Vivaldi review: The next big browser no one knows about
Vivaldi, a fairly new browser on the market, is a force to be reckoned with. Based on technology used to build Google Chrome, Vivaldi is fast and focuses very heavily on personalization, allowing you to cater the browser to your own needs and habits.
Customization is at the forefront, but it’s also completely open source. We’ve covered its developments in the past, but it’s finally at a stage where it can function and compete against the other big players as a full-fledged browser. Be sure to follow along with our review and you might just find out its worth switching your default browser options over to the new guy on the block — Vivaldi.
Customization & Features
It’s no secret that many of the minds behind Vivaldi were on the team building the Opera browser. Now, they’re looking to build something better with Vivaldi. Tatsuki Tomita, Vivaldi COO and co-founder, told Ars Technica that “We’re a startup, and there’s no reason for anybody to use yet another browser if it looks the same as the others and works the same way. So, we’re focusing on users who want more out of the browsing experience.”
Upon opening Vivaldi for the first time, users are guided through a setup process. Starting out, the browser will ask you what theme or colors you want. There’s plenty of options here — you can choose a nice white layout all the way down to a darker theme and everything in between. These colors can always be changed in the Settings menu afterwards.
Next, you’re asked to setup your tab locations. Normally, tabs would be placed at the top of the browser, but Vivaldi lets you choose between top, bottom and left or right sidebar tab placement options.
Lastly, you pick a background image for your Start page, and then you’re ready to start surfing the web with Vivaldi.
Tab organization is a huge part of Vivaldi — and these are things you won’t see in Chrome or Firefox. We showed you earlier that you can customize the placement of tabs, but actual tab organization goes even further than that.
If you use a lot of tabs, you can actually clean up the clutter by “stacking” tabs. For example, you could have one tab for Educational Videos, and then stack all the tabs with these videos you have up under that tab. It cleans up the clutter nicely and allows you to tackle tasks much easier.
One of the benefits of using the Chromium engine for Vivaldi is that the developers were able to get plugins/extensions up and running pretty quickly. In fact, developers don’t have to develop these extensions for Vivaldi specifically — any extension from the Chrome Web Store can be installed in Vivaldi. So, if you’re building an extension for Chrome, it’ll work in Vivaldi.
This actually seemed to work pretty flawlessly. I demoed this using the Pocket for Chrome extension, and had no problems. This is a great way to start out with a solid plugin ecosystem. Since Vivaldi isn’t necessarily popular enough for developers to create plugins individually for Vivaldi, integrating Chrome extensions to work with the browser makes things a lot more fluid in this way.
Vivaldi is a fast and snappy browser, but it can be a little sluggish at times. That’s largely because the developers are using Chromium as the backbone. There’s not nearly as much sluggishness as much as you’d have in Google Chrome, the memory hog that it is. In that regard, Vivaldi will fly through anything you throw at it.
But, let’s start looking at hard numbers. Even though Vivaldi can feel sluggish at times, it actually ranks significantly higher than Firefox and Chrome in rendering, mathematical computations and memory. Here’s the results of Firefox and Chrome benchmarks from the Peacekeeper benchmark test:
Firefox did the best (in most areas not pertaining to data & memory), garnering itself 2970 points. Chrome’s results was surprising low at at 2797 points, mostly because of significant differences in rendering when compares to Firefox. But, check out how Vivaldi performs in these same tests (note, that it does say “Chrome” on the benchmark test, but that is because Vivaldi uses most of the Chromium engine for its browser):
While rendering and HTML5 capabilities pretty much remain the same around all three browsers, Vivaldi’s mathematical computation and memory ability is far greater, according to these benchmarks.
But, enough about benchmarks. How does Vivaldi, Chrome and Firefox all compare in real-world tests with CPU usage and memory usage? In both Chrome, Firefox and Vivaldi, I opened five tabs and opened them to normal websites the average person might be using — news, social media, Google, etc. Below, you can see CPU and RAM results for that testing in Chrome and Firefox.
Interestingly, Chrome created a bunch of processes for only five tabs, using a few hundred megabytes in memory for all of it. CPU usage was about average, using only about 2.2% of CPU capacity. Firefox’s memory usage was about the same, but had significantly more CPU usage, operating at 4.7% of capacity. Now, here’s the stats for Vivaldi:
Vivaldi actually did a similar thing compared to Chrome, starting a ton of processes for only having five tabs open. It actually opened up more processes than Chrome did, but still stayed around the same RAM usage. However, CPU usage was much higher than Firefox and Chrome, using 12.9% of the CPU’s capacity. This might explain the occasional sluggishness.
