Though millions of people use Internet Explorer, it has lost market share and street cred to Chrome and Firefox. With Windows 10, Microsoft has launched a new browser called Edge that promises to give its competitors a run for their money, especially with its new embedded Cortana feature and markup capabilities. Does this newcomer have a shot at taking on the browser giants? I tested Chrome, Firefox and Edge to see which browser provides the greatest and fastest Internet experience.
Round 1: Speed and performance
To see how quickly each browser executes common tasks, I ran each one through a gauntlet of benchmarks and real-world tests on the same Intel Core i5-powered Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10.
Browsermark: This benchmark tests a variety of browser functions such as re-sizing screens, 2D and 3D performance, crunching numbers, and rendering graphics. Chrome took the lead here, notching 5,591 against Firefox’s 4,308 and Edge’s measly 2,882.
Page Load Times (Numion): I also timed, using the Numion stopwatch, how long it took Edge, Chrome and Firefox to display media-heavy sites such as Tomsguide.com and ESPN.com. To make sure Internet speeds didn’t affect the results, I repeated this test across two different days at different times.
Edge delivered the fastest speeds in general, loading ESPN.com in 4.45 seconds, compared to Chrome’s 4:67 and Firefox’s 4:59. Edge displayed TomsGuide.com in 1:55 seconds, faster than Chrome’s 2:22 and Firefox’s 4:90.
Round 2: Layout and ease of use
The best browsers are laid out in an intuitive manner, putting key controls within easy reach while reducing clutter on the screen. Thoughtful organization makes going to your favorite pages hassle-free, and keeps distracting buttons out of sight.
All three browsers save space by putting the tabs up at the top of the window in lieu of a title bar. Chrome is the cleanest, however, with just buttons for back, forward, refresh, favorite and settings in addition to a search/URL bar that takes up the width of the screen.
Edge has a flat, modern aesthetic that helps it look minimalistic despite the extra buttons it has at the end of the search/URL bar. With icons for Reading mode, Favorites, Hub, Make a Web Note, Share and More actions on the right side, Edge’s top bar is more cluttered than Chrome’s.
Firefox has two bars by default: one for URLs and one for search. You can remove the search bar to make room, and the remaining one will accept both URLs and search queries, but I’d like if Mozilla had just one bar by default. Like Edge does, Firefox has a bunch of buttons at the end of the two bars, for Favorite, Download, Home and Menu. The Forward button only pops up next to the Back symbol when there is a page ahead. The beauty of Firefox is that you can customize your layout however you want, so you can add or remove buttons as you like.
If you want to take a page you’re browsing and share it to Facebook, Twitter or your email, it’s easiest to do so via Firefox. The Mozilla browser has a native Share button that you can add to your navigation bar, and a Share This Link option when you right click on any link. You’ll have to install the relevant plug-ins for each platform, and the feature supports popular services such as Facebook, Tumblr, Gmail, Delicious and LinkedIn.
Edge also has a native Share button, but to add channels through which to share pages, you’ll first have to install the Windows Store app version of that service on your device. The Share button pulls up apps on your PC or tablet that support this feature, but very few apps do so right now. For instance, there is no official LinkedIn app for Windows.
Chrome doesn’t have a built-in sharing feature. You can add the function via bookmarklets or widgets pinned to the bookmarks bar, or by installing extensions.
All three browsers show you which tabs are playing media by showing either a Play button in the tab’s title or a speaker icon.
Power users might get frustrated at the lack of right-click options in Edge. While you get shortcuts such as “Open link in private window” and Save Link As in Firefox and Chrome, these two options are missing from the right-click menu in Edge. You’ll get “Open in new tab,” “Open in new window,” Copy Link and Ask Cortana in Microsoft’s offering. I like the Ask Cortana function, and Firefox has a similar option with its Search Yahoo (or default search engine), since asking the digital assistant pulls up search results.
If you right click any blank space on Firefox or Chrome, your menu options are plenty, including going backward and forward, reloading, printing (Chrome), translating to English (Chrome), and sharing the page (Firefox). Edge only has Select All, Inspect Element and View Source in the same scenario.
Winner: Firefox. Mozilla’s browser takes the prize because of its customizability and easy sharing function.
Round 3: Extensibility
Both Chrome and Firefox have supported extensions for years, and these babies can really enhance your Internet experience. For instance, the Phone to Desktop Chrome add-on lets you send any text or links to your desktop browser, and the Text to Voice Firefox extension reads out words you highlight on any page.
Firefox and Chrome both have tens of thousands of extensions, spanning categories such as Productivity, Downloads Management, Social & Communication, Search Tools, and Shopping. Firefox seems to be a little more geared toward power users, with specific categories for Web development, Tabs, and Privacy & Security. I especially love that you can skin Firefox with one of thousands of theme add-ons.
Some of Chrome’s add-ons run offline and integrate with a variety of Google’s existing services, such as Save to Google Drive and Tags for YouTube. For anyone who uses any of the Internet giant’s services at all, Chrome’s extensions will make life much easier.
Microsoft has said that it expects to add extensions to Edge in the near future. When that happens, the Windows-maker will have a lot of catching up to do, especially in providing a similar number and variety of add-ons as its counterparts.
Winner: Chrome. Chrome takes this round with its extensions’ sheer number, usefulness and ability to integrate with other Google services.