Comparing the Microsoft Edge browser for Mac vs. Apple's Safari, Google's Chrome, and Mozi...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 20
There are solid features in Microsoft's new Mac browser - and significant ones still to come - but for Edge to be a compelling browser for Apple users, it's got to offer you more than you're getting with Apple's own Safari.




On Monday, Microsoft announced that it officially released a test version of Microsoft Edge for the Mac. It's a remarkably, surprisingly solid app even in this pre-launch edition. Even that we already know that its missing a couple of key features, still you can get a feel for whether Microsoft Edge is worth replacing Safari as your main browser.

A key reason that this early version is so robust, though, is the same reason that Microsoft has made this move at all. The company didn't set out to make a Mac browser, it set out to convert its existing PC Edge into using Google's Chromium system. That gets it a solid base that happens to also give it a Mac version.

And it's what makes the Mac version of Microsoft Edge look very like the Mac version of Chrome. If you were thinking of moving from Safari and didn't want to risk a pre-beta developer version of Microsoft Edge, you could download Chrome and you would get pretty much the same feel.

Not measuring specs

This is about how Edge feels in comparison to Safari, it's not about benchmarking or measuring anything. That wouldn't be either fair or even all that useful given how unfinished this release of Edge is.

That said, you can make some broad comparisons that are interesting. For a browser that looks like Chrome, for instance, Microsoft Edge currently takes up around a third less disk space than Google's offer. But then if you're tight on space, Safari is a head-scratching is-that-really-right ten times smaller than Edge.

Safari is also less CPU intensive than either the currently-shipping Chrome or this developer Edge.

We all tend to describe our preferred browser, whichever one it is, as feeling light and responsive and fast compared to the others. The key word there, though, is feeling. If you were checking out Activity Monitor while running these browsers or if you are on a MacBook with little space, you'd unquestionably say that Safari was the lightest.

Microsoft Edge showing AppleInsider's front page.
Microsoft Edge showing AppleInsider's front page.


You're supposed to say that Edge is the fastest. That's a key promise from its Windows version, that Microsoft Edge will be faster than any of them. So far, we're not seeing that. We have no complaints about how quickly it loads any website we tried with it, but we haven't been knocked out either.

That speed, along with the final disk space requirement, is something we'll have to come back to when this ships. There's good reason to hope that a final release will be quicker, but there's also reason to expect that it will be bigger, too, because this version of Edge is missing a couple of features.

What's missing

There's nothing missing that you actually need in a browser, nothing that isn't working. What's missing are some extra features -- but these could be what makes you decide to move to Edge.

Arguably the most appealing is a feature called Collections, which will help you save and organize material that you find on the web. It's going to be like Safari's reading list, but rather than that bookmarking kind of feature, Collections will be a research tool. You'll be able to drag images and text into it, and then share some or all with others.

Less thrilling, but possibly needed for people in corporations, is IE Mode. This will be the whole, horrible, long-forgotten Internet Explorer built into Edge so that, if you need it, you can use in-house sites that require the old standard.

Taste

Even before we get any of these, though, there is a feature that might tempt you away from Safari, and it isn't Bing. While that search engine is, unsurprisingly, promoted on the startup page of Edge, if you scroll down, you also get news. A collection of headlines and stories from Microsoft News is right there in your browser's main page.

Microsoft News is fine. We've compared it before to both Google News and the basic, non-subscription tier of Apple News.

Here it's just a little extra touch, and ultimately it's the little things that make the difference. Features are great, and are also easy to compare, but it's the feel of a piece of software that matters. That's got to be more so with browsers than with just about anything because you will spend so much time using it.

In theory, every browser should render every website perfectly, but you know they don't. This isn't a reason to switch browsers, but it is a reason to always have two on your Mac, and on your Windows box too.

Beyond that, though, every browser does render every website in a different way. The buttons and controls are different and if you're used to seeing a site in Safari, it is noticeably different when you try it in Firefox.

Microsoft Edge displays its settings in a web page.. Separately, you can always see the source code for any site you visit.
Microsoft Edge displays its settings in a web page.. Separately, you can always see the source code for any site you visit.


We would never argue that the color of a button or the shape of a slider is vital, but we will always maintain that overall this look and feel is extraordinarily important.

In which case, the look and feel of Microsoft Edge gives away its origins. This is a very Chrome-like browser, but it's also a rather Windows-like one.

Where every Mac app has its preferences in a separate kind of window, Edge -- and Chrome -- have all their settings on a web page. It looks like a web page, it takes up a tab, it is shown in the main window of the browser. The only difference is that instead of beginning with http:// and being a remote website, it's a local one whose name begins edge://.

