Safely browsing the web is one of the main concerns of Internet users who have some knowledge of how this world works. For this reason, there are a large number of companies specialized in providing VPN services, usually for a fee, to generate encrypted connections for Internet access for all types of users.
There are also free solutions like Opera VPN, this creator is the only one that offers a browser with built-in VPN service out of the box. While it is true that other browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, or Opera itself support external VPN extensions, implementing it as standard provides an obvious advantage as it is free and accessible to everyone and on all platforms where this web browser operates.
That is why we wanted to make a small article analyzing the service offered, if it is really a VPN or a Proxy, what we can do with it, and how it will affect the bandwidth.
What is a VPN
Before starting, it is convenient to define quickly and concisely what a VPN is and what we can do with it on paper, so we can evaluate Opera VPN more objectively to know how to classify it correctly.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network or in Spanish, Red Privada Virtual. We can define it as a secure extension of a local area network or LAN to the domains of a WAN network, such as the Internet or the Tor network in this case. With a VPN we can interconnect different nodes such as servers and computers over a LAN-type private network that is geographically separated.
It is done through communication tunnels (tunneling) that transport encrypted data through protocols such as Open VPN, L2TP, and IKEv2, among others. A server gives us a private IP address different from the one our router gives us so that it virtually appears that we are connected to the Internet from the country where the server is located. This can be our own router if it is compatible with the service, or servers of companies that provide the function.
With a VPN we could obtain benefits such as:
- Browse with extra encryption on the connection from anywhere even on public WiFi networks
- Access geo-blocked content in our country and consume content available openly in other countries
- Download torrents and in general P2P in a safer way
Let’s think that in many countries like China, there are real obstacles to accessing certain sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Play, or even WhatsApp. With a VPN we can avoid this blockage.
Opera VPN: the in-browser VPN
Well, this is what A priori will allow us to do Opera VPN, being a service integrated into the company’s own browser, which will work as if it were an extension. In addition, it is completely free, just like the browser itself, so we can try it and experience how it works without paying a single euro.
Of course, being integrated only in this browser we will have certain limitations. The first and most obvious is to be able to use the VPN service only with this browser, since it is only compatible with the connections that the browser makes, and not those of other applications.
We must understand that on a PC there is a multitude of applications that access the Internet, for example, the operating system itself to update itself, torrent applications, games, and other browsers. For all of them without exception to be able to connect through a VPN, we would need an application installed on the system or the Windows configuration itself.
So what can we use Open VPN for? Well, for the first two points mentioned above, that is, browse with encryption (we’ll see if that’s the case) and access geo-blocked content. The two main ones for most users.
Let’s start with the practical part, like not installing the Opera browser. To do this we will access the official website and download it for free. We will use the Windows 10 version.
We will adjust the options we want in the installer and without further ado, we will proceed to the installation. From minute zero of use, the main screen will already be welcoming us, and as you will guess, one of the options to install and configure will be the VPN.
We can click on the VPN icon to obtain more information about the service or directly install it as we will do. From here we will not be able to activate the VPN, it only provides us with information about the service.
But first of all, it is convenient to add the exception of the Opera browser to the Windows firewall, so we activate the boxes for public and private networks and accept. This we will need to do for the browser to access the Internet.
To do this, click on the three points located in the lower left corner to access the configuration menu. Yes, just the opposite of the rest of the browsers, to mess with the staff. From the menu that is displayed, we can access the “ Settings ” section.
Then, we will only have to scroll through the options until we find the “ VPN ” section located in the “ Advanced ” section below “ Privacy and Security”. We only have to press the switch to activate or deactivate the service. Immediately on the left side of the browser’s address bar, the active “VPN” icon will appear, indicating that we are browsing through a VPN.
In the next section, we will see what connection possibilities we have and other options for this function.
Opera VPN Options and Settings
We have already activated the VPN service, now it is time to see the options it gives us and the differences with the payment services offered by specialized companies.
To access the Opera VPN options, click on the commented “ VPN ” icon and we will display all the available information, which will be very little. From here we can now activate or deactivate the VPN connection without having to enter the configuration options again.
Right below we have an indicator that adds up all the volume of data that we are consuming with the VPN activated. In this case, the service is free and we also have totally unlimited data, so we can use it 24/7 and without any limit. This will be an advantage over generic free VPN services, as they are all usually limited in some way.
The last option is the most interesting and in fact, the only one we have available. Of course, in this sense, life has not been too complicated. It will be to select the mode or form of connection that we want, the virtual location.
