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The new Microsoft Edge review: A browser that could rival Google Chrome

A new browser is on the block, and it's here to right all the wrongs of its predecessor.

Microsoft Edge
(Image: © Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Microsoft is launching a brand new version of its Edge web browser today, and it's a huge departure from the old Edge we've come to know. Microsoft has rebuilt Edge from the ground up using the open-source Chromium project, the same codebase that Google Chrome is based upon. Existing Chrome users will find the new Edge to be very familiar, and that's by design. At first glance, the new Edge is just Chrome, but with a Microsoft logo slapped on the front.

But if you dig a little deeper, there's a lot more going here. I think there's a genuine market for a version of Chrome that doesn't talk to Google's servers, and this new Microsoft Edge fills that role. It syncs up with your Microsoft Account and has customizable tracking prevention features built right in. Microsoft is putting privacy at the top of its game with the new Edge. It's also enterprise-ready with AAD support, an Internet Explorer mode for rendering legacy websites, and much more.

While that's all well and good, we want to know if the new Microsoft Edge is a good browser for more than just the enterprise. Should you, as an average PC user, switch to the new Microsoft Edge? There's a lot here that normal PC users will enjoy, such as cross-platform syncing if you use Microsoft Edge on macOS, iOS, or Android too. It's also the only browser on Windows 10 to support 4K streaming on Netflix.

10 best new features in Microsoft Edge

I've been using the new Microsoft Edge since it entered preview in the spring of last year, and I've been using the release candidate since November. Now that the new Microsoft Edge is officially here, I wanted to write up my thoughts as a review for anybody who's considering making the switch from another browser. Whether you're a user of the old Microsoft Edge or a die-hard Google Chrome fan, I think everybody should be paying attention to this new browser from Microsoft.

Microsoft Edge set up

Microsoft Edge

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Let's start at the very beginning. If you're a user of the old Microsoft Edge, installing and switching to the new browser is incredibly painless. Whether you install the browser yourself or wait for Microsoft to push it to you via Windows Update, the new browser will automatically replace the old one and import all of your data. The first run wizard will move all of your passwords, history, bookmarks, and more into the new Edge in just a few seconds.

Those coming from a third party browser will have to head into the settings area of the new Edge to import their data, but you can still import everything with no issues. Microsoft is making the switching process as easy as possible, as it knows the daunting task of switching browsers is a showstopper for many. Once the new Edge is installed, you should be up and running with all your data intact in under a minute.

Microsoft Edge Import

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

One thing that doesn't port over from the old Microsoft Edge is extensions. Users will have to manually download all their extensions again when moving to the new Edge. Luckily, the new Microsoft Edge supports all the same extensions as Google Chrome, so you won't be without any of your favorite extensions.

Syncing browser data across devices uses your Microsoft Account, but history and open tabs don't yet sync. This means if you're attempting to switch to the new Edge on multiple devices, you won't be able to view cross-device history or tabs open on other devices.

This also means that the new Microsoft Edge doesn't support Windows 10's own Timeline feature. Microsoft does say that these additional sync settings will light up eventually, but there's no ETA for this. I'm personally not too bothered, but I know not being able to sync history across devices might be a deal-breaker for some. If that's the case, then I recommend waiting for all the sync settings to come online before you give the new Edge a try. Microsoft is working on it as we speak.

Microsoft Edge browsing experience

Microsoft Edge

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Once you're all set up, the first thing you'll notice is the new tab page, which has been carried over from the old Microsoft Edge and revamped with more customization features. By default, the browser is set to search the web with Bing, but users can change this in settings if they wish. The new tab page will automatically list your most visited websites, and allow you to pin sites manually as well.

Below that, you can choose to have MSN display a grid of news articles from the last 24 hours, and you can even customize which topics show up here. I know a lot of people don't like being bombarded with information on their new tab page, so this is something that is fully customizable. If you don't want to see any news articles, then you can turn it off entirely.

You can also turn on or off a daily wallpaper that is pulled in from Bing, which gives your new tab page a little bit of flare. I keep this off, as I prefer a more minimalist appearance. But if you like seeing the news, or like seeing a new image every day, those are options for you to configure.

The UI along the top of the browser is very similar to Google Chrome, and this is by design. Microsoft wants to make switching from other browsers to the new Microsoft Edge as painless as possible, and that includes making the new Edge look like every other browser out there. If you're a Google Chrome user coming over to the new Microsoft Edge, you'll find all your imported data in the exact same places they would be in Chrome.

