You’ve probably heard of Opera browser, a small but loud competitor to your classic Chrome and Firefox. Can its VPN compete with the big boys on the block, too, or is it not even worth its free price?
Opera VPN is a free proxy that comes with the Opera browser. It changes your virtual location and works with US Netflix if you’re lucky, but it’s neither private nor highly functional. If you want a basic level of protection—for example, hiding your IP and nothing else—it’s a decent VPN to pick.
Opera VPN: What’s It All About?
Opera VPN is a free VPN made by the same company that makes Opera browser. It’s one of the easier VPNs to sign up for—there is no signup process.
The VPN comes free with Opera browser as an add-on. Simply switch it on and you’re ready to go with privacy and a digital location.
Opera is a decent browser—it’s not as popular as Chrome or Firefox, but it’s a fantastic alternative if you dislike them or they clog up your computer’s CPU—Chrome for one can be hard on a PC.
The more you add to Chrome, the clunkier it gets, draining more of your PC’s resources—including adding a VPN to Chrome.
Opera and its VPN are a welcome step away from that hardship, and are a solid choice for someone looking for optimal PC performance.
Where Is Opera VPN Based?
Opera VPN is based in Norway, as is the browser. Since most VPNs are US-based, the Norway jurisdiction is a refreshing break for customers who want something different.
As an Opera VPN Australia customer, it may be nice to know that your VPN provider is based so far away, and away from the world’s powerhouse of the US. This keeps you safe from any third party audits from people in your own country, or in a country that may be eager to sell your information back to yours.
Besides that, there are no real perks to Opera’s Norway-based jurisdiction—except perhaps the 10 hour time difference being more manageable than the whopping 16 hours between Australia and the US.
However, there’s one aspect that’s slightly confusing.
You’d think the company’s jurisdiction would be clear from it being Norwegian. Unfortunately, a Canadian company manages the VPN side of things. The company is SurfEasy and is listed as Canadian-owned.
Opera VPN has reached out to some leading VPN websites to clarify ownership. Opera states that the VPN is still Norwegian-owned. Many users don’t really know what to think anymore as ownership of the company has changed so many times—many are still confused.
Privacy Concerns: Safe from Hackers and Third-Party Audits?
Speaking of third party audits, how safe are you with Opera VPN? Many free VPNs come with privacy concerns as they log your details to sell off and make money. That’s why they can afford to be free—you are the product.
This becomes clear when you look at how the Opera browser operates.
While Opera VPN states that it doesn’t log your information or your browsing history or your network address, the actual browser admits to collecting information.
If you use Opera browser—which you need to do to use Opera VPN—it assigns you an ID at random. The company has the right to view and collect this information.
The company also states that it may collect an ID from your device, learn about your hardware, data usage and environment configuration—as in, various settings on your computer and with your WiFi connection.
Lastly, the browser tracks your IP address to discover your location. This way the browser can send you location-based ads.
What we learn here is that:
- Your device is logged and can be tracked.
- Opera knows where you are.
- The company can tie you to a specific set of devices, IP address, and can view your browsing data.
Essentially, Opera can build a profile on you and there’s nothing stopping the company from selling it off, or revealing it in third-party audits.
On the plus side, at least the browser doesn’t store your payment details or email address, not even with its VPN service. Many free VPNs require a login, so Opera VPN is slightly ahead of them.
What Does Opera VPN Have to Offer?
So, unfortunately, you’re not fully safe from third-party audits. Can Opera’s features make up for it?
No, they can’t. Opera VPN offers no advanced features other than a simple ad-block, so instead, we’ll examine the basics: privacy and speed.
Opera VPN is far from the most private service in the world. In fact, all it does is hide your location—not any of your personal details.
VPNs encrypt your data and use advanced protocols to tunnel your system. Some use military-grade encryption software.
Opera VPN uses HTTPS/SSL encryption—like every decent website in existence, so this is unremarkable.
The VPN service does nothing more than offer you a decoy IP address. Hackers can feast on your information and do what they wish—but at least it’ll say you’re somewhere in Europe when you’re actually in Adelaide, right?
It’s no secret that VPNs slow down your internet connection. Your traffic needs to be rerouted, often halfway across the world, putting a buffer between you and your target website.
