Is Microsoft Edge Really The Big Contender Among Browsers?

One of the release highlights of Windows 10 was Microsoft’s new web browser ‘Edge’. Earlier in 2015 Microsoft began announcing the new browser under the code name ‘Project Spartan’, an event which many tech journalists wrote about with enthusiasm. The narrative was, Microsoft would be back in the browser game, and bury Internet Explorer once and for all. During this years Microsoft Build Developer Conference some interesting information was revealed regarding the new browser. Developers at Microsoft exposed a new rendering engine, and developer tools. For non-developers there was an improved reader version, and the strongly promoted Cortana integration. Another innovative feature worth mentioning is the ‘Make a web note’ feature. Ultimately Microsoft claimed the browser would out perform the competitors, on mobile, tablet and desktops.

Let’s take a look at Edge’s features and see what works, what doesn’t, and how Microsoft’s new browsers stands up to the competition.

Performance:

With one of the main focuses of Edge being a browser for all devices performance is an important feature to take into consideration. When comparing Google Chrome to Microsoft Edge in terms of memory usage, Edge comes out in the lead. Running one tab at http://www.duckduckgo.com in both Edge and Chrome returned the following memory usage results:memusage-chart

Edge showed an overall decrease in memory usage of roughly %52. When coupled with the reader view some news web sites perform better than I have seen on any other browser. This large of a performance boost in its self is enough of a reason to keep Edge as my default browser. Or is it?

While Edge beats Chrome in memory usage, the new browser comes with some serious pitfalls. One of them being streaming video on major sites such as YouTube, Viemo, and Netflix. The video freezes and switching to full screen creates artifacts. Another bad behavior Edge has been showing is its handling of input forms on various sites. It’s things like submit buttons disappearing, forms changing position without reason, and forms removing data without any provocation that make the Edge experience a bad one. Hopefully Microsoft will deploy some patches soon.

Bookmark Managing

Having an efficient bookmark manager is to me, a key feature in a web browser. Being able to build a complex structure of folders and bookmarks helps me keep track of the hundreds of posts and pages I read. At this point in time there are two things which make me prefer Chrome’s bookmark manager. Chrome allows users to use the bookmark manager as a individual widget, and it allows you to easily add new bookmarks into discrete folders.

At this point Edge’s bookmark managing is lacking and feels overly simplified. In short: I need power user features for managing my bookmarks.

Settings

Comparing Edge’s settings to those of the other leading browsers is tough. In Chrome there are flags which allow for deep customization. Firefox does a fair job at providing enough settings, especially for privacy and security. However, Edge has so few settings it almost seems as if users are being kept away from settings. Having very simple top level settings is a good idea for average users, but it would be nice to have deeper customization available for power users.

Developer Tools

Edge’s developer tools are fast and responsive. The DOM selection tools and color pickers are helpful for figuring out problems with the grid of a site. The debugger feature is powerful as well. But the emulation component of the developer tools in edge are lacking. Chrome’s mobile emulator is an indispensable component which always has me using Chrome when working on a project. As with many components of Edge the developer tools too seem like they need refinement.

Conclusion

I understand that Windows 10 is ‘the last Windows’ and the engineers and developers at Microsoft need things to do in the coming years. My optimism is in updates to both the OS and Edge. While Edge boosted browser performance it failed on many other fronts. Overall the product seems rushed and incomplete in certain aspects. I’m going to take a break from both Chrome and Edge and give Firefox some of my browsing.

Be sure to read my previous post reviewing Windows 10, and its security features to get a full spread of nerdy cynicism.

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