So, as far as actual performance numbers go, it seems that Chrome takes the cake here. Keep in mind that some of these numbers can be skewed because my hardware isn’t the best on the market — 64-bit versions of these browsers see very minimal improvements; in fact, they’re a couple years old. This is what I’m running:
- i7 Intel Quad Core CPU clocked @ 2.0GHz
- NVIDIA GTX 670M GPU
- 12GB of RAM
- A primary 120GB Hitachi HDD
- A secondary 500GB Hitachi HDD
- Windows 10 with the Spring Creators Update
Vivaldi actually has built-in note-taking as well. On any website page, you can start taking notes on the web page you’re on. Of course, notes don’t have to be specific about the page you’re on, but Vivaldi does include a link to the page you were on when taking those notes in the event that it’s something you want to visit again.
Page Actions & Debugger
Another neat thing that Vivaldi does is “Page Actions.” There’s a variety of things you can do with these actions, altering the page you’re on in different ways for easier reading. For example, you could filter the page with a “Reader View,” which lets you turn the page into something much more friendly for reading. This can be helpful for articles or longer research papers.
One little, but neat thing, that Vivaldi does is tell you how large the pages you’re loading are in the address bar. The information isn’t necessarily “useful,” but can give you a good idea as to why a page is taking longer to load than another as far as data sizes go.
Since Vivaldi is using Chromium as its engine, and Chromium is open source, you could say that Vivaldi is “mostly” open source. But that’s not entirely the case in the traditional sense of what open source is. In the traditional sense, open source allows for open development and for anyone to “contribute” to the project, in this case Vivaldi. However, you can’t do any of that with Vivaldi. Many will say that Vivaldi is open source, but in reality, the only thing “open source” about it is that you can view the code that they’re using. You cannot take the code and create a new project out of it, let alone contribute to the Vivaldi project.
For being a new browser, Vivaldi has great support across operating systems. Right off the bat, you have it available for Mac, Windows and even Linux. Vivaldi will actually work on all Linux distributions. Mobile versions of the browser aren’t available just yet, but we’re expecting a big play here, as Vivaldi has said that they’re designing a Vivaldi mobile browser with power users in mind.
Vivaldi’s biggest drawback right now is having no mobile applications available, and therefore no shared settings, history, bookmarks or pages. This can be a deal breaker for many, since mobile is such a huge part of our lives at this point. It’s very easy to have Chrome across all your devices and being able to jump from what you were doing on your phone to your tablet or desktop. Vivaldi doesn’t even have a mobile app yet, although they say one is coming — we just don’t know when.
I also find the performance — CPU and memory use — to be a bit of a drawback, although it might just be that, in order to have more features, you have to sacrifice raw performance. The sluggishness at times can get annoying, so it’d be nice to see the Vivaldi developers come up with a fix that would provide some efficiency here. They say they’re making the browser for power users, so one would assume this is coming down the line as well.
Vivaldi is extremely formidable browser — there’s not much “bad” to say about it. Coming from Firefox, you might sacrifice a little speed, but in return, you get a whole bunch of features and customization you wouldn’t normally find in a browser.
So, is it worth giving up the default browser you’ve come to know and love? Ultimately, that’s up to you decide, but it’s definitely worth giving a shot. For me, Vivaldi is what I’ve switched to using on a regular basis because of just how fresh of an experience it is in comparison to the standard browsers. Like I said earlier, the features it offers is, so far, unmatched.
On the other hand, if you’re primarily a mobile user, Vivaldi isn’t probably a good switch up. I’d still recommend trying it out on a laptop or desktop if you have the chance, but until Vivaldi can offer a mobile app, mobile users will still be most benefited by the shared setting features of Chrome or Firefox.
Vivaldi may not have the marketing budget of the big players in the market — such as Google and Mozilla — but it’s still a browser on par with what these big companies are offering. If you like having plenty of features and don’t mind the lack of a mobile presence for the time being, it might even be better than what Google and Mozilla are offering.
But when it comes down to it, Vivaldi is a browser to be reckoned with. A lot of hard work has gone into it, and developers are still at work creating powerful new features to pack into the browser over future updates. If you’re wanting a fresh new browser experience, you cannot go wrong with Vivaldi. And if you’re not ready to switch default browsers yet, I’d at least recommend that everybody give Vivaldi a try — it’s a refreshing experience.
Download it now: Vivaldi