However, there are acceptable and unacceptable amounts to slow your connection. Users found that Opera VPN stepped into unacceptable territory.
Customers discovered that Opera VPN speeds rarely reach more than 20 Mbps.
They also note that the speeds have become worse with time. Opera VPN was never particularly fast, but at least in 2017 it was an acceptable level of slowness.
As of 2021, the speeds are almost impossible to use, averaging around 7 Mbps for EU servers, and almost 15 Mbps for the US.
The speeds also depend on where you’re situated; many of the speed tests were performed by users in the UK. If you’re even farther from the EU or US, you can likely expect worse speeds.
If you’d like to compare these speeds of 7 and 15 to what you usually get, Australia has an average internet speed of 67.58 Mbps.
On top of Opera’s terrible download speeds, you can kiss your dreams of uploading YouTube videos, live streaming, or even sending bundles of digital photos to your friends goodbye. The upload speeds are even worse, averaging around 2 Mbps for EU servers and under 1.5 Mbps for US servers.
Browser Extensions: Does It Work for More Than Opera?
Perhaps you disliked Opera’s practices, or you theorize that the VPN will work better with another browser.
Unfortunately, Opera VPN is an Opera browser-only VPN.
A few years ago there was an Opera VPN application for mobile that users regarded as faster than the PC version. These apps were also real VPNs with data encryption, rather than proxies.
Those applications have since gone out of business, so no, all you have is Opera browser if you wish to use Opera VPN.
What Servers Does Opera VPN Offer?
Servers are another area Opera VPN has gone south.
In 2017, Opera VPN offered a select few countries and you could select which connection you wanted. Jumping forward to 2021, this feature is no more.
Opera VPN only offers three locations you can choose from:
- The US.
It doesn’t let you select specific cities, or even countries.
Alongside that, the actual number of servers and locations through those choices is inconsistent.
The number of servers offered appears to change rapidly, but as of early 2021, there are servers in five locations within the three territories above—all unspecified.
While five may seem reasonable to someone who isn’t well-versed in VPN practices, it’s actually quite abysmal. For example, Nord VPN has 5,538 servers in 59 countries and Surfshark has 3,200+ in 65+ places. Even free VPNs like Windscribe have 179 servers in 63 countries.
Opera VPN is a major letdown here—especially if you’re someone living abroad and wanting to visit geoblocked native websites.
What Can You Stream?
Perhaps you don’t care about privacy. Maybe you just want to watch your favorite shows and movies but they’re only available in the US.
That’s where Opera VPN shines—many VPNs, including paid ones, don’t work with Netflix. Netflix may be the only streaming site Opera VPN works with, but it’s still a huge plus.
Keep in mind, you might have a lot of buffering and probably won’t be able to watch your shows in HD. But it’s far better than nothing—or worse, pirating.
With all that said, there’ve been some inconsistencies with Opera VPN’s connection to Netflix that seem to vary by person.
The UK Netflix Problem
Say, for example, you’re in Melbourne but your VPN says you’re in Victoria. If you’re using a VPN that doesn’t work with Netflix, the site will block you—even if you’re in Australia, connected to Australia, and trying to watch Australian Netflix!
Opera VPN is a bit strange here—it doesn’t block, but it doesn’t unblock either.
Some UK-based users found that they could only view their regular UK Netflix library. However, they could still watch Netflix.
The jury’s out on whether or not they’d be able to watch international Netflix if they googled the shows and clicked the watch links from there. However, it’s a slightly good sign revealing Opera VPN does work with Netflix, even when not unblocking anything.
The Swedish Session and Inconsistency
On the other hand, other users had a stranger issue. Regardless of which server they connected to, Opera VPN would only unblock Swedish Netflix.
Slightly related to this, there appears to be some inconsistency surrounding what version of Netflix the VPN unblocks, for users who don’t have the Swedish-only unlock issue.
For example, the TV show Doctor Who was taken off of US Netflix in 2016, in favor of being shown on the BBC’s service, BritBox. However, some users could still access a Netflix library featuring Doctor Who in June of 2020.
They had access to this Doctor Who-full library when connected to a US server, revealing Opera VPNs apparent inconsistency with its connections. If you select US, you might not get US.
