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With Opera 10 one of the new features that was revealed was a “turbo” mode that sits in the bottom-left corner of the status bar, and is represented by a little speedometer. What is it? Opera Turbo promises fast browsing when you’re on a slow Internet connection by pushing your requests through Opera’s servers, and making them do the hard work so that the content you’re fetching is delivered in a highly compressed format:

Opera Turbo is a server-side optimization and compression technology that speeds up data transfer and reduces the amount of data that needs to be downloaded in order to view the page by up to 80%. Among other means, the compression is achieved by image down-sampling therefore some level of distortion in graphics may occur.

When I tell people about this feature the common thing I’m asked is “when will this be useful?” After all, these days we’re all surrounded by high-speed connections, and saving a few megabytes doesn’t matter too much. This kind of thing makes sense on a mobile device, and that’s why Opera Mini also makes use of it, but when would you use it on a desktop browser?

I’ve actually found Opera Turbo to be unbelievably handy… when I’m tethering with my phone. My Internet connection isn’t always as fast as I would like it to be, and I’m more than willing to compromise the quality of some images so that my pages will load faster. Plus, I can turn it on/off at the click of a button if I need to.

How much of a difference does it make? On average I’d say that I save about 1MB for each site that I load, but sometimes it’s even more than that. On sites like Yahoo.com and ESPN.com I’ll save upwards of 2MB since they are heavier on graphics. And, to be honest, the graphics are a bit pixelated, but it normally doesn’t detract from the experience I have on any one particular site. When being tethered on my phone saving that 2MB typically means the page loads five or even ten seconds quicker, and is a worthwhile tradeoff in my eyes.

I haven’t made Opera 10 my primary browser, but thanks to the Opera Turbo this is hands-down my browser of choice when I’m not hooked up to a reliably fast Internet connection. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation you may want to consider grabbing Opera 10 for your machine as well.

Opera 10 Homepage