn't an app that gives you better performance to play browser games or something. The ‘gaming’ tag is given because it packs several features that gamers would prefer having in a browser. However, Opera GX isn’t really limited for a gamer audience but a far wider user-base that wants control over their browser’s system resource usage.
RAM Limiter is a godsend
Users who don’t have the privilege of high-capacity RAM in their laptops will love the RAM Limiter feature of Opera GX. Based on how much system memory is present, the browser will detect and let users set a RAM usage limit. Enabling the feature will apply a limit to how much RAM the browser uses, but the browser can cross the limit by a small margin if necessary. However, users can also set a hard limit and the browser will ensure it doesn’t exceed it. All of this can be done from a tab on the left sidebar that can also be pinned to monitor RAM usage in real time.
I have a PC running on 8 GB of RAM and set the limit to only 2 GB with hard limit enabled. After opening about 15-18 tabs, RAM usage hit 2 GB. But even when I kept opening tabs, RAM usage didn’t cross the Hard Limit. This will prove to be a great feature on low-memory systems that struggle to run multiple tabs. And such systems take a massive hit in browsing performance since tab load times and stuttering is just beyond annoying at certain times.
The only downside to this is that after the browser is left idle for some time, the tabs have to be reloaded. Essentially, to save on memory usage, Opera GX is probably unloading those sessions from the memory. This usually happens when the browser has been left unused for a few minutes. But we did notice that beyond 10 tabs, revisiting the oldest tabs reloads them every time.
CPU Limiter for multi-tasking
Limiting CPU usage is also a useful feature to multi-task on low-powered laptops. Opening multiple tabs while using another software will eat up almost all available memory, also leading to high CPU usage. This goes on to limit browser performance by affecting scrolling speed and the animations. By lowering the browser’s CPU usage, there are more resources available for other running applications. It will allow users to have a better multi-tasking experience. Combined with RAM Limiter, these features will give users more control over how they want the browser to operate.
Lowering CPU usage obviously brings in some compromise in browser performance. From a subjective observation, scrolling wasn’t as smooth as experienced when there weren’t any limits.
Built on Opera with more customisations
Opera GX isn’t a completely new browser but rather the existing Opera browser with additional features implemented over it. This means users will get all the features that are available on Opera including an internal VPN, ad blocker, social media and IM integrations. The video pop-out function is also present but a future update called ‘Video over game’ will open an overlay while you’re playing a game. This means the overlay will be capable of running over any fullscreen application. It could be a useful feature to watch walkthroughs while simultaneously playing the same game.
Apart from these features, there are several useful implementations that are catered towards gamers. Twitch users can directly log into their accounts using the sidebar to quickly access their favourite streamers without having to visit the main website, for example.
There’s a special section named ‘GX Corner’ that populates the latest gaming news from different publications. For now, the list of news sources is limited and there’s no customisation option available in early access. Hopefully, we’ll see such an option in a later build. In the same section, there’s a panel of the latest games across different platforms including PC, PlayStation and Xbox, linking to its official websites. In a later update, it would be actually useful if game deals across different digital distribution platforms such as Epic Games Store, GOG, PlayStation Store, Steam, etc. are added.
Users can change the colour accent of the website. This is different from changing the theme of the browser since the UI has several elements highlighted in the same colour. It can be changed from the sidebar on the right.
Early access Level 1 only on Windows
Rather than following developer jargon for software versions, Opera is giving the browser a gamer spin by calling the first public early access as ‘Level 1’. All the upcoming versions will be released in similar fashion, so the next update is going to ‘Level 2’. The company is actively seeking feedback, which can be provided from within the browser. A ‘Feedback’ button is present across the browser that can be clicked to open a window where a rating and comment can be submitted. A full and final version will be coming out later this year. Opera GX is available only for Windows right now.
I’m definitely going to use GX as my default browser for a few days and maybe run a few benchmarks to actually see whether it’s a better choice for power users like myself.