Opera 60 debuts with a free, faster VPN, and Netflix hasn't blocked it yet

Opera 60 boasts a cryptocurrency wallet as well as the faster VPN.

Credit: Mark Hachman / IDG

The 2016 addition of a free, unlimited VPN proxy to the Opera browser was one of the best features it had added in years. Unfortunately, the VPN was slightly too slow to be usable, and Netflix quickly blocked it. With Opera 60, the browser’s VPN has sped up—and you’re currently able to view Netflix movies from other regions, too.

If you’re a cryptocurrency user, there’s another interesting feature: Opera 60 (also known as “Reborn 3,” or just R3) includes a cryptocurrency wallet, built on top of the Ethereum Web3 technology. 

It’s fair to say, however, that the VPN will be the primary draw. If you subscribe to Netflix, you may know that the service offers a different selection of movies and TV shows to overseas markets—in some cases, new release movies that aren’t offered to U.S. viewers.

opera 60 with vpn Mark Hachman / IDG

An Opera 60 screenshot, showing the VPN tab.

Normally, that would mean you’re simply out of luck. That’s why some folks will pay the $50 or so for a VPN service that circumvents regional restrictions (as we note in our roundup of the best VPN services). But right now, Opera 60’s VPN offers that service, entirely for free. We were able to browse what appeared to be Netflix for South America as well as Netflix for the Netherlands (but in English), together with a somewhat varied selection of movies and TV shows, including Rick & Morty and Spiderman: Homecoming, that were unavailable on the U.S. version of Netflix.

rick and morty netflix opera vpn Mark Hachman / IDG

A screenshot of Rick and Morty captured from the Netflix app on April 10, 2019 using Opera’s VPN. Rick and Morty is owned by Williams Street, and distributed by Warner Bros. Television.

To access the additional content, you’ll need to download Opera 60. The VPN isn’t enabled by default; you’ll need to click the small VPN button in the URL bar, and then ensure that the toggle switch is flipped to “On.” From there, you’ll have the option of selecting a region. 

Keep in mind that Opera’s “VPN” doesn’t really anonymize your web connection via encryption; instead, it tells a remote server that your physical location is somewhere else. As before, Opera’s VPN offers you a choice of an “optimal location” somewhere nearby, or else the option to choose between a server in the “Americas,” Europe, or Asia. Your selection will be limited to those three regions. Of course, you can use that VPN for whatever purpose you’d like—as a hedge against websites that gather your location to serve you ads, to see localized versions of webpages, or many other uses.

When we tested Opera’s VPN in 2016, we noted that even if we were able to secure a proxy connection to an overseas Netflix service, the stream was often too choppy and slow to really enjoy the movie. In our testing of the 2019 service, that wasn’t true for either the “Americas” or European region. Unfortunately, the Asian VPN connection proved to be too slow for watching movies like Venom, and navigating back and forth interrupted the stream for long enough that we finally gave up.

opera netflix Mark Hachman / IDG

Netflix using Opera’s VPN looks similar to what you might enjoy as a U.S. user, but with some additional content that’s not available domestically.

As for the claim that Opera’s VPN is indeed faster, we tested that, too. Though network speed tests are heavily dependent upon your available bandwidth, your wired or wireless connection, distance to the server, the network congestion, and so forth, we did find the connection somewhat faster overall: 7.38Mbps down on the VPN connection used by Opera 58, and 8.53Mbps down on the VPN connection used by Opera 60. We used the “Americas” location for the tests, on a home broadband connection that averages above 100Mbps under normal use.

It’s possible that Opera was using the same VPN connection on both tests, and our second run was simply coincidentally faster. Still, we ran six speed tests on each browser iteration, three connecting to Bing’s speed test widget, and three to the same server using Ooklas’s Speedtest.com site. On each test, the speeds were consistently faster using Opera 60.

It’s worth reiterating that Opera’s VPN is both free and unlimited, so you won’t have to worry about exceeding a bandwidth cap. (It’s also available for mobile, again, after Opera killed its mobile VPN more than a year ago.) Since it’s free, of course, there’s always the risk that too many users will overload the connection. Netflix may also figure out a way to restrict your overseas viewing, too.

Keep in mind, too, that a VPN doesn’t grant you total anonymity, as all of your web browsing flows through Opera’s servers. (Though Opera was sold to a Chinese conglomerate several years ago, Opera resides in Norway, and executives have said that they remain bound by the country’s strict privacy laws.) 

We already consider Opera to be the best web browser available, based upon its performance and low memory footprint. At less than 2 percent of the market as of March 2019, it’s clearly a niche product. We praised Opera’s free VPN when it first launched. With a new, powered-up VPN, maybe it’s time that Opera’s browser rises to greater prominence. 

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Mark Hachman

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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