Opera becomes the latest ARM-native browser: “Windows is our biggest audience, so Snapdragon X (devices are) top priority”

Opera browser with Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite logo
(Image credit: Opera | Qualcomm)

What you need to know

  • Opera Browser is now available natively for compatible Windows devices powered by Snapdragon ARM processors.
  • Downloads are offered via an early access developer-centric stream, targeting Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon X platform.
  • Working with Microsoft and Qualcomm to test the new build, Opera's development team promises faster browsing and extended battery life for portable Snapdragon X ARM devices.

Since Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon Summit Keynote towards the end of 2023, it has been teasing laptops and other Windows devices powered by upcoming Snapdragon X chips. The ultra-efficient Snapdragon X Elite ARM processor continues to promise a Windows on Arm renaissance as a slew of devices from OEMs like Dell begin to leak, and more affordable variants powered by Snapdragon X Plus chips will appeal to a broader audience than ever before.

However, promises of "significantly better battery life" rely heavily on ARM-native software rather than the emulation of traditional x86-64 apps. The pool of Windows on Arm apps somewhat slowed in the past year or two, while a need for proper ARM64 support has become more significant as the Snapdragon X platform pushes a new generation of Windows computing. Thankfully, Opera's developers have paired with Microsoft's 'App Assure' team and Qualcomm Technologies to offer an AI-enhanced, native ARM variant of its popular web browser.

What is Opera Browser?

Opera browser promotional image

Opera Browser offers unique features to stand out from Edge and Chrome. (Image credit: Opera)

Opera is a web browser built on Chromium, the open-source codebase behind popular options like Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome. In the most straightforward terms, this means popular extensions and plugins are cross-compatible across all browsers, which prevents users from losing functionality when switching. However, while many third-party extensions help block intrusive and obnoxious advertisements around the web, Opera Browser has a free, built-in ad blocker alongside other enhancements like integration for popular chat apps like Whatsapp and Instagram.

How will Opera benefit from Snapdragon X?

Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite

Qualcomm promises significant leaps in device efficiency with Snapdragon X Elite chips. (Image credit: Qualcomm)

As with most software upgrades, Opera promises increased performance but backs up its claims with in-house benchmark results. Testing its ARM-native build with Speedometer, which uses a range of timed tasks to measure overall responsiveness, its developers reported "over double than those in the emulated version of the browser." Qualcomm claims that emulated x86-64 apps and games will run 'just fine' under emulation on Snapdragon X Elite chips, though native ARM64 builds bring the absolute best performance possible with the longest portable battery life.

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.

Klaus Diacon, Microsoft

As with many other prominent Windows apps, artificial intelligence (AI) features heavily in Opera's plans for its ARM-native browser. The Snapdragon-optimized version supports physical neural processing units (NPUs) to run local language models (LLMs) to provide faster text generation and power other AI-powered tasks, harnessing the 45 TOPS of NPU performance offered by Snapdragon X platform. In short, Opera Browser will be able to locally process AI tasks on new ARM-powered Windows laptops, rather than relying entirely on the cloud, something Microsoft has directly assisted with its 'App Assure' team.

Where can I download Opera Browser for ARM?

Opera browser developer download page

The ARM-native version of Opera Browser is part of an early-access developer build. (Image credit: Opera)

This new ARM-native build of Opera Browser is available to download via the early-access Opera Developer stream. It's designed for Snapdragon-powered devices, with AI-centric features relying on the upcoming enhancements offered by the yet unreleased Snapdragon X platform.

"The Snapdragon-optimized version of Opera will be first available on the developer stream of the browser, and will allow early adopters to try it out on the new Windows devices that come with this Arm-based processor." — Opera

While hands-on experiences with Snapdragon X devices aren't here yet, I do have previous-generation ARM-powered options like my second-hand Surface Pro X. The SQ1 chip inside is essentially a modified version of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx, but its NPU is far less sophisticated than even the SQ3 sucessor, so it wouldn't be entirely fair to judge this ARM-native version of Opera Browser based on performance alone. Nevertheless, it's admirable to see Opera get ahead of the curve while we're on the cusp of a massive resurgence in Windows on Arm laptops.

Ben Wilson
Channel Editor

Ben is the channel editor for all things tech-related at Windows Central. That includes PCs, the components inside, and any accessory you can connect to a Windows desktop or Xbox console. Not restricted to one platform, he also has a keen interest in Valve's Steam Deck handheld and the Linux-based operating system inside. Fueling this career with coffee since 2021, you can usually find him behind one screen or another. Find him on Mastodon @trzomb@mastodon.online to ask questions or share opinions.