Microsoft once dominated the web browser market with Internet Explorer, which led the way in web browsing until Google Chrome dethroned it; it is now scheduled for permanent retirement in 2022. While Internet Explorer is going away, Microsoft has passed the torch on to its successor browser, Microsoft Edge, which we’ll examine in detail in our Microsoft Edge review.
- Microsoft Edge is the Chromium-based successor to Internet Explorer. It is the default browser on Windows 10 computers.
- Edge contains more options for interacting with text media than most other browsers we’ve seen.
- Users can control their privacy with three levels of tracking prevention, but Microsoft will still collect some amount of your personal data.
- Edge has its own library of extensions and works with most Chrome extensions.
Google Chrome had already set the standard for modern web browsing by the time Edge was launched in 2015 to a lukewarm reception, so Microsoft had to redesign its Edge browser in order to keep up with the competition.
Microsoft redesigned Edge in 2020 by replacing its own browser engine with Google’s open-source Chromium framework. It looks and behaves a lot like Chrome and can be augmented with extensions from Chrome’s web store, so you won’t be limited by Microsoft’s comparatively smaller extensions library.
Even in the modern era, Microsoft still struggles to compete with other browsers. Edge is far from anyone’s favorite web browser, despite its free availability on all Windows machines, but that doesn’t mean Edge has nothing to offer. Let’s take a careful look at all of Microsoft Edge’s new features before we jump to conclusions.
12/02/2021 Facts checked
Completed a fresh review of Microsoft Edge. Added more info about the Chromium update, context menu, privacy, security; added tab management, kids mode, private mode, PDF reader; updated performance and software update frequency.
Speed is one of Microsoft Edge’s most significant advantages, and it’s plentiful in features, too. It’s a good browser as far as its functionality is concerned, but Microsoft’s privacy practices does not make it a good browser for privacy.
Privacy is its biggest disadvantage. Microsoft collects a lot of data on its users through the browser itself, Bing, and through Windows hardware. Edge allows users to opt out of some data collection, but not all. We suggest taking a look at our list of the most secure browsers for better alternatives.
Microsoft Edge matches Chrome in speed and even slightly surpassed it during some of our speed tests. Edge is even a little bit better at blocking suspicious websites than Chrome. Its library of extensions isn’t nearly as comprehensive as Chrome’s, and we can’t say it isn’t any better than Chrome about collecting personal user data.
Microsoft Edge Review: Alternatives
Microsoft Edge: Strengths & Weaknesses
- Lots of features
- Compatible with most Chrome extensions
- Not the most private browser
The abundance of features on Edge is one of the browser’s biggest assets. Without any extensions added, Edge on its own already includes a robust range of features that should cover the basic needs of most users. Microsoft runs its own library of extensions for Edge if you need to expand what your browser can do, and Edge even works with extensions in the Chrome Web Store.
Chrome Web Store Extensions
The new Microsoft Edge became compatible with Chrome’s library of web browser extensions as soon as it was recreated with Chromium. In this day and age, compatibility with Chromium is needed for web browsers to attract users because Chrome has the largest library of extensions by far. Microsoft runs its own collection called Edge add-ons, but it doesn’t come close to the Chrome web store.
With that said, Edge’s collection of extensions isn’t lacking in useful features. There are plenty of widely used privacy and security tools available in Microsoft’s extensions library including ad blockers, password managers, malware prevention apps and much more.
Since these are among the most commonly used browser extensions, Edge users should be able to expand their browser’s capabilities without a problem.
You can synchronize your browser data across your other devices by clicking on “settings” and clicking on the heading entitled “phone and other devices.” This page contains a set of instructions for downloading the app onto your phone (or other internet-connected device) and synchronizing your bookmarks, settings, passwords and other data across multiple devices.
You’ll need to sign in to your Microsoft account on each of your devices to turn on sync. First, sign in to Edge on your desktop to turn on sync, then download the Edge app to your phone and do the same there. As long as sync remains turned on, all of your devices will have access to the same settings, bookmarks and other saved data at once.
The context menu in Edge is one of the more feature-rich context menus we’ve encountered. Right-clicking on various web page elements reveals a multitude of different tools and functions outnumbering those in Chrome and other Chromium browsers.
