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Microsoft Edge hands-on review: The Chrome killer has arrived

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Update on June 4: Microsoft began rolling out the Edge browser to Windows 10 PCs via Windows Update. Windows 10 users won't have to download the browser manually to have it installed on their laptops. 

Microsoft finally launched its new Edge browser built on Google’s Chromium platform and we put the browser through its paces to bring you our impressions.

I’m running Edge on my Lenovo Yoga C940 with a 1.3GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 12GB of RAM. Follow our instructions on how to download Edge and you can be underway in just a few minutes. If you were previously using Edge, it will prompt you to close it and automatically reopens the new version.

If you are coming over from Chrome, you will be asked if you would like to Sync from Chrome, which you almost certainly should do. If you need help with this process, we have a quick guide for you. Alternatively, you will be prompted to import your favorites at the top of the page; Clicking “import favorites now” will take you to the settings screen and you can select any browser that you have installed to import data from.

Syncing Edge with Chrome and IE

(Image credit: Microsoft)

I tried importing my data both from Internet Explorer and Chrome, both went quickly and easily without a hiccup. Extension sync didn’t happen automatically with Chrome, but again, if you follow our guide (linked above), adding them in is pretty quick and painless from the Chrome Web Store.

Microsoft Edge privacy options

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Privacy options are one of the featured highlights for this release. In the Privacy and services settings, you can select from three tiers of tracking prevention that will protect you from trackers across some or virtually all sites. It’s well laid out and Microsoft has done a solid job of breaking down the effect each level should have with simple bullet points.

Microsoft Edge interface

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Moving on to the look and feel of the new Edge, the browser defaulted to the “Informational” page layout which is a mix between the stark “Focused” layout and “Inspirational” which features a prominent image. Tap the settings icon in the upper-right corner and you can quickly switch between these options or create a custom layout of your own. While there isn’t an abundance of options, you should be able to find a combination that works for you.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Regardless of which layout you select, you'll find a tabbed news feed immediately below the main screen, which prominently indicates it is “powered by Microsoft News.” Again this can be customized however you prefer with numerous options to choose from across eight broad categories of interests (News, Health, Self, Sports, etc). The news feed has a clean and modern look to it and clicking a story takes you to a new tab so you won’t lose track of what you were doing originally. 

Microsoft Edge search engine

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Thankfully, our biggest complaint from the beta this summer has been rectified and you are no longer restricted to Bing for your search engine in the address bar. While it does default to Bing, a quick trip to the settings screen lets you select from Google, Yahoo!, DuckDuckGo, or you can add your preferred search engine from the manage search engines screen.

Microsoft Edge performance

Even in its beta, the Edge browser was a solid performer, so little surprise that the official release remains rock-solid and fast as ever. I have yet to run into a single problem with general browsing on my Yoga C940, despite putting it through the wringer with numerous tabs and jumping across a wide range of sites including video and image-heavy pages. 

Page load times are also faster than with Chrome across virtually every site that I have tested. We'll have to do more testing before we can definitely declare Edge the speedier browser, but so far so good.

Microsoft Edge battery life

I haven’t had enough time to do formal battery testing, but battery projections suggest the browser is doing all this with less strain on the system than Chrome. I saw battery life projections consistently drop slightly when switching to Chrome after loading up the exact same sites and running the same content from both browsers. 

Microsoft Edge outlook

One of the big features for all users late in the beta was Collections, which acts as an organizational or research tool, giving you space to quickly save and store the information you are gathering on the web. It’s a very cool feature that numerous apps have tried to solve in the past, but it’s still listed as coming soon on the official release, so that’s one we’ll have to look forward to in an update.

Edge has gone through a lengthy beta period, and it shows. I’m really impressed with what Microsoft gave us on day one and could finally see myself switching from Chrome, particularly given the support across Windows, macOS, iOS and Android.