In what seems like forever ago, Microsoft’s Project Spartan was announced at the January 21st event in Redmond. This project kept the same rendering engine, Trident, and ECMAScript (JavaScript) engine, Chakra, as Internet Explorer, but stripped out much of the old code for backwards compatibility and moved forward with a push towards better performance and web standards support. I took a look at the performance of Project Spartan back in January when it could be enabled inside of Internet Explorer. The performance jump from Internet Explorer was extremely large, which was a good indication of what was to come.

Moving forward, Project Spartan got a name in Microsoft Edge back at Build. Over the last several months, Microsoft has put out quite a bit of information on the new features they are adding to Edge over on the Microsoft Edge Dev Blog including support for the latest ECMAScript standards, asm.js, SIMD support, and much more, all in an effort to bring their browser up to par for the modern web. It is likely not a surprise to many that Internet Explorer has had a tremendously long development cycle, especially compared to browsers like Chrome, and now Firefox, which are updated almost continuously. Some of that was due to the reliance of old features which were used in businesses, and Microsoft’s strong adoption in the enterprise has certainly held them back when it comes to large scale changes to the browser. Internet Explorer will be sticking around for those who need it (for example if you need ActiveX Controls on your page) but for the rest of Windows users, Microsoft Edge will now be the new default browser out of the box.

I’ve gone over some of this in the past, but it is likely worth a refresher anyway. Edge is bringing some new features such as integrated Cortana support built right into the browser to offer contextual search within a web page, or to offer answers to questions right in the address bar. It will also have support for annotation of web pages using a pen, mouse, or touch, and annotated pages can easily be shared. It has a reading view, a reading list, and while not available next week when Windows 10 ships, it will be gaining extension support very similar to Google Chrome to add even more functionality to the browser. This, combined with better web standards support, and a much quicker update cadence (this will have to be proven by Microsoft after release, but they have committed to quicker updates of Edge through the Windows Store) should result in a much better browsing experience than was available in Internet Explorer. If you have already switched from IE to Chrome, Firefox, or another browser, it may not be enough to sway you back – especially without extension support at launch – but it is at least worth a look. I’ll get more into my takes on Edge in our Windows 10 review.

For now, what we can examine is browser performance, not only because it is important, but because Microsoft has been making a lot of statements about improved performance of Edge as recently as last week when Windows 10 Build 10240 was released. When a company says a product is “blazing fast” it is a good idea to check it out to see if it actually lives up to that performance level.

Luckily I did run numbers in January on my desktop which features an Intel Core i7-860 processor. None of the hardware has changed, so I decided to re-run the tests with the latest version of all of the browsers. I kept the original numbers for IE 11, but I did re-run the tests to verify that they did not change.

Browser Performance - Core i7-860
Benchmark IE 11 (Jan) Spartan (Jan) Edge 20 (July) Chrome 40 (Jan) Chrome 43 (July) Firefox 35 (Jan) Firefox 39 (July)
Sunspider (lower is better) 149.7ms 144.6ms 133.4ms 260.9ms 247.5ms 220.1ms 234.6ms
Octane 2.0 (higher is better) 9861 17928 22278 17474 19407 16508 19012
Kraken 1.1 (lower is better) 3781.2ms 2077.5ms 1797.9ms 1992.8ms 1618.7ms 1760.4ms 1645.5ms
WebXPRT (higher is better) 913 1083 1132 1251 1443 1345 1529
Oort Online (higher is better) 1990 2170 5470 5370 7620 3900 7670*
HTML5Test (higher is better) 339 344 402 511 526 449 467

In every single instance, Microsoft Edge outperformed Project Spartan from back in January which is a good sign. It is the quickest browser in Google’s Octane 2.0 benchmark, and by a good margin. It is still the slowest in WebXPRT 2013 though. One of the biggest improvements though was the WebGL performance in the Oort Online benchmark, which went from terrible to good.

The other browsers have not been sitting idle though, and in that time they have also made gains in their performance. But the story is still a good one for Edge. It really is right up there with the rest of the browsers in terms of performance. It is quicker in some workloads, and slower in others, but generally performance should not be an issue. It still falls behind in the HTML5 test, but it has made big improvements there as well.

