Opera Software is a Norwegian company responsible for developing the Opera browser. Opera is the 5th most popular web browser, with a market share of around 4%. To capture more of the web browsing market, Opera has rolled out user-friendly features that are unavailable with web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari.
Recently, Opera acquired the Canadian VPN provider SurfEasy, Inc. Opera immediately began integrating SurfEasy VPN technology into its flagship browser.
In 2016, they rolled out the integrated (free!) VPN service to the public. SurfEasy continues to offer standalone VPN products under their brand, as well. The free, integrated Opera VPN caught a ton of positive publicity.
After years of foolishly running my online business via public WiFi, I decided to start using a VPN to secure my communications (and access a bit of out of market sporting events while traveling). During my search, the positive publicity for the built-in Opera VPN caught my eye.
But I found out that – similar to web hosting – there is no such thing as a “best VPN provider”. In fact, it’s like a whole world of confusing information where even trustworthy information is near-useless since it’s so complex. This Opera VPN review is my notes from trying them out for my own purposes as a security-aware, traveling, US-based businessperson who needs good usability and good pricing. I am not a political activist or someone who regularly travels to firewalled countries.
Whether you are looking for a VPN for privacy, for website access, for avoiding geotargeting, for protecting communications or all the above, hopefully, this Opera VPN review will be useful. You can also skip to next steps here.
Here’s my Opera VPN review – structured with pros & cons based on my experience as a customer.
Disclosure – I receive referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All opinions and data are based on my experience as a paying customer performing independent research.
Opera VPN Pros / Advantages
There’s plenty to like with Opera’s VPN. It provides secure encryption, and you can use it on practically any device and operating system. Best of all, it delivers impressive speed and functionality considering it’s not a stand-alone application – oh, and it’s free.
I’ll cover the disadvantages in the next section, but for now, here’s what I really liked about Opera’s VPN.
256-bit encryption is the standard level of security across all industries, from payment processors and banks to VPN service providers. With this level of service, you can expect an excellent level of safety for your browsing data.
Despite being integrated with the Opera browser, I passed the IP Leak test every time. The functionality seemed solid. And the service that is provided by SurfEasy passes a lot of privacy tests.
Caveat – Note that no VPN is 100% secure. Your traffic is still routing through a company (in this case, SurfEasy). Any company can go out of business or go rogue. If you are trying to avoid your American ISP – then you are simply replacing distrust of Comcast/Charter with the trust of your VPN. If you are a political activist where trust is a life or death situation, you need to be using something like Tor. This is a segue to one of Opera VPN’s unique features, but the point remains using a VPN does not instantly create security/privacy. That is something you do via aligning company incentives (ie, paying for companies who maintain security) & being proactive. In the case of Opera’s VPN – it is basically a marketing service for SurfEasy VPN and the Opera browser. As long as that business model makes sense, the VPN privacy incentive makes sense.
Now – Opera VPN has several major security issues, including the fact that they log a ton of data about your connection (and requiring more trust as an extension). I’ll cover that in the disadvantages section.
But the takeaway here is that they use industry standard encryption and implement best practice VPN protections.
What good is a VPN if it doesn’t keep you secure wherever you are? Opera’s VPN is available for all major operating systems, including mobile. This way, whether you’re at home, work or traveling, your VPN will be protecting you.
Now – you do have to actively use Opera as your browser. But, it’s a robust alternative to Chrome. Arguably, you are doing the Internet a service by using a non-Chrome browser (competition FTW!). As a browser, there’s no real “setup” required. You simply use the browser and check the VPN box.
In addition to the services that Opera provides for computers, they also offer an application for mobile devices. Opera’s app for iOS and Android is separate from their browsing applications, and it provides additional security and privacy features that extend to other applications on your phone.
For many mobile users, the most important feature of Opera’s mobile VPN app is it’s location blocking, so you can see content in other apps that has been blocked in your location. It’s important to note that most mobile VPNs aren’t necessarily as safe as they seem. Regardless, it’s still an extra step you can take to safeguard your data and information.
For many VPN users, especially those who travel often for work or leisure, the ability to shield your location is the most desirable feature of a VPN. When you’re able to hide your true location on the web, you’re able to access interesting content that would otherwise be blocked because of your geo-location. With Opera’s VPN, you can choose from five different server locations throughout the world including North America, Europe, and Asia.
This feature may also come in handy in the office or on campus. Many business firewalls cast such a broad net that they end up blocking useful and innocuous websites and applications from their employees or students, such as music streaming services. While it’s entirely understandable why a business or school would want to block certain sites, it can be a real pain when you’re just trying to listen to your favorite music while you work.
Here’s me streaming blocked content in Canada with Opera while it’s blocked in Chrome.
Opera’s VPN works like a charm for most websites and applications that allow you to skirt by location specific roadblocks, but it’s not foolproof. One of the largest players in the streaming arena, Netflix, has made it increasingly difficult to access content available outside of your geo-location with a VPN.
Ease of Use
It doesn’t get much easier than this VPN. Since it’s integrated into the browser, there’s very little to do on the user end, and set up is a breeze. Once you’ve downloaded Opera, access the browser settings and turn the VPN on in the privacy and security section. From there, you can control your VPN settings with a button located on the taskbar.
The interface is also extremely easy to navigate. Users can adjust some basic settings like the endpoint location, or allow Opera to optimize the endpoint for performance. Outside of that, Opera does the rest. Since it doesn’t get any easier than the Opera VPN, this makes it an excellent choice for users with limited needs, or those who are just beginning to understand VPNs.
Opera’s VPN is far from the fastest in the industry – which, by the way, is technically running off a proxy provided by SurfEasy.