You're not very likely to type edge://settings/appearance into your browser tab, but you could.

Maybe if you're a more technically-minded person, maybe if you're spending a lot of time adjusting settings, you'd find that faster and friendlier than clicking through buttons and tabs. And you can easily imagine a situation where you create TextExpander snippets to make entering them fast and convenient.

We did get a peculiar issue when we wanted to search the web having just been in a settings window. Edge attempted to search for "local curry restaurant", but prefixed it with edge:// for no reason that we could fathom -- or, actually, reproduce that often. This is a very early beta, after all.

Safari

This look and feel makes Edge seem about the same as Chrome to us. It's lighter than Firefox, though we just tend to get exasperated by how we launch Firefox because a site isn't working just right in Safari and we have to schlep through its constant updating.

Edge feels more full-featured than Safari, yet that's just an impression we get from how many settings are thrown at us. In another very Windows-like move, Edge comes with choices for how your tabs look and because the options are there, you must be shown them and you must be shown them immediately. Unable to really judge how the different tabs look until we used them in anger, we picked one in a shrug and haven't gone back.

There are more useful, and oddly less in your face, options to set up profiles where your Office 365 account is linked to your browser, but we've muddled through with Outlook online on Safari without issues.

Then Edge, and Chrome, also make more of a meal about downloads. It's as if Safari expects you to download something now and then, where Edge thinks you're in this to do a lot. So where Safari has a download icon, which only appears when you've actually downloaded something, Edge presents a download manager.

To swap or not

Intellectually, we know that it's going to be the forthcoming Collections feature that should sway us. That's the part that has the most use, that makes Microsoft Edge the most different from Safari.

And yet those of us who happen to prefer Safari to, for instance, Chrome, already know that we aren't really that likely to make the move to Edge, either.

It's good that we have the option, though we have to be aware that it's practically an accident of birth that means we get a Mac version of Edge only because there's a Mac version of Google's Chromium system.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,364member
    So yet another browser. Shrug. Still happy on Safari since day one. Never really needed FF Or anything else. Fast enough, consistent, no worries. I have one Safari running on an old machine (used as media server) where Flash is installed. That’s it. A smarter way for collecting snippets from the web might be interesting, though. I’m catching myself with lots of tabs open because I like to save for future “maybe reference”. 
    agilealtitudelollivertoysandmewatto_cobralkrupp
  • Reply 2 of 21
    ajlajl Posts: 103member
    To swap or not. Not.
    lolliverwatto_cobralkrupp
  • Reply 3 of 21
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,463member
    Safari is smaller because it does not bundle in the rendering engine, WebKit. Instead, that engine is installed separately as a system library. 

    Call me AMAZED about what's happening with Microsoft!! They are completely transforming. Open-source, Github, now Chromium... I don't recognize this company! I hope it's not just a wolf in sheep's clothing.

    AND they used the standard Mac app installer instead of their own custom installer. Are you listening Adobe?!?
    IreneWebernetlolliverchasmentropyswatto_cobra1STnTENDERBITS
  • Reply 4 of 21
    IreneWIreneW Posts: 154member
    AND they used the standard Mac app installer instead of their own custom installer. Are you listening Adobe?!?
    Speaking the truth! Do you hear us, Adobe?
    ebernetlollivercornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 21
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,117member
    I have to use IE for my security camera DVR as Edge and everything else don't work. So if I can use just Edge, but go into IE mode and have the software work that way, great. I don't get Security Cameras all about Security, but then relying on OLD, outdated software. I mean really?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 21
    flydogflydog Posts: 279member
    So yet another browser. Shrug. Still happy on Safari since day one. Never really needed FF Or anything else. Fast enough, consistent, no worries. I have one Safari running on an old machine (used as media server) where Flash is installed. That’s it. A smarter way for collecting snippets from the web might be interesting, though. I’m catching myself with lots of tabs open because I like to save for future “maybe reference”. 
    Not another browser.  Edge has been around for years, and it replaced Internet Explorer.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 21
    ebernetebernet Posts: 22member
    flydog said:
    So yet another browser. Shrug. Still happy on Safari since day one. Never really needed FF Or anything else. Fast enough, consistent, no worries. I have one Safari running on an old machine (used as media server) where Flash is installed. That’s it. A smarter way for collecting snippets from the web might be interesting, though. I’m catching myself with lots of tabs open because I like to save for future “maybe reference”. 
    Not another browser.  Edge has been around for years, and it replaced Internet Explorer.
    Maybe on Windows, but not on Mac. There has been no Edge browser nor any browser from Microsoft (for the Mac) since IE left 15 years ago....
    lollivercornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 21
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,463member