When we connect to a VPN, the server on the other side is the one that gives us the IP address, which also appears in the lower right corner of the box. In this case, we will have the option of connecting to an optimal location, which will be chosen by the browser itself to obtain the best bandwidth and best performance. Or we can choose the location of the server, which can be from Europe, America, or Asia. In no case is the specific location of the server offered, which is a disadvantage of the service compared to other VPNs.
So we understand that if we are in Spain and we want to see content that is geo-blocked and available in America, then we will connect to America. If we are in China, the most normal thing will be to connect to Europe or America. This is easy to understand, but we would like to be able to choose the server ourselves as it is done in general VPNs.
In fact, it is relatively easy to know where the server we have connected to is located. To do this we only have to open one of the many sites that locate us ” What is my public IP “. Even if we go to other VPN companies like CyberGhost or NordVPN, they will inform us of our IP, and location and tell us that we are exposed. Sure, obviously they want us to hire their service, but they will never tell us that we are sure.
Curiously, it only works well with the US server, since it does not specify the location in Europe, and in Asia, it directly tells us that we are connected in Europe. With this, we make it clear that IP identification services tend to fail a lot when we navigate over a proxy or VPN, so they are not 100% reliable.
VPN vs Proxy What is actually Opera VPN?
At this point, it is important to know how to differentiate the service provided by a VPN from that provided by a proxy, since they are two different concepts.
A proxy is a server that is placed between our computer and the destination that we are going to access. In a proxy the connection and encryption does not change, nor does it add extra protection. It only masks the IP address and varies the location in order to access content blocked by our operator. Connections in a proxy are usually slow, and are not good for streaming or gaming.
In fact, Opera VPN cannot be classified either as a VPN service as such or as a proxy, or so the creator directly says. This is a VPN integrated only in your browser, which will connect to the secure proxy servers of the Opera network. For this, it uses SSL and TLSv1.3, although it is true that they are protocols on which OpenVPN is based, for example, we do not have the presence of this or similar anywhere.
This implies that the connection will not go with the same encryption that a real VPN service would offer. In turn, the ability to navigate virtually from another geographic location gives us the ability to unblock foreign web content.
With this, we can summarize that it is an SSL proxy since the protocols on which Opera VPN operates are not different from secure browsing from any browser with the possibility of locating ourselves virtually elsewhere. But it is not a VPN as such because it does not provide a tunnel with the encryption typical of a virtual private network, in fact, there will be no tunnel as such, and this is important to take into account.
How VPN Affects Performance
After having cataloged Opera VPN as a hybrid between proxy and VPN, it is time to see how this active service will affect our bandwidth and connection latency. This will determine if it is really worth using, or on the contrary, it is better to use real free VPN services with limitations or paid VPNs.
Since we only have 4 connection options, we are going to carry out 4 speed and latency tests and compare them with the real capacity of the connection.
We can see that the connection in which it has been tested has 41 Mbps download and between 6 and 7 Mbps upload. The connection that is doing the best of the four is that of the European server, as is logical, in fact, it seems that the upload is giving quite good results. On the contrary, the connections that are faring the worst are the furthest away, especially the one in Asia with only 11 Mbps in download, although America has a ridiculously bad upload.
As for the latency, without a doubt, the best is that of our normal connection, while only with the server in Europe it rises more than 85%. This makes consuming live content from other countries practically impossible with these latencies, especially in HD content. You can try but don’t hold out much hope.
Of course, all this data, especially the download and upload data, will worsen substantially the more bandwidth we have in our contract.
Conclusions Are it worth it?
Now it’s time to see if Opera VPN is worth it or not with everything we’ve seen. And to begin with, the fact of being an SSL Proxy subtracts many integers from the service, since our connection will not be as well encrypted as real VPN tunnels. Rather it is like a proxy, without much more to add.
The configuration options are rather limited, we can only connect to three locations and we don’t even know where the server is. To this, we add an increase in latency that in the best of cases will be 86% higher than our native connection. We would be in trouble watching live content, but if we add notable drops in bandwidth we would have it very raw.
On the other hand, free VPN services like Windscribe will provide many more options, including the possibility of choosing the server and adding more functions. In them we will normally have a limited bandwidth, it is true, but for eventual use in streaming or continuous browsing, we will have more than enough. And about saying that the encryption will be that of a VPN, with IP masking and anonymity.
So in our opinion, it is not worth using Opera VPN unless you want a Proxy service to comfortably navigate abroad without complicating your life. If you plan to use it more continuously, to work, watch content, or other, the best thing to do is a free VPN with a payment option.