Aside from the usual navigation controls and basic text actions, Edge’s menu includes additional text actions such as an immersive reader, a read aloud feature, a translator and a dictionary. The context menu also includes an option to create a QR code for the web page you’re on.
The immersive reader is Edge’s reading mode. This mode will simplify a web page to only the text and the images and place the text in a narrower format for easier reading. You can right-click to add individual web elements to your collections folder.
Collections & Web Capture
“Collections” is similar to bookmarking, except you can save an individual screenshot, piece of text or other web element directly to your browser instead of saving a link to the web page.
By using the web capture function, you can draw a box around an area on the web page and save that selection as a screenshot under today’s date in collections. You can further modify the screenshot by using a pen tool to draw on top of it.
The “web select” function is similar to web capture, except it can only take screenshots (selection or full page) that you will have to manually paste into an image editor.
When multiple devices are synchronized with your Microsoft account, you can use the context menu to cast an image, video or other multimedia element to another device with “cast media to device.” Beneath this option is the similar “send page to devices,” which opens up a menu of all devices connected to your account.
PDF files will open within the browser’s built-in PDF reader. Unlike most other browsers we’ve seen, Edge includes several tools for modifying the page.
These include a highlighting function, a drawing tool, a translator, a dictionary, a read aloud feature and the option to add your own text on top of the document (although you can’t edit the PDF file itself). These tools will come in handy for students and anyone who needs to take notes on their research.
Microsoft Edge divides the browser’s appearance into two categories under Settings > Appearance. You can choose between a light or a dark appearance under “overall appearance” that affects the aesthetic of the whole window, and then customize the window bar’s color beneath “theme.”
The options underneath these two headings can be mixed and matched with one another. For example, you can have a green heading paired with either a light or a dark theme, or some other combination of colors.
Like most modern browsers, a single Edge installation supports multiple user profiles. Sign in to the browser with your email address to create a profile with your own settings, browsing history, bookmarks and other personalized data.
A single email address can be divided up into multiple, separate profiles that retain their respective settings. This can be useful for dividing up your personal and work data, and solves the problem of keeping your data private while sharing a device with others.
Edge includes a kid-friendly browser called “browse in kids mode” under the profile icon. This leads to a simplified version of Microsoft Edge that is both easy for children to use and has safe search set to “strict” by default. You won’t be able to leave kids mode or open a separate window without entering your Windows PIN.
Ease of Use
Edge is available for Windows 7 through 11, Windows Server, Android, iOS and Linux devices. Its basis in Chromium makes all versions of the browser simple in appearance and easy to use. Edge can be used with or without signing in to your Microsoft account, but using your account is necessary for device synchronization.
The New Edge Browser Based on Google Chrome
Edge Legacy had a short life span between its launch in 2015 and its Chromium makeover in 2020. Originally based on Microsoft’s own EdgeHTML rendering subsystem, Microsoft decided to upgrade to Chromium to avoid compatibility issues that emerge in an internet where most websites are tailored to Chrome’s functionality more than any other browser.
This would free up Microsoft’s development team to contribute to further browser development rather than spending its time and resources on endlessly trying to keep up with Chrome. Thus, the new version of Edge is a more modern and feature-filled browser that continues to evolve. In other words, if you can’t beat them, join them.
The Chromium-based Edge was officially released in the stable channel on January 15, 2020. The old Edge was still supported at the time and was finally removed in the April cumulative update for Windows 10 on April 13, 2021. Users who downloaded that update lost access to the old Edge as Microsoft brought in the new version of Edge.
Microsoft Edge has the same minimalist user interface you’ll find in any other Chromium browser. The address bar and tabs run across the top of the window without taking up much space. A handful of buttons are located off to the right of the address bar, including buttons for extensions, favorites, your Microsoft account and a button that opens up the settings menu.
The Bing search engine is naturally the default search engine in Edge. Google, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo are the alternatives Edge offers by default, but you can manually add the URL of any search engine to make it your default service.
Aside from the scroll bar, the rest of the window is occupied by the web page itself. The Chromium design emphasizes simplicity and easy access rather than overwhelming the user with too many visual elements.
