Microsoft Edge is dead, long live Microsoft Edge. Although the old Edge long failed to make it on to anybody’s list of best browsers, Microsoft has completely revamped its web browser by basing it on Chromium, which has improved its performance, created a more pleasant user experience and opened the door to Chrome’s library of extensions.
Keep reading this Microsoft Edge review to learn more about the company’s latest foray into the browser market.
Microsoft’s history with web browsers is a turbulent one, to say the least. Although its original browser — Internet Explorer — was once dominant, it lost its crown to Google Chrome in the mid-2000s (read our Microsoft Edge vs Chrome piece). It isn’t without some irony, then, that Microsoft has decided to pin its hopes on the Chromium framework to revive interest in its struggling browser.
You can download Microsoft Edge for Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10 and macOS. Furthermore, the browser is compatible with both Android 4.4 and later, as well as iOS 10.0 and later. For this review, we used an Acer laptop running Windows 10 and an iPhone running iOS 12.3 for testing.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Can use Chrome extensions
- Excellent mobile features
- Good browser security
- Poor browser privacy
- Infrequent updates
Alternatives for Microsoft Edge
The biggest benefit that the new Edge browser gets from moving to the Chromium framework (read our Chromium review) is that it is now compatible with Chrome’s vast library of extensions. Although Microsoft also operates its own store for dedicated Edge add-ons, it’s dwarfed by the Chrome web store, which contains tens of thousands of extensions.
Although not all extensions will work with Edge, most will, with the exception being ones that directly modify the user interface. This means that invaluable web apps — such as password manager extensions, ad blockers and security extensions — are all available for the browser, greatly expanding its list of potential new features.
Edge also comes with a sync feature that’s similar to that of Chrome. Currently, you can sync your favorites, settings, form content and passwords using your Microsoft account. Although it hasn’t been implemented yet, Microsoft also plans to add history, currently open tabs, extensions and collections to this list of syncable items.
Another similarity to Chrome is the context menu options. You can select and right-click any text — and more importantly, images — and choose “search the web for” to instantly do a text or reverse image search in your chosen search engine. By default this is Bing, but you can change it to Google, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo.
Like most browsers, Edge has a reading mode — called “immersive reader” — that strips out everything except the text on a webpage to make it easier to read.
There’s also a “read aloud” feature that takes highlighted text and, you guessed it, reads it out loud. This works quite well for English text, but not so much for any other language (reminding us a bit of speech-to-text software).
Microsoft didn’t just create a new Edge for desktop, but also for Android and iOS devices. Although there aren’t a whole lot of features on mobile that we haven’t already covered when we talked about the desktop version, there are a few notable exceptions that stand out.
First is the “NewsGuard” feature. This is a database that analyzes news outlets and rates them based on perceived trustworthiness. Whenever you visit a news site, a small icon will appear in the address bar.
Publications that are known to be generally reliable — such as The New York Times or BBC News — will have a green shield that says “this website generally maintains basic standards of accuracy and accountability.”
Meanwhile, other news sites, like InfoWars, will have a red shield that says “proceed with caution: this website generally fails to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability.”
Another great mobile feature is the “floating video” setting. This is something we’d very much like to see in other browsers like Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, and it allows you to move a video into a sort of “picture in picture” frame so that you can keep watching while moving to a different webpage or tab.
Microsoft Edge comes with its own translation engine — Bing Translator — built-in on mobile. This is great if you frequently visit websites in languages you can’t read. However, when compared to Google Translate, the service falls a bit short.
Bing Translator can currently handle 69 languages, whereas Google Translate includes as many as 103 and better accuracy, to boot. The feature is also available on desktop, but you need to add it manually from the Microsoft store.
Finally, Edge for mobile comes with a reading list, where you can add websites and articles for later reading. This is different from saving a bookmark in that you get offline access to the saved page, which is great for users with caps on their mobile data or if you’re going somewhere with no reception.
Ease of Use
The new Edge browser features a slick and easy-to-use design that will no doubt be familiar to anyone who has used Chrome or other Chromium-derived web browsers.
When you first install Edge, you’re taken through an introduction that helps you set up the browser. First, you can import bookmarks from Chrome or Internet Explorer, but if you wish to import from any other browsers, you’ll need to first export your bookmarks to an HTML file and import from there. Check out our guide on how to backup Firefox bookmarks for an example of how to do this.
Next, you’re prompted to set up the sync process, as well as choose a “tab style” that suits you. This “tab style” is basically what you’ll see when you open a new tab. You can choose between “focused,” “inspirational,” “informational” and “custom.”
There’s not a huge amount of difference between these, as it basically boils down to whether or not you want a personalized news feed on your homepage, as well as enabling or disabling the “image of the day” as your Microsoft wallpaper. You can choose a country for the news feed, which will then show you the day’s headlines relevant to your location.
Besides the new tab page, there’s not a whole lot of customization available. You can switch between a light and dark theme, as well as download and install additional fonts, but both of these are features commonly included in most web browsers these days.