The Perfect Experience
Despite the two oddities above, many users had a perfect, seamless Netflix session. They selected a server region and Netflix loaded up straight away.
It’s best if you choose the US as a server as that’s only one Netflix library. If you select the EU or Asia, who knows what library you’ll get, and from what country?
Can You Torrent?
You can’t torrent with Opera VPN. While streaming is possible, that’s a browser-based experience. Torrenting takes place through apps downloaded on your PC, leaving your activity exposed to your ISP.
Can You Have Simultaneous Connections?
Unfortunately, you can’t have simultaneous connections with Opera VPN. You’re stuck in one location, but you can switch between them easily.
Is There a Paid Version of Opera VPN?
No torrenting, no simultaneous connections, limited streaming…can these issues be fixed by paying a monthly fee?
We’re afraid not. Opera VPN remains a free VPN no matter what you do.
On the plus side, you get unlimited bandwidth while using the VPN. Many free VPNs impose a monthly limit. This is one of Opera VPNs only good points.
Opera VPN: A Summary
Opera VPN is a slow proxy VPN that works with Netflix but doesn’t do much else.
It’s far from the greatest VPN in the world—it doesn’t even come close to comparing to a paid service, or even other free VPNs.
Opera VPN’s main selling point is its ability to work with Netflix, which many paid VPNs don’t do.
If you’re in need of something better, a VPN that actually works, encrypting your data and not taking your speeds, there are other options to consider—including one that’s free.
Best Alternatives to Opera VPN
There are some fantastic VPNs out there that are wildly better than Opera VPN. Please note, the services below are priced in US dollars.
Windscribe—Best Free VPN
Windscribe is a free VPN service to start with, based in Canada. For free you get 10GB of data a month, which isn’t so bad if you just use the VPN while in public, and for unblocking.
Unlike Opera VPN, you can use Windscribe on any browser and any device. Plus, it’s a real VPN and not a proxy. Lastly, you can select your desired location with the free and paid versions.
Windscribe has a decent set of features, especially for a free VPN.
The VPN lets you access Netflix UK and US with both the free and paid versions. This access comes via dedicated servers called Windflix US and Windflix UK. Windflix, and other servers, unblock the majority of popular streaming sites.
Although, Windscribe doesn’t have the best speeds in the world, so if that’s important to you then you may wish to look elsewhere.
Outside of the free version, there are three Windscribe pricing plans:
- Yearly: $49 billed annual, comes to $4.08 per month.
- Monthly: $9 every 30 days.
- Custom: $1 per server per month.
Surfshark—Best Cheap VPN
Windscribe may not be for you, and that’s fine. If you want to go with a VPN that has no free version and is a subscription-based tool from the start, consider Surfshark.
Surfshark is a high-quality and semi-popular US-based VPN that works well worldwide.
Surfshark has all the features of a basic VPN. The privacy is well done, with the app using high-quality encryption, and there are tons of server locations to choose from around the globe.
The VPN unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and HBO but doesn’t work with Amazon Prime Video.
You can expect decent speeds with Surfshark, though if it gets overloaded it can slow your connection to a crawl. It’s also sometimes difficult to connect to your WiFi when Surfshark is running, so shut off the VPN, connect and then restart the VPN.
Sufshark is highly affordable, even more than the paid versions of Windscribe forgoing Windscribe’s custom plan.
New users get an 81 percent discount when purchasing Surfshark’s “yearly” plan. The annual plan isn’t actually annual either, but gives you two years to start with.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get an extra two months free but it depends on what special the company has running at the time.
First-time users get 24 months of Surfshark VPN for $2.49 a month, billed as $59.76 upfront. It’s fully refundable for 30 days, and you won’t have to pay again for another two years.
If you dislike that plan, you can also get Surfshark for the following prices as a first time or returning customer:
- Monthly: $12.95 per month.
- 6-month: $6.49 per month, billed every 6 months as $38.94.
Opera VPN: The Conclusion
We wouldn’t recommend Opera VPN to anyone, for anything other than unblocking the US Netflix library. The proxy element is also decent to a degree if you want to appear as though you’re from another country—but it’s still not going to encrypt your data or make you safe.
If you want a free VPN, we recommend Windscribe and invite you to check out our Windscribe VPN review here.