If we face the facts, the Nordic browser is without any doubt, the underdog in Browser Wars. Microsoft and Mozilla are trading blows at each other, Safari is nibbling away the market share thanks to the success of the iPhone – and Opera is staying put.

In all of my years as a tech journalist, I was always glad to try out the last version of Opera – but I would often leave it as some pages didn’t render quite well, some HTML standards didn’t pass, some XHTML CMS editors had missing features [workable in other browsers] and in the end – it just didn’t pass the mustard.

But with Opera 10.00, Opera Networks is hoping to capture more than just 2.04% of worldwide browser market [info provided by Net Applications]. Opera 10.00 scores 100/100 on Acid3 test and certainly packs a punch in Futuremark’s Peacekeeper benchmark. Given that the Opera download is free [alternate download link: Download.com], we gave it another run and by some surprise, all of the XHTML features we use in our CMS work just like in Firefox or IE8.

Opera 10 scores well on Acid3 benchmark
Opera 10 scores well on Acid3 benchmark

The Turbo mode usability is somewhat doubtful, but you can freely leave it on Automatic or Off. Turbo technology is nothing else but much more aggressive image compression when you’re trying to load a page from a slow server, artifacts may appear on image, but the page will load. This is a feature a lot of bandwidth-challenged sites will welcome with open arms.

One of cool features is tab preview, a feature that fits nicely with Window 7 active apps preview – in any case, a welcoming improvement which even excelled on the oldest computer I have [Toshiba Qosmio G20 notebook, 4-year old Centrino platform with 2.16 GHz CPU and 1GB of RAM].

While it is still too early to tell how the Opera 10 will fare against Google Chrome as its closest competitor, I have a feeling that this time around, they did it good.