    Where every Mac app has its preferences in a separate kind of window, Edge —and Chrome —have all their settings on a web page. It looks like a web page, it takes up a tab, it is shown in the main window of the browser.
    Apple went down the "like a website" road with the Mac App Store, and finally (thankfully!) reversed course with the latest update. Let's hope that this continued trend of web-based interfaces doesn't take away the advantages of a truly native OS interface.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 21
    bestkeptsecretbestkeptsecret Posts: 3,283member
    There is only one reason I use Firefox on the Mac and that is because Safari doesn't open PDFs embedded in other PDFs. I'm not sure if I need a plug-in or something, but I've never managed to get that to work.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 21
    rotateleftbyterotateleftbyte Posts: 1,087member
    After 20+ years of having to use (and develop software for) MS Systems I stopped all that in 2016 when I retired. I have no intention of going back into their camp. Firefox (with addons) is my main browser with Safari for a few selected sites that need to play videos.
    Don't use Google for search either. Startpage is my choice. MS's decision to use google stuff inside Edge shows how much that they have lost the plot.

    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 21
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,531member
    Safari in its more recent incarnations has been all the browser I need and them some. Others, like FF support more "extensions" but I've seen that bog down browser performance too often to really rely on them much. My go-to alternative browser is Brave (on Mac) and DuckDuckGo (on iOS) for the privacy features that are built in, but Safari just ... you know, works. And works very well AFAIC.
    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 21
    vanfrunikenvanfruniken Posts: 258member
    So now Microsoft and Google are colluding in further moves to kill WebKit.
    Google already moved away from WebKit a while ago, with Chrome quietly dominating browser market share, using its search engine and Google login to trick people into setting Chrome as the default browser.
    Google does also understand and has been applying "embrace, extend and extinguish" tactics more fully than Microsoft could ever imagine.
    Too bad Firefox hasn't reached that status, being the logical independent open source alternative of choice. IMHO they have made major unexplainable incompatibility choices and bugs in their product. The fact that Chromium constantly try to counteract other browsers by introducing covert and undocumented incompatibilities of its own, doesn't help either and is very reminiscent of another tactic used earlier by Microsoft for dominating the business computing world.
    pratikindia
  • Reply 13 of 21
    markbyrnmarkbyrn Posts: 608member
    Edge will make a fine tertiary browser right behind Chrome and Firefox.  
  • Reply 14 of 21
    IE mode is one of the best thing about this Edge. Many websites(mostly Govt. and banks) DO NOT support any other browser than IE.It will e a huge help.
  • Reply 15 of 21
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,787member
    coolfactor said:
    AND they used the standard Mac app installer instead of their own custom installer. Are you listening Adobe?!?
    The Adobe Application Manager is much more than just an installer. It is managing dozens of apps plus it offers lots of other content.
  • Reply 16 of 21
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 661member
    Will this app come via the Apple App store? I tend to avoid any apps that don't come through the app store.

  • Reply 17 of 21
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,078member
    IE mode is one of the best thing about this Edge. Many websites(mostly Govt. and banks) DO NOT support any other browser than IE.It will e a huge help.
    That’s bullshit. I use Safari all the time on U.S. government websites like IRS, SSA, Medicare. I’ve haven't had a problem with any .gov website. I live in Illinois and use Safari all the time on Illinois.gov websites like the IDNR (Iliinois Department of Natural Resources), the DMV, my local city and county websites. I’ve never had a problem with any bank either. I’m the treasurer of a small non-profit that is located in Missouri and haven’t any problems accessing Missouri government websites either when filing business registrations and forms.

    Choice is okay for those that want it as long as we don’t EVER revert back to the old days of being forced to use a particular technology for doing something on the Internet.
    edited May 20
  • Reply 18 of 21
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,477member
    For privacy & security I try to stick to Apple -- 100% Apple if I can.

    I don't know if using a non-Apple browser compromises that at all -- but Safari meets my needs, so I stick with it.*   For what I use it for my needs seem to be pretty basic, so I find it unimportant that another browser might have some additional features.   As long as it gets the job done, I'm happy.

    * Except I do occasionally run FireFox on my Mac just to have compatibility and share reading lists with my Windows laptop. 
  • Reply 19 of 21
    Johan42Johan42 Posts: 163member
    WebKit sucks. FireFox best browser.
  • Reply 20 of 21
    My heart aches for a return of Safari for Windows since being unceremoniously dropped by Apple. It was a superb Web-Browser app which worked effortlessly with the Apple Ecosystem. However, like most things Apple, they didn't create enough publicity around Saf4Wins browser launch or expand on future plans for the Browser. Apple love shouting from the rooftops when they release a new, thinner piece of glossy and any Apple customers who "get it" are just hit with insults.
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