Microsoft Edge – Performance vs. Battery Life

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Despite Microsoft’s claim that its Edge browser in Windows 10 is faster than Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, putting Edge through its paces in several different benchmark tests shows that it is slower in those that simulate real-world usage.

Chrome and Firefox are more mature browsers than Microsoft Edge. And despite the improvements that Microsoft has made over the last three years, it hasn’t been enough to make any significant change to the browser’s market share. I’m not a big fan of Chrome, including the constant updating and the problems some of those updates introduce. Although it’s safe to say that Google is expert in software-as-a-service compared to Microsoft. But worse than the regular updates, Chrome drains my notebook’s battery much faster.

Regardless of my complaints about Chrome, I’m not a typical user and accept that most prefer it over Edge. And one reason for that is extensions. Adding support for extensions in Edge was an important step but Chrome and Firefox both have a much larger selection.

Benchmarks and Real-World Experience

Edge improves on IE in almost every aspect, and I would describe the performance as more than serviceable. Microsoft’s claims for performance are based on the JetStream benchmark. And independent testing by PCWorld and TekRevue has confirmed that Edge is 25 percent faster than Chrome. Firefox and Opera are both marginally faster than Chrome. JetStream is a JavaScript benchmarking suite for browsers, and while JavaScript is important, it’s not the only measure of web app performance.

When Edge is pitted against other browsers in benchmark tests that are more focused on measuring real-world app performance, like Speedometer, Edge sits in last place and can be up to 35 percent slower than Chrome. Speedometer simulates user interactions and it measures the speed of a browser’s JavaScript engine, DOM APIs, layout, CSS style resolution, and other parts of the browser engine. The only area in which Edge beats Chrome in real-world simulations is in opening lots of tabs simultaneously. Edge also came last in WebXPRT 2015, which uses actual web apps to simulate real-world usage scenarios.

Nevertheless, ComputerWorld reported in April 2017 that according to its own analysis, Edge failed to complete both the Speedometer and WebXPRT tests. So, clearly there has been a big improvement.

Performance vs. Battery Life

But can we rely on benchmarks like Speedometer and WebXPRT to really give an accurate picture of real-word performance? And if yes, the results of the benchmarks lead me to wonder whether Edge’s superior battery life isn’t just a side effect of worse performance. Or is the performance/battery life tradeoff intentional on Microsoft’s part?

Regardless of the benchmark results, Edge is shaping up to be a good browser. And some of the cosmetic improvements due to arrive in Windows 10 1809 make the UI slicker. In my own experience, I find Edge performs well and I rarely experience crashes or hangs. But my use of heavy-duty web apps is limited. The most complex apps I use are WordPress and the Azure management portal. Except for search and occasional visits to YouTube, I don’t use Google services.

If you are deciding whether to use or recommend Edge, it might boil down to the sites being used. If you are a heavy user of Google services, like Gmail and YouTube, think about sticking with Chrome. As recently reported on WindowsCentral, there is a known issue that causes YouTube to work slowly in Edge. Microsoft is aware of it and says that it’s up to Google to fix. Others report that Gmail doesn’t work as quickly in IE or Edge. Power users will miss some of Chrome’s features, like the ability to launch PWAs from shortcuts in chrome-less windows, and the vast selection of add-ons. And occasionally I come across sites that aren’t ‘supported’ in Edge.

Edge isn’t perfect, and I’d like to see better support for the power-user features I mentioned above. But I think that performance is good enough and that there’s little real-world difference with the sites I use daily. Personally, battery life is also an important consideration when choosing a browser. But maybe you have a different experience with Edge?