*Aside – due to this setup, I wasn’t able to run the same speed tests that I run with other VPNs.
You will notice a difference in speed when comparing the browser with the VPN on as opposed to with the VPN off. But, most users will find that the slight dip in speed isn’t a major pitfall, especially if you have a fast internet connection. If your connection provides download speeds of 50Mbps or greater, you’ll hardly notice any difference at all.
In fact, the speed of Opera’s VPN is astonishing when you consider this next point.
It’s tough to beat the price for Opera’s VPN. In fact, it’s impossible to beat.
It’s truly free.
Most VPN’s cost around $100 per year or more. But, Opera offers their VPN for free as part of their browser.
And unlike other “free” VPNs – it’s not supported with advertising or malware. It’s basically a freemium business model to market the Opera browser and the SurfEasy VPN – a premium VPN service for your entire network.
Since Opera offers a free VPN, it eliminates the fear of commitment you probably feel as you consider your different VPN options. If you find that this VPN doesn’t meet your needs, just move onto another option. Many of the most popular VPNs require a contract of a year or more, and several VPNs are considerably more expensive on a month to month basis.
Keep in mind that Opera isn’t just a VPN, but a web browser as well. In fact, it’s an excellent web browser. Opera continues to roll out some cutting edge, user-friendly features. Opera offers a built-in ad-blocker, which blocks distracting display advertising while improving page load times.
For laptop users, it offers a battery saver mode which can extend battery life by up to an hour. It also includes an integrated newsreader, as well as some other features you’d expect from any of the more well-known web browsers like Chrome, Firefox or Safari.
Opera VPN Cons / Disadvantages
Opera provides exceptional VPN service, especially when you consider they do so free of charge. But, it does fall short in a number areas where other more comprehensive VPN solutions excel. As you’re doing your Opera VPN review, you may want to keep some of these issues in mind.
It’s Not Really A VPN
Here’s the elephant in the room when it comes to this service. Opera’s VPN isn’t exactly a VPN.
It’s more like a proxy server.
Sure, it provides all the functionality you need from a VPN when it comes to your browser data, but it stops there. Opera’s VPN only encrypts the data that’s being transmitted between your web browser and the internet. But, your browsing data only represents a portion of your internet use.
Think of it like locking the doors of your home, but leaving the windows open. Sure, the door provides one level of safety, but intruders could still enter through the unlocked windows if they chose to.
The lack of comprehensive security can be especially problematic for users who engage in peer to peer sharing, chat, or any internet-connected software…or even open links with a non-Opera browser. Since Opera only protects your browsing data, any information that’s being shared by non-Opera applications is out in the open.
For many people considering different VPN services, this may be a deal breaker. Other, more comprehensive VPN solutions protect your browsing data, in addition to any other data your computer is generating from other applications.
For example, most comprehensive VPN services provide a stand-alone app that acts a true middleman app between your Internet traffic and your ISP.
In fact, some like ExpressVPN have a built-in kill switch that stops all Internet traffic if the VPN gets switched off.
Many users will love the ease of use of Opera’s VPN. But, more experienced VPN users are going to lament its lack of room for customization. Most notably, you’re only able to choose between five different geo-locations as an endpoint.
Users can set their endpoint for either Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, Singapore, and The United States. For most people, these options will do the trick. However, other VPN services offer a broad array of advanced options.
Terms of Service
Opera is based in Norway, a country which protects and upholds internet privacy with legislation that’s favorable for users. Unfortunately, SurfEasy, the VPN service that Opera acquired and powers its VPN with is located in Canada.
The reason why this may be unfortunate is that of Canada’s membership in the Fives Eyes Alliance. This group is an intelligence alliance comprised of Canada, United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. According to documents released by the Snowden leaks in 2013, the Five Eyes Alliance engages in spying on one another’s citizens. By spying on one another’s citizens, this allows these countries to circumvent the strict regulations that prohibit spying on a country’s resident citizens.
Depending on how much stock you put into those leaked documents, this information may be important to you. After all, we are discussing the matter of internet privacy.
It’s also worth noting that Opera was sold last year to a Chinese conglomerate for $600m. China isn’t known to have the most sterling track record when it comes to internet privacy. But, Opera claims that despite the sale, they continue to operate under the laws and regulations of Norway. They also claim that the SurfEasy VPN service continues to operate under the governance of Canada.
Like I mentioned in the security section earlier – the core part of any VPN is trust. If you don’t trust your VPN, then you should not be using them. Opera’s built-in VPN might be fine for everyday and/or quick use. But if you are consistently transmitting private data, then you’ll want to take a hard look at whether Opera’s setup is right for your usage.
Additionally, I had consistent issues with Opera dropping off. That may be anecdotal, but it was unnerving that my traffic kept flowing even when the VPN was not active.
Only a small minority of VPN users are using the service in a manner that breaks the law. But, the purpose of a VPN is to provide you with complete security. So, anything that runs contradictory to that mission can defeat the purpose of a VPN altogether.
Opera VPN Conclusion
Opera’s VPN provides you with the browsing protection you’d expect from any of the more expensive VPN services. It’s easy to use, available for every major operating system and device, and since it’s integrated right into the Opera browser, it’s a true “set it and forget it” solution. Perhaps best of all, it’s entirely free. If you’re looking for a VPN with little to no cost associated with it, it’s tough to beat this one.
Where Opera falls short is by only providing security for your browsing data. You’ll still have some data that’s not secured. You also won’t have many options for customization. For this reason, it’s not a viable option if you’re looking for a comprehensive VPN solution that keeps every bit of your data secure.