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Grow Your Business Technology

Edge vs. Chrome vs. Firefox: Windows 10 Browser Battle

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Credit: Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock

When it comes to web browsers, users vote with their fingertips. According to the world's net surfers, Google Chrome is the far and away champ, boasting about 50 percent web share, even among Windows 10 users. Its major competitors — Firefox and Edge — don't even come close.

While Firefox continues to improve its interface, performance and security, Microsoft is pushing Edge — created and automatically installed as the default Windows 10 browser — as the best consumer choice. Streamlined, easy to use, Cortana enabled, and sporting recently hatched extensions, Edge is still evolving as Microsoft's flagship consumer browser.

To test speed, I ran each browser through a battery of benchmarks and real-world tests on an HP Spectre x360 convertible running Windows 10 Home, with 8GB RAM on an Intel Core i5 5200U and a clock speed of 2.20-GHZ. I cleared all browser caches and removed all extensions and ran each test at least three times.

Tests are one way — and perhaps not the best way — to judge browser performance. That's because browsers and their underlying operating systems are updated often. Even during testing for this story, Windows 10, Edge and Firefox were updated so that original tests had to be discarded and repeated. By the time you read this, additional updates may have been released. Nonetheless, the benchmarks represent a snapshot in time and can generally assist with overall evaluations.

 

Edge

Chrome

Firefox

Version Number

38.14393.0.0

56.0.2924.76

51.0.1

Google Octane 2.0

24295

23297

23737

JetStream 1.1

169.82

134.13

121.58

HTML5

460

519

471

Basemark Web 3.0

164.4

344.1

226.5

ESPN Load Time

3.41

3.41

3.56

TomsGuide Load Time

3.62

3.86

2.77

Octane 2.0: On the Octane 2 benchmark, which measures JavaScript engine performance, Edge dominated with a score of 25295, the best run according to the recommended testing protocol. Firefox followed with a 23737 score, narrowly edging out Chrome, which registered 23297.

JetStream 1.1: JetStream, a JavaScript benchmark suite, focuses on the most advanced web applications. Again, Edge topped the competition with a score of 169.82, followed by Chrome at 134.13, and Firefox at 121.58.

HTML5 Test: The HTML5 test demonstrates how close a browser comes to aligning with the standard. A perfect score is 555, but the best of the lot went to Chrome, with 519, followed by Firefox at 471, and Edge at 460. A CSS3 test showed a slight variation in the lineup with Firefox scoring 65 percent, followed by Chrome at 55 percent, and Edge trailing at 47 percent.

Basemark Web 3.0: This benchmark features a set of 20 system and graphic tests using the newest web standards and features, measuring functions such as page load and responsiveness, resize and CSS capabilities, and HTML5. Chrome took the lead with a score of 344.1, followed by Firefox with 226.5, with Edge pulling up the rear with 164.4. Edge was the only browser that was unable to run the 3D graphics-focused WebGL 2.0 part of the suite.

Page Load Times (Pingdom speed test): Using Pingdom, I tested how long it took the browsers to display content-rich sites such as Tomsguide.com and ESPN.com, based on an average of three test runs. While the tests got different results, both Edge and Chrome averaged an identical 3.41 seconds on the ESPN test while Firefox was close behind at 3.56 seconds. For the Toms Guide home page (one of our sister websites), Firefox came out ahead at 2.77 seconds, while Edge took 3.62 seconds to render the page, and Chrome came in at a slow 3.86.

Winner: Edge Though results were mixed, Edge generally crunched through benchmark testing with superior results, but tied with Chrome on one test.

Good design is transparent, offering the tools you need in an attractive, interesting and intuitive package. Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are all designed to cram as much functionality into that browser window as possible, hopefully combining utilitarian functions with an elegant exterior. I found these browsers operated nicely within the Windows 10 environment with a right-hand menu bar chock full of features.

Whether you choose to browse in the Light or Dark format, Edge is nimble and uncluttered with simple, squared off tabs at the top. A series of six buttons gives you access to major functions like switch to a Reading View to hide browser ads, add to favorites or a reading list, launch the Web Note utility that lets you annotate pages, a share pane, a hub that gathers your favorites, reading list, history, and downloads. A three-dot More pane gives you access to numerous customizable controls. One big draw is Edge's interoperability with Cortana, which lets the browser interact with the personal search assistant.

Firefox has a streamlined elegance with its rounded, dynamically translucent tabs, and clean, easy navigation. Six buttons line the upper right corner of the window, which, unlike its competitors, has both an address and a search window sharing the top bar. The search window lets you choose which engine to use on a case-by-case basis — which is very cool. From the top of the window, you can easily access downloads, select and edit bookmarks, hide or show a sidebar, navigate to the home page, and save an item to Pocket. A hub of hidden controls lets you zoom, open a new window, access extensions and plug-ins, and control functions like privacy, security, search engines, sync and more. You can keep all default controls visible, swap them or hide them.

Chrome has the least cluttered address bar, tucking most of its functions under the right-hand three-dot button. Clicking on it leads to the history, download, zoom, settings, bookmarks and more. Installing extensions to Chrome makes it highly customizable, but numerous extensions can promote clutter, as many will be visible in the interface. Chrome conveniently lets you access other Google functions like Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.

