by Bill Snyder

Microsoft Edge more power efficient than rivals? Not so fast …

Jun 23, 2016
Consumer Electronics

Microsoft says Edge is far more power efficient than rival browsers, based on its own tests, but Opera, Google and Mozilla quickly offered responses to the contrary.

Microsoft this week launched a PR blitz aimed at convincing consumers that its Edge browser uses less power than any of its rivals, and the company offered an impressive array of measurements to back up the claim. But do Microsoft’s metrics stand up to scrutiny? Not necessarily …

Having covered the tech world for decades, I know that nothing is more subject to fudging than product tests conducted by the companies that make the products. Microsoft isn’t necessarily doing anything underhanded, but consumers should always views such claims with skepticism. No independent proof that Edge is as efficient as Microsoft says is currently available.

Not so long ago, serious publications like PCWorld magazine (where I worked for a number of years) spent a good deal of money maintaining independent labs designed specifically for independent product testing. However, tech publishing today is a shadow of what it once was, and it’s tough to find unbiased tests these days.

The Windows 10 OS and its Edge browser are still relatively new, and Microsoft is doing everything it can to drive awareness and adoption. It’s not tough to find widespread complaints about the pressure Microsoft applied to users to motivate them to upgrade to its new OS, and it should come as no surprise that the company decided to roll out a campaign designed to boost Edge credibility.

Opera, Google and Firefox fire back at Microsoft browser boast

Microsoft’s rivals had some interesting thoughts on its Edge claims.

For example, the developers of the Opera browser, which Microsoft said uses about a third more power than Edge, posted their own test results, which claim that Opera is 22 percent more efficient than Edge and 35 percent stingier on power than Chrome.

A Google spokesman said via email, “[W]e’ve made significant improvements to [Chrome’s] power consumption in the past few releases, and it’s an area of continued focus and investment.  Since the beginning of the year, we’ve made a 33 percent improvement in video playback GPU/CPU power consumption on Windows 10.”

Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, issued a similar, but less specific claim: “We are confident that Firefox on average performs very well on Windows 10 devices, performance that will actually be improving dramatically as we roll out new features over the next few months at the core of the Firefox technology stack.”

It’s easy to argue about these type of performance results, because so many variables affect battery life. Microsoft ran the browser tests on its own Surface Book, while Opera used a Lenovo Yoga 500, for example. Does the different PC hardware matter? It very well might.

Frankly, Edge’s relative efficiency is not the most important issue users should consider. Today Edge simply feels unfinished. It is getting better and will probably improve some more when a new version ships with the next iteration of Windows 10, called Redstone, which is expected later this summer.

For now, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.