Microsoft Edge

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

This minimizes the barrier to entry. Users don't like change, so having the new Edge be almost a carbon-copy of Google Chrome means Chrome users won't be as overwhelmed with switching to the new Edge. That said, there are a few minor differences in the UI that align the browser more with Microsoft's own design language. Corners are a little more squared off, and the settings area is a fair bit different too.

Browsing websites is a total breeze. Gone are the days of old Edge not being compatible, or rendering webpages poorly. Browsing the web using the new Microsoft Edge is fast, fluid, and just works. In fact, the web browsing experience is now identical to Chrome thanks to the fact that the new Microsoft Edge is built on the same open-source Chromium project that Google Chrome uses.

I've not had the new Microsoft Edge crash out on me, and I've not noticed it struggle to render webpages like YouTube. The old Microsoft Edge was notorious for being bad at rendering Google-centric sites, and the new Microsoft Edge just doesn't have that problem. Users of old Edge will also appreciate the ability to hide buttons that are listed along the top of the browser. If you don't want a favorites button up there, you can hide it. Finally.

Microsoft Edge web apps

Microsoft Edge

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

A feature that will be new to Edge users is the ability to install websites as native apps. This feature is useful if there's a service you use that doesn't have a dedicated app for your PC. An excellent example of this is Gmail. Google hasn't built a dedicated Gmail app for Windows 10, but with the new Microsoft Edge, you can just install the Gmail website as an app and have it show up in the Start menu and run in its own window as if it were a real app.

This isn't a new feature if you're coming from Google Chrome, but Microsoft has done some additional work to make these web apps appear more native to Windows. While not available today, an upcoming update will make web apps appear to Windows as if they were actual apps. This means they'll show up in Task Manager as their own listing, and notifications will show up in the Action Center under that websites' specific name.

This feature will become more important when Windows 10X launches next year. For now, it works as a great way to pin your favorite websites to your taskbar and Start menu.

Microsoft Edge tracking prevention

Microsoft Edge

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

One significant feature that Microsoft is touting as part of the new Microsoft Edge is its own tracking prevention features. Privacy is a big deal these days, and Microsoft knows it. To help users in their quest for more privacy, the new Microsoft Edge has an easy to use tracking prevention feature built right in, and it's on by default.

Microsoft has three levels of tracking prevention, and by default, it's on level two: Balanced. This mode will block trackers from sites you haven't visited, and will automatically block known harmful trackers too. This mode is designed to keep your data as private as possible without breaking websites. Level one will allow most sites to track you, and level three will allow pretty much no sites to track you unless you give explicit permission.

It's great to see this level of tracking prevention built right into the new Microsoft Edge, and it's customizable too. Users can add their own sites to a blocked or exceptions list if you want a specific website to track or not track you. There's also a simple UI for clearing browsing data, and the option to remove specific data every time you close the browser. If you're privacy-conscious, the new Edge goes to great lengths in making you feel comfortable while using the browser. It isn't the most privacy-focused browser in the world, but it's a great first start for Microsoft.

Microsoft Edge Collections

Microsoft Edge

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Collections is a spiritual successor to the "set tabs aside" feature of old Microsoft Edge. Collections allow you to group links, images, and snippets into a listing of things for referring back to later. This is super useful for students who are researching a specific topic, or a chef looking at ideas for their next recipe, for example.

The Collections feature will along the top of the address bar and is accessible from any webpage. I haven't found much use for it yet, but I can totally see how this feature fits into Microsoft's "be more productive" mantra. You can directly import your collections to Excel and Word too if that's something you want to do.

It also syncs to the cloud, meaning you can access your saved collections across all your different devices running Microsoft Edge, including mobile.

Microsoft Edge: What isn't here

Microsoft Edge

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

While there's a lot new with the new Microsoft Edge, there's also a lot of the old Microsoft Edge that isn't here. Set tabs aside, inking onto webpages, Fluent Design, Timeline support, are all missing from the new Microsoft Edge. Microsoft says that it is weighing up which features it wants to bring over to the latest Microsoft Edge, with more inking features being one of them. But not every feature is guaranteed to make it over, and that's a real shame.

Many testers also think that the old Microsoft Edge does a better job at handling touch and scrolling. I personally don't see much of a difference between the two browsers, but die-hard Microsoft Edge fans insist that the new browser does a worse job than the old one at scrolling and touch interaction. The new Edge isn't bad at this by any means; it just means the old Microsoft Edge was exceptionally good in these areas.

