IT WAS ONE HELL of a Monday morning. The rain was hammering down with no end in sight, and the usual 'wrong type of rain' and 'leaves on the line' meant that trains from outlying areas into central London were all pretty much stationary.
When I finally got to the office, I dashed to my desk, powered up my system and launched Microsoft Edge - the window to my Office 365-using world.
I was met with a big, blank white window that wouldn't shift, no matter how often I pressed Ctrl+Alt+Delete.
It was the final straw after a year of repeated crashes, hangs, random tab locks followed by forced refreshes, and general slow motion performance that's made anguished cries and keyboard thumps a normal occurrence for those around me.
So after using Edge religiously since Windows 10's launch as an attempt to ‘embed' with the tech I write about, I decided this morning to stop using it entirely.
To summarise: Edge is a system RAM-hogging, glitchy and conflict-causing slice of nonsense, and feels an utterly backward step as a piece of software that's rising scarily up the ‘most used browser' surveys as Windows 10's Updategate takes hold.
I sincerely doubt, as Microsoft coincidentally alleged with 'research' today, that something that eats so much system RAM can outstep other web browsers by quite such a leap. Even if it technically does, it's no use to the majority of ‘normal' computer users.
Microsoft should also cover how much Edge makes systems crash compared with other browsers. Those are stats I'd love to see.
Let's get the inevitable technology conversation out of the way at this point. Yes, I use a fairly low-end PC by today's standards. I still have a Microsoft Surface Pro (the original, ugly, discontinued one with 4GB of RAM and a 1.7GHz i5). I've got well over half my 128GB hard drive empty, so there's plenty of swap space and it's a clean-running system unencumbered by VPN and other background processes.
Except Edge, which is the mother of all background processes. Take a look at this screenshot showing a single instance of Edge running four tabs, one of which is Microsoft Outlook Office 365.
Astonishing, right? The main 'App' process was running about 0.4 per cent of my system memory. The rest was this great lump of wasted resource.
I'm not saying I've been particularly scientific by any means here, but I collected some other viewpoints before writing this piece. My system at home is an i5, but with 8GB of RAM, and I can use Edge for a little longer before it goes up in smoke and crashes something. But it's still unstable and gobbles RAM.
I also consulted another user, in my office's IT department, who runs an i5 at 2.3GHz but with 16GB of RAM. This person doesn't normally use Edge, and was amazed to watch the browser slowly occupy an immense amount of RAM within minutes by simply opening four tabs (Twitter, Amazon, BBC News, Google Search). There was no performance hit due to the other 15GB soaking it up.
So here we perhaps found our answer: Microsoft Edge eats RAM for breakfast and is not suitable for low-end, or arguably even medium-range, PCs.
This is basically unacceptable when Microsoft insists on stealth-upgrading every system till kingdom come onto Windows 10.
I was astonished to find Microsoft selling the Linx 8, a famously cheap 1GB, £80 Windows 8 tablet, at the Windows 10 launch around a year ago. I'd already tried running Windows 10 on this device for daily productivity (Office/Edge - nothing else), and it had crashed and burned within an hour, rebooting constantly and heating up uncomfortably.
Microsoft, what do you want from us?
Microsoft argues that Microsoft Edge gets "more out of your battery" than its peer browsers, but the firm has made this judgement by benchmarking with a Surface Book.
It's the equivalent of punching a rhinoceros in the face then declaring, with the full backing of science, that all four-legged animals in the world can withstand a full-on punch in the face. Including cats, shrews and Paedophryne verrucosa, a frog from Papua New Guinea that's smaller than a penny.
A lot of people do not use super-powered PCs. A lot of people also probably swallow Microsoft's insistence that Windows 10 is better for everyone, and we're all better using the packed-in and recommended new browser.
Don't believe a word of it. It's un-optimised, shaky and seems to suffer from a permanent memory leak.
But as Windows 10 advances it's coming to get you. Let's hope the Anniversary patch, due in a few weeks, does some serious work on Microsoft Edge, otherwise productivity is going to take a serious nosedive, you mark my words. µ
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