The default new tab page features a photograph in the background with the Bing search bar at the page’s center, a row of buttons leading to recently visited websites and a news feed at the bottom. At the top left is a menu for Microsoft 365 apps and a weather app, and at the top right are buttons for Microsoft Rewards, notifications and page layout options.
In the browser’s settings under “start, home and new tabs,” you can change the default new tab page to any web page you prefer, or pick up where you left off the last time you used Edge.
The mobile version of Edge is simple and straightforward. Most of the screen is taken up by the web page and the controls are very minimal.
The address bar runs across the top and the navigation controls are at the bottom. There’s a button for signing in to your profile in the top-left corner of the screen. At the bottom, the navigation controls are on the left, tabs and sharing are on the right and, somewhat unconventionally, the “settings” button is placed in the middle.
If you have multiple tabs open at once, they will appear in a separate menu when you tap the tab icon at the bottom. The tab icon will display the number of all open tabs.
Tab management is straightforward, but it lacks some basic features. A single Edge window can hold a large number of tabs at once before they run off the screen. Each tab narrows in size until all text is gone and only the favicon remains.
Once you’ve exceeded the browser’s capacity to display any more tabs, each new tab simply goes off-screen without producing scroll buttons or the “search tabs” option that most browsers default to. This means that Edge leaves you in the dark when navigating through your off-screen tabs.
Most web browsers display tabs across the top of the page, but Edge is one of the few to include a “vertical tabs” function. All open tabs will be displayed in a panel on the left side of the screen while the top of the browser window simply displays the title and favicon of the current page.
A scroll bar will appear once the number of open tabs exceeds the tab panel. Navigating through your open tabs is much easier with the vertical tab display if you have several tabs open at once.
Edge’s most substantial improvement over its pre-Chromium iteration is its performance. For years, Internet Explorer and the early version of Edge were criticized for their glacial speeds, but recreating the browser with Chromium improved the browser’s speed by a long shot.
We ran Edge through three benchmark speed tests and it stood up well to its competitors — namely Chrome, Brave, Vivaldi, Firefox and Opera. In fact, it achieved the same speeds as Chrome while solidly outperforming the rest. It was slightly faster than Chrome in one test and slightly slower in another test, averaging out to approximately the same speed.
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Chromium-based browsers are typically fast performers in general, but they do have a problem with consuming high amounts of RAM (particularly Chrome, at least until a 2021 update). We observed Chrome’s and Microsoft Edge’s memory usage while performing the same tasks and noticed that Edge was less resource-hungry than its rival (read our Microsoft Edge vs Chrome comparison).
For more detailed info on browser speed, check out our full article on the fastest web browsers.
Edge features a solid array of security features including malware protection, phishing protection and detection of insecure websites. It’s even better at blocking malicious websites than Google’s safe browsing, according to this data.
Microsoft uses its own software to defend its users from malicious threats online. Edge users are protected with Microsoft SmartScreen by default, a cloud-based security feature that prevents phishing and malware downloads.
Microsoft Defender SmartScreen verifies each website you visit against a regularly updated list of known malicious websites and sends you to a warning page if it detects suspicious files or web pages. From there you have the option of proceeding to the malicious website if you still want to access that website.
SmartScreen checks files against a list of known malicious software, and will warn you before you download a suspicious file. It also checks a list of trusted software for widely used applications and issues a warning if the seemingly trustworthy file you’re downloading isn’t on that list.
A padlock will appear to the left of the URL when you are connecting to a website over HTTPS. The browser will display the caption “not secured” while connected to a web page over HTTP. If you click on this notification, a dropdown menu will appear with a warning not to enter personal information on the website, as the data could be intercepted by attackers.
This menu also includes a button that leads to information about the permissions the site has, how many cookies the site is using and if tracking protection is enabled. You can manually disable tracking by clicking a switch beside this item, as some legitimate websites rely on pop-ups and other functions that are often blocked in order to work.
Microsoft issued security updates every six weeks in the early days of Edge. After Edge was recreated with Chromium, Microsoft followed Chrome’s lead once again by adopting Google’s four-week update cycle so that users wouldn’t be exposed to security threats for as long.