Final thoughts on the new Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The new Microsoft Edge is excellent. It's a massive departure from the old Microsoft Edge, which didn't work well in many areas. If you were someone who tried to switch to the old Microsoft Edge before, I recommend you give the new Microsoft Edge a try. It's a whole different ball game that works and performs better.

Some die-hard users of the old Microsoft Edge might take issue with the missing features that made old Edge unique, but those users are in the minority to begin with. This browser is all about being accessible to the broadest possible audience, and it does that job very well. There are no weird features that get in the way of your browsing experience.

Microsoft's decision to adopt Chromium for Edge is the best decision it's made for a failing product in a long time. Instead of killing Edge entirely, Microsoft decided to try again, and now it has a product that I think really can compete in the browser space. I'd go so far to say that a lot of Chrome users won't mind switching to the new Edge, and might even end up liking it even more than Chrome.

I don't expect the new Edge to take over as the number one browser on day one, but I wouldn't be surprised if this new Edge is the beginning of a turning point for the browser market. Perhaps Chrome isn't the only big boy on the block anymore.

The new Microsoft Edge is available today on Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, and macOS. Microsoft Edge is also available on Android and iOS too.

Further reading and information on Edge

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • How does it handle things when one of the preview builds is installed? Does it replace and import data from those, too? Or will it only do stuff from old Edge?
  • I am really interested in that
  • I'm interested in that as well. I have the new Edge Beta and the old Edge. How will it replace them?
  • Old Edge is replaced, Edge Beta stays. At least if you install the new Edge manually via the website.
  • Thanks for the confirmation, was just about to install the new Edge browser on my Surface Pro assuming the old Edge would remain. I still require inking and PDF support sadly.
  • If you had old Edge and preview of new Edge installed side by side and you had sync set up with the new Edge, then this is what happens:
    - old Edge data is migrated in
    - preview version data is synced
    In my case this resulted in a duplication of bookmarks, for instance.
  • No for me. No duplication.
  • It installs alongside it. You'll probably want to uninstall the Preview Build first. My bookmarks and extensions were automatically there though.
  • 1. It's way faster than O.G. Microsoft Edge, especially loading pages like YouTube (and even WindowsCentral, for that matter). I had some horrible typing lag in O.G. Microsoft Edge, as well, which is not there in the new MIcrosoft Edge. 2. I don't like how convoluted the settings have become, as a result of the upgrade. They really should have tried to keep that part fairly 1:1. It's a bit much, now. 3. Responsive Theme Support that actually works. Thank you. ----- I am not sure how well the Android App works. In the back of my mind, I want to use a Synching Browser that ins't made by Google, but I don't want to install something that will perform badly and suck the life out of my battery like Google's mobile browser. Currently using the Samsung Internet Browser. Does Edge Mobile have Content Blocker support (will probably search this after pressing "Comment," though :-P )? How much work does this Chromium browser do in the background. I see if has that "allow apps to run in the background" setting that I typically turned off in Chrome. Should I turn this off in Edge, as well? THe only extension I use in web browsers are Ad/Content Blockers. ----- I would never use this on macOS/iOS, because of the lack of integration with the host system/services. I'd continue to use Safari there. ----- I like how they handled the update from O.G. Edge to the New Edge.
  • The mobile version is nothing to write home about yet. At least on Android. The menus do a good job of getting out of the way and all, but the rest of the UI is bland and the scrolling performance is laggy. Chrome still just feels much snappier. Hopefully this changes.
  • I see Tracking Protection isn't on the Mobile Version yet, so I won't bother. I think I will stick with Samsung Internet for the Security Features (i.e. Samsung Pass/Samsung Pay Integration, etc. - basically the same reason I'd avoid Edge on macOS/iOS).
  • The Samsung Internet browser generally sucks though. Firefox Preview FTW.
  • Actually, Samsung's browser is one of the better Mobile browser's out there. It's generally very well regarded, and they've made it available on other phones for that very reason. Practically everyone likes it, and it is quite efficient - at least on their phones..
  • Edge for Android is still needs alot to improve further. The UI did change but feels not as fluid as Chrome does, for example when going to Tabs view, there is literally no animation. In Chrome, tabs became stack of cards and you can even switch tabs using slide gesture, something Edge Android does not have. This keeps me using Edge in Android unfortunately. It just feels like not as polished as Chrome app. I find the UI to be better in Chrome than Edge in Android. Especially when using the Chrome Flag "Chrome Duet" where there is a search/address bar button at the bottom of the screen, which makes it similar to old Edge/IE in Windows Phone/W10M. New Edge in Android despite having bottom bar, there is no way to reach the addressbar without reaching the top.
