The odds are good that you’re reading this right now in Google’s web browser, Chrome, which has become hugely popular since it made its debut in 2008. But Chrome has some issues, and now that Microsoft is back with a rebooted version of its Edge browser—based on the same Chromium code as Chrome—it might just convince you to switch allegiances.
Microsoft Edge is now available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, so you can use it on all of your devices. It offers the same browsing data sync options as Chrome, linked with your Microsoft account. And it also supports every browser extension that runs on Google Chrome, because of that shared Chromium code.
While Chrome undoubtedly has its advantages, too—including tight integration with every Google service from Gmail to Google Translate—Edge continues to impress. These are some of the highlights we’ve noticed over the past few months.
Chrome has been hogging system resources and dragging its feet for years at this point, and has become notorious for the amount of RAM it can use up and the negative impact it can have on laptop battery life. Chrome engineers are working on these problems, and making a certain amount of progress, but it remains a major issue.
In our rather unscientific test on a Windows machine, we loaded up the same group of sites in both Chrome and Edge after a restart of both browsers. While the figures in Task Manager jumped around from second to second, Chrome was consistently sucking up substantially more CPU time, memory space, and disk use than Edge—and had opened up 40 separate tasks for some reason, compared to the 27 that Edge had fired up.
When it comes to the raw speed of loading pages and getting around the web, results from the browser benchmarks that we’ve seen tend to be fairly close, and there’s often no clear winner. Benchmarks aren’t always the best measure of a browser in any case, and with all the major browsers pushing out updates and optimizations on a very regular basis, they’re very quickly out of date.
In this case it might be worth doing some testing on your own system to see whether Chrome or Edge comes out on top with the sites you use every day. A few days of running these applications should be enough to give you a feel for how speedy and responsive they are in day-to-day use and whether there’s any impact on battery life. Keep your eye on Task Manager on Windows or Activity Monitor on macOS.
The issue of online privacy is a multifaceted and complex one, and switching your browser isn’t necessarily going to instantly fix the problems associated with being tracked on the web, but Edge offers a more user-friendly and comprehensive approach to keeping you better protected online. The Basic, Balanced, and Strict options available in the Privacy, search, and services Settings tab are well thought out and well explained.
While Chrome has a similar set of options for blocking cookies, they’re not quite as straightforward to configure. Edge wins points for enabling you to clear the browsing data you’ve accumulated every time you shut down the program, which isn’t a feature that Google has shown any sign of implementing to date (though it does let you auto-delete data after a certain amount of time through your Google account settings).
Another benefit that might make you pick Edge over Chrome is that, well, it’s not made by Google. Microsoft is far from perfect when it comes to user privacy, but Google’s entire business model is based around collecting as much data about you as possible and then using it to sell ads. Google is actually pushing to replace cookie-based tracking with a system that works on aggregated data that’s less personalized, but questions remain about just how beneficial this will be for users.
The difference between these two browsers in terms of security and privacy isn’t a completely stark one—after all, Google has done some good work in making browsing the web safer for everyone—but ultimately one of these companies is built on an ad tech empire and one isn’t. In the end, it might just come down to whether you trust Microsoft or Google more, not just in terms of web browsing, but in other aspects of your digital life.
Microsoft’s engineers haven’t been slow to add new features to Edge, several of which aren’t available on Chrome (at least, not yet). Edge has a built-in reading mode, for instance, which isn’t available in Chrome unless you go into the flags page and manually enable it. Edge can read pages out to you, too, which can be handy, by choosing Read aloud from the main browser menu.
Edge recently introduced the option to have vertical tabs down the side of the screen. It’s by no means a wholly new idea (it was available in Chrome, many years ago), but gives you a bit more flexibility. Microsoft Edge will also put unused tabs into a sleep state after a certain amount of time has passed, no extension needed, which is another feature that has yet to make its way into Chrome.
Edge gives you more customization options for the new tab page out of the box, and also has an interesting approach to saving groups of pages on the web which it calls Collections. You can use the feature to collect text, images, videos, and webpages together in groups, and it can come in handy for everything from researching a particular topic to trying to organize your online shopping.
It’s fair to say Chrome has its own set of exclusive features—tab grouping being one of the most recent additions, and integrated Chromecast support being one of the most important—but Microsoft is putting its own stamp on Chromium and going in a different direction from Google in a few areas that make it worth checking out. You just might find you’ll want to make the switch.