This update came alongside the optional eight-week extension for Enterprise customers. The eight-week update cycle primarily benefits businesses whose computing infrastructure requires more time to fully adapt to these changes, and machines that are infrequently connected to the internet.
We encourage everyone to use a secure and private browser while using the internet, but it isn’t obvious which ones are the best. That’s why we did our research and compiled a list of the most secure web browsers.
Microsoft collects data about its users like any other tech company — and that includes Windows computers as well as the Edge browser itself. This is a particularly important fact to keep in mind if you’re a Windows user, because even if you tighten up the browser’s privacy settings, Microsoft may still be collecting your personal data by other means.
It is possible to block trackers in order to opt out of some data collection, but not all. Some amount of data collection is necessary to use certain products and services by Microsoft, like with any online service, so the opt-out options have their limitations.
As far as external privacy threats are concerned, Edge has some useful built-in tools for enhancing your privacy. Edge’s tracking prevention comes in three levels: basic, balanced and strict.
The trade-off for each setting is between the amount of security versus the amount of functionality you want out of each website you visit, as less tracking can break the functionality of some websites. The “balanced” setting in Edge’s tracking prevention is enabled by default.
Signing into Edge with your Microsoft account will give you access to the browser’s password manager. You can store every password you use directly in the browser and let the browser automatically fill in your passwords each time you log in to one of your favorite sites.
Each of your passwords can be protected with an optional master password, which would be the password or PIN for your Windows device.
Thousands of usernames and passwords are exposed in data breaches every day. Microsoft includes a noteworthy privacy feature in Edge called password monitor, which will notify you in the event that one of your saved passwords was discovered in a data breach.
Password monitor will check your passwords against a database of known credentials that have been leaked onto the internet and immediately let you know if any of your passwords have been compromised. It’s always a good idea to change your affected passwords as soon as you get the notification, before attackers abuse your account to gain access to your other accounts.
Edge features a private browsing mode called “InPrivate browsing.” Opening an InPrivate tab produces a window that won’t save your browsing or download history, passwords or cookies, but it will save your collections, favorites and downloads.
The InPrivate new tab page contains information about the user data Microsoft collects while you browse in private mode. The information on this page states that the browser will only collect data that the user has given permission to collect.
Data collected during an InPrivate session will not be used for product improvement and will not be associated with your Microsoft account, Microsoft continues.
Bing will likewise refrain from matching your search queries with your identity, but your IP address will still be used to deliver local content in your search results. Your browsing and search history will not be used to personalize Bing search results.
Private Browsing vs VPNs
Private browsing modes serve many purposes, but it is a common misconception that they hide your identity while you’re using the internet. However, private browsing isn’t truly private because your location and activities are still monitored by your internet service provider and websites will still collect data on you, including Microsoft in the case of Edge.
VPNs perform the privacy-preserving tasks many falsely attribute to private browsing modes, such as hiding your IP address and internet activities from your ISP. A good VPN will protect your privacy at minimum, but a great VPN will have even more features for improving your privacy and security.
We advocate strengthening your online privacy as much as possible, so check out our anonymous browsing guide for some tips on good privacy practices and our list of the top VPN providers. If you want to cut to the chase, ExpressVPN is our favorite VPN provider of all, which you can read about in our full ExpressVPN review.
Microsoft is adapting to the modern internet with its Chromium-based successor to Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge — albeit with modest success. It’s an impressively fast browser that managed to meet Chrome’s speeds in our browser tests. Its context menu contains more features than most other browsers, and it has plenty more up its sleeve under the “settings” tab.
Overall, Edge is a slick browser that isn’t lacking much in the way of features, accessibility or speed, but Microsoft’s data collection practices keep us from recommending it as a browser for the privacy-conscious. At any rate, there’s still a lot to like about Edge — but will it ever catch up to its competitors’ popularity? Will it instead share the same fate as Internet Explorer?
If you want to jump ship and try a different browser, we recommend disabling or uninstalling Microsoft Edge.
What do you think of our Microsoft Edge Review? Is it a browser worthy of everyday use, or does it still fall short of Google Chrome? Do you think Microsoft does a better job at respecting user privacy than Google? Let us know in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for reading.