Software

Chrome vs Edge vs Firefox: Is Microsoft's browser really faster?

Do Microsoft's claims that Edge is faster and safer than the competition stand up?

Microsoft is testing the idea of warning users they're installing an inferior browser after they download Chrome and Firefox.

But to what extent should you believe Microsoft's claims that its Edge browser is both "safer" and "faster" than the competition?

TechRepublic put recent versions of Chrome, Edge and Firefox browsers to the test.

Testing the browsers

The following benchmarks measure how efficiently each browser handles JavaScript, the defacto scripting language of the web. JavaScript is at the core of the modern web, with heavy pages loading in tens of scripts that in turn fetch more JavaScript. If your browser is slow at JavaScript, it's slow full-stop.

Newer tests, such as Ares-6, attempt to measure the performance of some of JavaScript's newest features, such as training a simple machine-learning model implemented in JavaScript.

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

That said, these benchmarks have their limitations when it comes to measuring real-world performance, with some such as Google's Octane 2.0 no longer being updated, so should only be taken as a general guide to speed.

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Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic
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Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic
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Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic

Overall Edge was behind Chrome in two out of three benchmarks, significantly in the case of Ares-6, but also beat Firefox in two out of three benchmarks.

Subjectively, I found Edge's performance to have undoubtedly improved from the early days of Windows 10, when pages would freeze as they loaded, leaving you unable to scroll.

In fact, it was difficult to tell any difference between the speed of the three major browsers when using an advert- and script-heavy site site, with each browser being fast to load pages.

When it comes to support for the latest browser technologies, Edge also trails its competitors according to HTML5Test.

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Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic

That said Edge's score is only slightly lower than the others, and while it's missing some features, such as support for the 3D graphics rendering API WebGL 2, it supports some features missing from Chrome, such as the WebVR API for using virtual-reality headsets in the browser.


One area where Edge may have an advantage over rivals is security, with Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG) able to use a custom virtualization layer to protect against malware when browsing untrusted sites using Edge.

However, there are some caveats, WDAG is only available in the Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 10 and requires PCs to have the hardware and BIOS settings needed to support Hyper-V virtualization.

Microsoft also claims Edge is also less power-hungry, draining batteries less rapidly than Chrome and other competitors, however, these findings have been challenged too.

There is one area where Edge clearly lags behind rival browsers, extension support. Edge still lacks some of the most useful extensions available for Chrome and Firefox, as well as offering far less choice overall, with just 94 extensions listed on the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft's motivation for experimenting with pushing Edge more aggressively can perhaps be explained by the browser's lack of success. Multiple sources for worldwide browser market share estimate only a small proportion of Windows 10 users choose Edge.

But the claims made in Microsoft's attempts to dissuade users from installing Chrome and Firefox are harder to justify.

Edge may be "safer" than other browsers in certain respects on some Windows 10 machines, but evidence for the claim that Edge is "faster" than all other rivals is rather scant.

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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