Opera sings sweetly with native version for Windows on Arm

Browser ditches x64 blues for a snappier tune

Opera has become the latest Chromium browser for Windows on Arm, fueling industry talk about Microsoft's plans for the neglected operating system.

Opera is a niche player in the Windows browser world. Beloved by fans, it is approaching its 30th anniversary. It switched to Chromium just over a decade ago and recently succumbed to the AI hype with a "reimagining" of its flagship product.

A native version for Windows on Arm is the latest in a slew of Chromium-based browser releases. In March, Chrome for Windows on Arm was finally released, and Opera has followed suit.

We fired up our Windows on Arm device and confirmed that the browser does indeed open as an Arm64 process rather than the dreaded x64 emulation and – as with early versions of native Chrome – certainly felt subjectively snappier, although not the dramatic increase in performance claimed in Opera's marketing material.

Screenshot showing Windows on Arm version with Task Manager showing Opera Arm64 processes

Opera and Windows on Arm

The release comes on the eve of Microsoft's expected unveiling of hardware based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon X Elite platform. It points to a possible future where Microsoft does not leave Windows on Arm gathering cobwebs but instead sprinkles it with AI fairy dust.

Klaus Diaconu, Microsoft partner director of product management for Windows Fundamentals, said: "Microsoft is excited to see a leading application like Opera now available natively for Windows devices powered by Snapdragon.

"We look forward to continuing to partner with [Opera] on delivering cutting-edge innovation that takes advantage of the new AI capabilities offered by Windows on Snapdragon."

Opera has gone all in with AI and claims its features, like the possibility of downloading local language models, will see a significant performance boost on Snapdragon-based Windows systems.

The company put this down to the neural processing units (NPUs) found in the Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus.

We used the Windows Dev Kit 2023 hardware, running on the Snapdragon Compute Platform, so we'll have to take Opera's word for all the AI wonder that awaits users of more exotic silicon.

Getting hold of the browser was relatively straightforward, although it must be downloaded through the developer stream.

While we doubt that the arrival of a Snapdragon-optimized version of Opera will cause many users to jump ship from their preferred browser, it will be a relief to users enduring x64 emulation. It is also a further pointer to a brighter future for Windows on Arm than many might have expected. ®

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