One thing that did pop out though is how much of a gain Firefox made in the WebGL test. Firefox went from middle of the pack to leading in the overall score, but if you noticed in the table I had to put an asterisk beside its score. The performance was quite good, but it achieved this performance by not rendering the scene correctly at all which contributed to its high score. In Oort Online’s benchmark, there is a snow scene, which Firefox rendered as blinking lights, and a rain scene, which was rendered as a couple of horizontal lines as seen in this screenshot.

Firefox Rain Rendering (Incorrect)

Edge Rain Rendering (Correct)

It is great to see Microsoft focusing on browser performance again, and especially not sitting idle since January, since the competition in this space has not been idle either. Only time will tell how Edge holds up over time, and if it continues to receive updates on a quicker cadence, but considering it is already at version 20.10240.16384.0, it does appear that Microsoft has jumped on the rapid release cycle with regards to their browser, which will only help them moving forward.

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  • freeskier93 - Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - link

    I'm not sure your example there is "basic core functionality". I've never once in my life used "save target as", never even knew that existed.
  • jhoff80 - Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - link

    Just one example of many. You also can't: drag and drop files, 'paste and go', open text URLs via the right click menu like some browsers allow, choose a file save location, swipe forward or back on a tablet, right click on the back button to see recent history, delete a mistyped URL from your history from the address bar, and so on and so forth.

    The Edge UI just isn't ready. Like I said, they should've kept going with the Edge engine within the IE interface for now, and only release Edge when it's not missing the basics. As it is now, people won't ever give it a second look. The whole point of the rebranding is to distance Microsoft's browser from being thought of in public opinion as terrible. Releasing an unfinished browser under the new name ruins any opportunity they have to start fresh.
  • WorldWithoutMadness - Wednesday, July 22, 2015 - link

    Huh, you can't swipe forward/back history? IE can do that in metro mode.
    Typical MS, always missing the core functions.
  • jhoff80 - Wednesday, July 22, 2015 - link

    Yeah, page rendering aside, Metro IE is a million times better as a tablet browser (and personally, I even prefer it with a keyboard/mouse too).
  • DracheMitch - Wednesday, July 22, 2015 - link

    You're being ridiculous. The features you're claiming are not present on one browser, but you're expecting all of them to be present on Edge. Edge has features other browsers do not: inking, digital assistant integration, results from the input bar, dark mode, to name just a few. Swiping forward and backwards is a fucking nuisance on a tablet, because I can't scroll a web page without it trying to fuck with my navigation, and there's no way to turn it off. And drag and drop of files works on Edge, dunno what you're on about.
  • jhoff80 - Wednesday, July 22, 2015 - link

    Drag and drop still doesn't work for me, but I'm willing to accept that maybe that is a bug.

    And I have no idea what you're talking about, those are almost all things that are possible in IE11 with the exception of highlighting and opening a text link. I can do all of them from Firefox. Edge's extra features aren't things that anyone is going to care about when the basics are missing. Maybe it isn't fair, but that's reality. Microsoft only has one shot here of convincing users to use Edge over Chrome and Firefox, and they're going to blow it on something that isn't anywhere near ready. As I said, they'd have been better off shipping with an IE12 using the Edge engine and only launching Edge when it had a chance of actually convincing people to switch.
  • fokka - Wednesday, July 22, 2015 - link

    i would say saving stuff is a pretty basic feature for a browser.
  • ATLVM - Tuesday, September 22, 2015 - link

    EVERY Browser...
  • Arbie - Saturday, July 25, 2015 - link

    @freeskier93 - I use "save target as" many times every day. Can't believe it would be left out. Wait - this is the company that refused to default word-wrap "on" in Notepad for what... two decades?
  • ATLVM - Tuesday, September 22, 2015 - link

    >>I'm not sure your example there is "basic core functionality". I've never once in my life used "save target as", never even knew that existed. <<

    So you have NEVER downloaded anything or used a download manager troll? Tsk Tsk..

    The point is we can't save as, download, or so much as copy a graphic or do anything other than browse..

    Tell me you haven't done any of that either I suppose. . . .

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