Ease of Use on Mobile
On mobile, the Microsoft Edge app sports a typical browser layout. Your basic controls — including navigation controls, the tab menu, a share button and the start menu — are located at the bottom of the screen and the address bar up top.
The start menu contains your favorites, history, reading list and settings, as well as more advanced controls, including search, the read-aloud feature and desktop mode. You can rearrange this menu in whatever way you see fit, which is a nice touch that you don’t often see with mobile browsers.
Without a doubt performance was the greatest weakness of the old Edge, and it is the area where Edge stood to gain the most by switching over to the Chromium framework.
It has definitely paid off, as the new Edge achieves roughly the same speeds — both on desktop and mobile — as Chrome, even slightly outperforming the latter. Although other browsers like Vivaldi or Firefox are still faster, this is a perfectly acceptable result, especially compared to the old Edge, which was painfully slow.
High RAM use is typically one of the pitfalls of Chromium-based browsers, but in our tests Edge managed to do the same job as Chrome while using about 30 percent less memory.
If you’re curious about how we perform these tests or which web browser is the fastest, you can read our list of the fastest browsers for more information.
Although Edge now shares many similarities with Google Chrome, security is where Edge differs the most. Instead of using Google’s safe browsing to protect against malicious websites, Edge instead employs the Microsoft Defender SmartScreen system, which outperforms Google’s system in terms of protecting you against malware and phishing schemes.
When accessing a website over regular HTTP instead of HTTPS, Edge provides a clear warning in the form of a symbol and text saying “not secure.” This is good, as it makes it easy for users to see when they’re potentially at risk from man-in-the-middle attacks. For more information about what this all entails, check out our breakdown of HTTP vs. HTTPS.
Like most browsers, the new Edge includes a basic password manager that stores your passwords. These are protected using your system credentials, which is good because it saves you from setting up a master password, but it also leaves you vulnerable if you haven’t set up a password for your whole device.
For more in-depth password handling, including strong password generation, we recommend checking out our list of the best password managers. If you’d rather skip right to our winner, you can read our Dashlane review.
The new version of Edge is still quite young, so it’s hard to tell exactly how often it will be updated. That said, the beta version receives an update every six weeks, which is less frequent than we’d like, as cybercriminals are always working to find new loopholes and bugs to exploit.
Although there’s no ad blocker by default, you can easily download one through the Chrome web store. uBlock Origin is our favorite, but you can check out our list of the best ad blockers for a full rundown. While it doesn’t block ads straight out of the gate, Edge does block pop-ups, which is good because they are one of the most common vectors for malware.
If security is a big concern for you when you’re choosing your default browser, make sure to read our most secure web browser ranking.
Privacy is by far the greatest weakness of the new Edge. Although it’s not as bad as Chrome in this regard, it still leaves a whole lot to be desired.
That said, you can disable a lot of the information gathering in Edge itself. However, if you’re using Windows, Microsoft is probably collecting most of this data on you anyway.
If you turn off services like SmartScreen, personalization and navigation prediction, it’s possible to make Edge at least somewhat private, though at the cost of security and ease of use. That said, If you’re particularly concerned with privacy, make sure to give our anonymous browsing guide a read.
In terms of tracking prevention, Edge offers three modes: “basic,” “balanced” and “strict.” You can also see a list of trackers that have been blocked, as well as set up individual exceptions to the blocking rule you choose to go with.
You can also make Edge wipe certain data each time you close the browser, such as your browsing history, cookies or passwords.
Permissions are equally easy to manage, as Edge provides a list of all permissions and how they’re accessed by websites.
That concludes our review of the new Edge. The browser is certainly a huge step up from the old Edge by virtue of the Chrome web store. It also has improved performance and ease of use, factors that may earn it new traction with users.
However, privacy is still not great, so users concerned about this may want to check out better alternatives, such as Vivaldi, Brave or Tenta. Plus, if you don’t want to use it, you can disable Microsoft Edge, or read our guide on how to uninstall Microsoft Edge completely.
Since the new Edge is based on Chromium — and thus very similar to both it and Google Chrome — you can check out our Firefox vs. Chrome and Chromium vs. Chrome articles to gain some valuable context. If you want a more direct comparison for Edge, be sure to read our Microsoft Edge vs. Chrome article.
What did you think of our review? Do you agree that the new version of Edge is a huge improvement on its predecessor, or are you less interested in Chrome extensions and more concerned with your privacy? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.
Microsoft Edge FAQ
What Is Microsoft Edge?
Microsoft Edge is a web browser developed by the same company that creates Windows. Until recently, the browser ran on its own proprietary engine. However, after years of struggling, Microsoft decided to rebuild it from the ground up using the much more popular Chromium framework.
Is Edge Better Than Chrome?
That depends on what you care about. The two browsers are very similar now that Edge is based on Chromium, but the new Edge outperforms Chrome in both security and privacy, with little difference in other categories.
What Is the Best Browser to Use With Windows 10?
Our favorite browser here at Cloudwards is Vivaldi, which boasts impressive customizability, excellent performance and nearly perfect security and privacy.