Winner: Firefox Firefox combines visual charm with a flexible, feature-rich, utilitarian presentation.

There's simply no comparison between the oldest and newest browsers when it comes to customization. Chrome has been around since 2008, so it's not surprising that its list of extensions have been built out and distributed among categories such as Getting Started, New and Updated, Expand your Social Circle, Productivity, and more. In addition to its thousands of extensions, Chrome incorporates its online productivity suite into the browser — you can enable Google Docs, Sheets and Slides on or offline. You can also run extensions in the Incognito private-browsing mode.

You can even check search boxes to narrow down the extension list to find ones that specifically run offline, are free, work with Google Drive or Android, or whatever combination you want. Chrome also features an abundance of add-ons like themes, apps and games from Google and third parties.

Contrast that with Firefox's 1,942 extensions in the Privacy and Security category alone (a category that Chrome lacks), or the 2,574 extensions in the Search Tools category.

As a newer browser, it's not surprising that Edge has way fewer extensions than its competitors — just 22 in all — available from the Microsoft Store. Edge lets you install extensions for Pinterest, privacy, ad blocking, online coupons, the LastPass free password manager and others.

Winner: Chrome This was a difficult choice, but Chrome gets extra credit for its extension connection to its online-offline Google Docs office suite. Firefox gets respect for its Privacy and Security section.

Web standards — the alignment of browser technology with W3C guidelines — is an ongoing challenge for browser companies that want to offer users a unique experience.

I tested browser compatibility with the HTML5 and CSS3 tests. Both tests measure which features the browsers recognize, but not whether they implement them correctly. On the HTML5 test, Chrome did well, scoring 519, while Firefox scored 471. On the CSS3 test, the top browser was Firefox at 65 percent, followed by Chrome at 55 percent. On both tests, Edge did relatively poorly, scoring 460 and 47 percent respectively.

All three browsers support WebGL for rendering interactive 3D graphics, but at varying degrees. On the Oort Online GL benchmark, which measures how well browsers render WebGL graphics and animation, Edge came out on top with a score of 7390, followed by Chrome at 7220, while Firefox trailed at 4010.

Winner: Draw These three benchmark tests saw each browser come out ahead in at least one test.

While it's possible that most people have installed all three of these browsers — why not, they're free — it's also likely that they're being used for different things. If you're using extension heavy Chrome or Firefox for work, you may prefer Edge for a lightweight browsing experience.

Edge's built-in distraction free Reading mode, also featured in Firefox, hits the spot for long form articles, and its Web Notes let you use an inking feature to mark up pages by highlighting in colors, or using a stylus or finger to draw or call attention to images or passages. The feature also lets you share your annotated document.

While most right-click functions in Edge offer the anemic choices of Select all or Print, if the Ask Cortana feature is enabled, more opportunities arise for additional information. Cortana's web interface is unique to Edge, targeting its consumer audience. Whether clicking on a picture, a word or a video, Cortana will spring into action to give you the lowdown, if enough information is available. Another browser convenience allows you to hover over open tabs to preview them without having to open the page.

While all of the browsers have improved security, Firefox's encrypted syncing features let you view bookmarks and settings on any device, letting you resume previous browsing on a different platform, like iOS or Android. Firefox offers a powerful private browsing mode complete with tracking protection to ensure that online trackers cannot observe your movements. The newest version displays a warning when a login page lacks a secure connection. Firefox also prominently features the Pocket bookmarking service for saving web pages. This may not have been your first choice, but the discovery likely benefits many users.

The latest version of Chrome, like Firefox, continues to grind to a halt the use of Adobe Flash player as Google implements its "HTML5 by default" plan. HTML5 is currently the default on Chrome, except for sites that only support Flash, and users get a prompt to enable Flash on their first visit. Like Firefox, Chrome also now flags non-secure websites that lack an HTTPS connection.

Windows 10 Browser Battle

 

Edge

Chrome

Firefox

Design/Ease of Use

   

x

Speed/Performance

x

   

Extensibility

 

x

 

Standards support

x

x

x

Extra Features

 

x

 

Total

2

3

2

Google Chrome retains its crown as the best Windows 10 browser, due to its overall usability, performance, support for web technologies and standards, and minimalist interface that gives you complete freedom to mold your browsing experience to your preferences. New security developments and the push for HTML5 dominance help cement its position. It did not take the top spot on every test, which is encouraging, because it signals competition and improvement in all the browsers, which benefits everyone.

Firefox shines for its elegant design, plethora of add-ons and creative themes, its superior attention to security and privacy, and its respectable performance and adherence to standards. Microsoft seeks to boost the spare, minimalist Edge as the browser of choice for all Windows 10 users — and Edge deserves credit for its performance, security and cool built-in features such as Cortana integration, Reading View and hovering tabs.

Jackie Dove

Jackie is an obsessive, insomniac freelance tech writer and editor in northern California. A wildlife advocate, cat fan, photo app fanatic, and VR/AR/3D aficionado, her specialties include cross-platform hardware and software, art, design, photography, video, and a wide range of creative and productivity apps and systems.