While Windows users have been enjoying a finalized version of Carakan and the significantly faster Opera 10.50 long enough for the browser to have upgraded to version 10.51, Mac users have found themselves without a stable update from Opera 10.10. The development process is still under way, but Thursday Opera announced a second public beta for the Mac. Opera 10.52 beta 2 has taken such a long time to develop that the version number has been changed from version 10.50.

Opera 10.52 beta 2 for the Mac. (Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Despite the month and a half since its last revision, Opera 10.52 beta 2 introduces relatively few new features. The Carakan JavaScript engine has received several performance tweaks, and many of the bugs that affected scrolling have been addressed. Smooth scrolling is now enabled by default. Most notably, Opera has decided to make the browser compatible with older Macs. Unlike the previous beta, this version will work on legacy PowerPC machines. Both this beta and the first one worked on Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and later.

In casual testing on a Mac Mini with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, a 1.83Ghz Core 2 Duo processor, and 1GB of RAM, using the SunSpider JavaScript test to compare Opera 10.52 beta 2 to Google Chrome 5.0.375.6, the latest development version of Google Chrome still finished slightly faster than the latest Opera beta. Opera scored an average of 545.8 milliseconds over three runs, while Chrome notched 477.0 ms averaged over three runs. Chrome's speed increased by 85.53 ms as compared to the version tested in February, while Opera's was 52.53 ms faster than its previous version. If you're a Mac user looking to give your browsing a kick in the pants, one of these two browsers is clearly the way to go.

Multitouch trackpad gestures are supported in this beta, too. You can now take advantage of pinch-to-zoom, two-finger swipe to scroll, three-finger swipe to navigate your browser history, and one that Opera claims will make the browser window transparent. The full changelog for Opera 10.52 beta 2 can be read here.

Although the company hasn't explicitly stated this, it's clear that Opera hopes that getting a speedy and fully synchronizable browser onto phones plays a big part in reinvigorating interest in their desktop version, which was quickly surpassed by Google Chrome in browser market share.