Just when you thought the prefix “concept” was reserved for cars and smartphones Opera launches its concept web browser, Neon.

To be quite honest we didn’t know what to expect from a “concept” web browser though looking back it’s glaringly obvious that Opera could have just as well used “redesigned” instead of “concept”.

When you first open up the browser you’ll be greeted by a number of bubbles containing the logos of some of the most prominent websites on the internet. An omni-bar sits above these bubbles and you can search or enter a URL from that.

Rather than the array of tabs at the top of the window that you’ll find in Chrome, Opera (the basic browser), Mozilla and even Edge, open web pages will arrange themselves on the right hand side of the window.

Everything you browse in the column to the left

To open a new tab you’ll need to click a “+” symbol on the left of the window. This feels a bit disjointed to us as you need to drag your mouse across the entire screen to open a new window. Thankfully you can work around this by using the Ctrl + T shortcut.

The new tab icon feels even more out of place among the other shortcuts on the right hand side. Clicking the play symbol opens up any media players that are currently active and you can pause or resume play from this sub-menu.

In fullscreen mode you hardly notice the bars on the sides but as you shrink the window the more glaring they become.

As with the basic Opera browser, you can pop videos into a new window that can be resized and placed anywhere on your screen.

The camera icon allows you to take screen shots and you can even crop out specific parts of a web page which is incredibly useful and nice to see built into the browser.

Once you take a screen grab you can access it in the gallery tab just below the screenshot option.

There is also an option where you can quickly access your downloaded files.

The space between

The trouble with these two columns is that they eat into the webpage’s dimensions. Where a Facebook feed fitted neatly into half of a 1920 x 1080p display it now requires more scrolling to see the full width of the page.

It’s a small gripe but one that becomes noticeable when you’re multitasking.

We found the side bars a bit more distracting than the usual bar at the top, especially with the Twitter bubble constantly updating when a new tweet is added to our timeline.

The omni-bar is also a lot larger than it is in Chrome for instance but you’ll find a few more pixels in the vertical length while browsing with Neon than you would with Chrome.

Chrome on the left Neon on the right.

Over time the buttons for the websites you frequent will “float” (Opera’s word not ours) to the top of the home page while the ones you don’t will fall away.

At launch there is sadly no support for Opera’s VPN and ad-blocker (which are included in the basic browser) nor can extensions be added. “The reason for this is simply that Opera Neon is a concept browser, built for experimentation and play,” says Opera.

Okay, this is cool

Have you ever wanted to view two pages at the same time but didn’t want to have to create a new window? Good news! Neon allows you to split the browser into two displays so you can view web pages side by side.

You might also recognise the wallpaper and that’s because Opera Neon uses your existing desktop wallpaper as its wallpaper. It’s a nice touch especially if like us you spend more time in your browser than on your desktop.

Oh look, my desktop wallpaper only without the mess of icons.

Neon also has indicators to tell you whether your connection to a site is secure and if you’d like a page to stop remembering your passwords simple click the key icon and then click “x”.

Should you download it?

At 2.38MB the download is tiny and the browser is – as Opera says – an experiment they want users to play with.

If that is your intention Opera Neon is free to download and use right now.

The lack of support for extensions however stops us from telling you to ditch your current browser outright.



Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.