  • I found the same. Other than adding support for the New Edge Desktop App I suspect it's just the same app that was built to go alongside the old Edge Desktop App.
  • I was really optimistic about the new Edge (and still am), but I have found the Firefox experience the most seamless among google-free options. Rock solid sync between mobile and desktop across multitude of devices and a very privacy-centric approach overall.
  • Firefox is yet another account to get things Synching. Edge uses the Microsoft Account I already have. So, not so seamless if I have to clutter my life with yet another internet account just to use Firefox across devices. The whole point of not using Google Chrome is so that I don't have to maintain a Google Account just for Synching things across machines, when I get rid of my Android phone and go back to the iPhone later this year. At that point, I will just delete the Google Account, since it only exists for Play Store, etc. anyways (I don't use Google Services - the device necessitates the account exist). Going to Firefox would just put me right back in the same situation. I'm pretty adamant about not creating more internet accounts than necessary - especially those that touch sensitive data (passwords, browser history, etc.). Frankly, I trust Microsoft a lot more than Mozilla to safeguard that kind of data.
  • Netscape running on a 166 machine with 1GB of ram is way faster than the original Edge,
  • Really enjoy using the new Edge based on Chromium. @ZacBowden - when you said that Edge "isn't the most privacy-focused browser in the world", what would you consider that browser to be these days? Thanks for the input!
  • I believe Brave is the most privacy-focused.
  • Tor-Browser is the most private and secure web browser
  • Brave, and Firefox has a separate browser that's all about privacy too.
  • It is Chrome. That is like saying the Toyota FRS rivals the Subaru BRZ!
  • No one gets this reference.
  • Hint: they are the same exact car with different sheet metal. The engine and frame are nearly identical. Edge is no longer a Chrome competitor. It is Chrome. They are both based on the same engine with some feature and aesthetic differences. Does Microsoft expect it to rival Chrome, or do they just want a cheap default to throw in Windows?
  • Ahh, the smartest guy in the room syndrome, in full effect. Most probably understood your point based on the context but using an obscure analogy most wouldn't understand is odd as it contradicts the purpose. Are you genuinely trying to add to the discussion? Or are you compensating for deep-seated insecurities by trying to impress folks with your vast knowledge of everything?
  • The Toyota/Subaru thing seemed like the most recent example of this situation. Sorry. Badge engineering seems to be more rare these days. It just seems silly to think that Microsoft wanted a rival for Chrome. It seems more like a "if you can't beat them, join them" situation. I doubt Microsoft has any hopes that Edge will take market from Chrome. The Blink rendering engine will certainly improve Edge, but I don't think the rendering engine was really the cause of Microsoft's browser failure.
  • Yup, I think that's the reason, too, especially if MS is all-in on PWA.
  • I don't know how someone who visits a tech site on a daily basis can be this technologically illiterate.
  • See below. Chrome and Edge now only have superficial differences.
  • @bleached: "Edge is no longer a Chrome competitor. It is Chrome." Uh... Collections? Install this site as an app? Tracking prevention? MS Account integration (which is very helpful in the enterprise with Office 365 btw)? And probably Timeline support soon?
  • I mean, you can install as an app in Chrome too, it's just in a different menu
  • No, it's not.
  • Almost a perfect metaphor. Both browsers have the same base and engine with just superficial differences.
  • Yep. That's basically it. To be technically correct, though, Edge is Chromium, not Chrome. Chrome is also Chromium. I guess Edge would be Chrome if it had all of Google's stuff in it.
  • Google's rounded corners are horrible. It looks like going fifteen years back in time.
    Long life to Metro UI.
  • Couldn't agree more. The UI of original Edge is great, really well thought through. This new Edge, like all things Google, is a visual mess. Looks like something from the Windows XP era.
  • Plase, make a tutorial for "How to use IE Mode"
  • 3billion Android devices chrome preinstalled, hard for Microsoft to market share
  • The new Edge logo looks like a Tide pod.
  • It makes sense cause it looks like a wave. Which is kind of apt when you think about Surfing the Web. I approve.
  • It looks more like a hybrid of the Edge
    browser and Chromium logo designs.
  • LOL - So pretty... I want to eat it.
  • I am really surprised extension and history sync didn't make it to the release version. Seeing how seamlessly Firefox (or Vivaldi or other browsers do this) it doesn't sound like something