Microsoft's Edge browser built on Chromium is out for a beta test, and we tried it.
--A first look from Rob Schnetzer
Special thanks to Steven Reed and Winston Starling for helping out with this review!
Last week I was surprised to see the new Microsoft Edge browser already out for a beta run from Microsoft, not because its appearance wasn’t expected, but because it is already available on Mac. After reading a few articles on the beta version and how to go about downloading it on Microsoft’s Edge Insider website, I was ready to throw it onto my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and give it a whirl. But unbeknownst to me a Mac version was also posted to the Microsoft site, ready for me to try on my main work computer which is a Mac.
After getting it installed, I’ve been testing it for the last couple days to try and get a feel for the Chromium clone. On first blush it’s very hard to tell the difference: fundamentally they are extremely similar down to the color of windows and buttons. Edge has small things that make it distinctive: its three horizontal buttons to access its settings menu for instance, instead of Google’s three vertical configuration. But when placed side by side, you are hard pressed to tell the difference. Both browsers seem to be similar in speed, among other things.
But when you start digging into the browsers, the differences start becoming a little more obvious. The bookmarks menu you access when right clicking is more intuitive in Edge. It seems like it makes it easier to edit your bookmarks without going to the bookmark manager. The menu text seems to be a little crisper in the Edge browser. The user log in takes Google completely out of the picture, so if you use Microsoft’s suite of programs this makes logging into your browser every bit as easy as any other Microsoft product.
Early on one of the gripes I had was the lack of apps on Edge. But soon after getting more familiar with it and talking to others around the office I found that you can access the Chrome app store from Edge and use all the Chrome apps in Edge. After playing with Edge for a few hours I found two other staffers here at Sagiss that were willing to give it a test run as well.
We’ve all been surprised with Edge for a couple of different reasons. Its seamless transition from Chrome to Edge took us all by surprise in the way that Edge efficiently and consistently mimics the Chrome experience. Mac and Windows both seem to perform similarly with equal levels of polish. It’s evident that Microsoft wants to compete with Google in the worst way.
But does it?
And honestly, we have to say “No.” If anything, Microsoft has created, or should I say “re-created” Chrome. Yes, it matches Chrome on a number of different levels, and in a few superficial ways improves on it. But ultimately it ends up being no better or no worse than Chrome, and if you’re an avid Chrome user there isn’t any good reason to switch. Especially if you are already embedded into Google’s ecosystem. It handles Microsoft’s login system better than anything else out there except for the older version of Edge. But that’s only because it’s a Microsoft product that’s built around Google. Microsoft has really done nothing to distinguish its product from Google and if it wants to succeed in pulling people off Chrome and onto Edge, they need to step it up a bit.
That said, if Microsoft’s goal is not to pull people off Edge who are presently using it, but to give people less of an excuse to uninstall the previous version of Edge when freshly installing Windows and immediately install Google Chrome, then I think Edge might have a chance of winning over a certain percentage of users. But not because it’s better…because it’s the same darn thing.