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Windows 10 review: It's familiar, it's powerful, but the Edge browser falls short

Mark Hachman | July 27, 2015
We may as well refer to Windows 10 as a date, or an hour, as much as an operating system. It's a moment in time. A month from now, it will have changed, evolved, improved. But right now? Microsoft has shipped an operating system that was meticulously planned and executed with panache, but whose coat of fresh paint hides some sticks and baling wire.

Those Settings are worth poking through, by the way. Edge loads Flash by default, which you can toggle off. Do Not Track privacy requests are off by default. Pop-ups are blocked. And there are some other very nice features pre-loading Web pages, password management, and caret browsing which are worth a look.

Pick a page, though, and I found Chrome more responsive--even with all plugins turned off. With both browsers I navigated to the SFGate.com homepage and picked a story at random, that I'd never read before. Chrome loaded the page in under 8 seconds, which I defined as a point in which I could scroll down and read the remainder of the story. Edge required just over 23 seconds. But it admittedly has improved. I repeated the test Wednesday night with random pages from SFGate, PCMag.com and Salon.com, and only the Salon page loaded significantly faster on Chrome: 5.0 seconds versus 8.3 seconds for Edge. Otherwise, they were roughly comparable.

However, Edge performed even worse on a "stress test" I ran: 30 tabs of major websites. Edge tabs hung, stuttered, and became unresponsive, pegging a Core i5-based HP Spectre x360 at 98% CPU utilization and 97% of the available memory. Using the same tabs, Chrome hit 59% to 70% CPU, and 78% memory utilization. When I re-ran the test several days later, Edge loaded 22 tabs, then crashed. Edge may indeed be "blazing fast" on the benchmarks, but right now, Chrome wins in my everyday usage.

Cortana's also built into Edge, although she's only there if you want her. You can highlight a word or phrase, right-click, and ask Cortana. A sidebar will slide in from the right, essentially a small Web page with a fuller explanation. Microsoft's tried this trick before with Office, and it's a useful tool.

Reading List is, too. By clicking the star icon after the page loads, you can save it to a Pocket-like Reading List for later. About the only thing I'd like to see here is either RSS integration, or a right-click option to save a page you haven't clicked yet to the list.

I'm less impressed with Edge's ability to mark up a webpage. Microsoft pitched this feature as something akin to a personalized Web, but it isn't. Clicking the icon that looks like an overly abstract pencil in a box allows you to add notes, squiggles, even text to a webpage. The problem is that the result is stored as an image file for OneNote or other apps. So who cares? You can take a screenshot of any Web page with any browser in the world, save it to Paint, and then mark it up. As I wrote this review, IDGNS reporter Blair Hanley Frank informed me that Edge crashes while trying to save a marked-up Web page. He's right. It did.

 

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