The new Windows 10 browser (once codenamed Project Spartan) has come on leaps and bounds from the early versions. Don't be put off by the logo, which looks quite like the Internet Explorer 'e'. We were a bit surprised by this until someone in the office pointed out that there are millions of Windows users out there who equate that 'e' with 'how I access the internet'. (We know you're not in that category, dear Techradarian).

The default browser for Windows 10 (although naturally you can change this) is most impressive in terms of raw performance. Pages render jaw-droppingly quickly. We're seeing fewer issues rendering complex websites, although if a site uses old technology like Microsoft's own aging Silverlight tech Edge will tell you to open Internet Explorer instead.

The interface keeps adding more features. There's a dark theme and a panel with Favorites, Reading List, Downloads and History, plus you can rip tabs off and browse in private. Forward, back and refresh remain on the title bar, while there are also options to add the current page to your Reading List or Favorites. Dragging files in to upload to a site works. The number of settings is kept deliberately low for simplicity, but you can change various other settings, such as deploying a Favorites bar, configuring the home page and fine-tuning the reading view.

Edge notes

There's a built-in note-taking mode, so you can save and annotate web pages (just not PDFs), plus a reading mode that strips away the content you don't need when reading through an article. In Anniversary Update, you can pin tabs in the browser (though still not to the task bar), and settings like passwords and favorites sync to your other PCs (as long as you use a Microsoft account).

Edge ask Cortana

Cortana is part of Edge. Sometimes you'll see information from Cortana in the address bar, for restaurants and other locations. Or you can select anything and 'Ask Cortana' about what you've highlighted by right clicking. This brings up a sidebar where search results will appear, as well as extra information like coupons or the opening hours for restaurants.

The big new feature for Edge in Anniversary Update is extensions. Essentially these are the same as Firefox and Chrome extensions but Microsoft is taking it slow to make sure extensions don't affect security or performance, so there are only a few to start with: AdBlock, Adblock Plus, Amazon Assistant, Bing Translator, Evernote and OneNote clippers, LastPass, Mouse Gestures, Office Online, Page Analyzer, Pinterest Pin It, Reddit Enhancement Suite, and Save it to Pocket (plus some extensions that aren't in the Store but you can sideload, like uBlock). That goes a long way to making Edge a much more capable and competitive browser.

Edge extensions

Under the hood, Edge has some technical changes that address issues we saw like pages using too much memory (often that's a problem with the way websites are built, but it tended to be worse in Edge than in, say, Chrome). Now sites that are open in background tabs are throttled so their JavaScript tasks run only once per second, and they run at the same time as things Windows is already waking the CPU up for.

That's the technique Windows 7 used to make battery life better applied to individual websites, and it's part of the reason battery life is impressive with Edge compared to Firefox and Chrome. Microsoft has even changed the animation for the Reading Mode button to use fewer resources.

What also helps is that Flash now runs in a separate process – that means Edge can throttle Flash back if it's using too many resources, or restart it without affecting the rest of the page if it crashes. It also means if there's a vulnerability in Flash, attackers don't have as much access to the browser or Windows itself.

Flash controls that aren't the main content on the page are paused by default too.

Edge favourites

Edge is also one of the first apps to take advantage of improvements to the network stack in Anniversary Update. These mean the browser can send fewer messages to get a page downloaded and ask for lost packets more quickly – and both of these mean Windows can turn off Wi-Fi sooner to save battery.

In short, Edge has a lot to offer. It's not finished yet and the power user features are still a little behind, but it's a very standards-compliant browser with mostly excellent browsing speed. You might not pick it as your only browser yet, but you'll want to give it a try.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Contributor

Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site T3.com. Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Contributor

Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.