Was Microsoft Edge really ready for prime time?

Over the past few days I’ve made a full switch to Microsoft Edge being rebuilt on top of Chromium, a Google-based solution that you, the consumer, may know as Google Chrome.

Chromium is an open source web browser. As the words “open source” states any individual or entity can fork the code and do whatever they want with the source code. Microsoft decided to ditch away all the efforts they have done for Microsoft Edge and adopt Chromium. Up to this date I feel like they shouldn’t have done this but I completely understand on the why would they head that route. It’s actually quite genius when you think about it.

The first days using the new Microsoft Edge has been…. weird and I have complained about it in the past but this time it has become an on-going nightmare to really keep using it. All the issues starts when I unplug the AC adapter from my laptop… sadly I’ve seen the problem reproduce itself even with the AC adapter plugged and battery setting on Best Performance.

The issues I’ve had so far have been the following:

  • When watching a stream, it might lock-on into a frame. It causes the stream to look like it has frozen, but they audio continues.
  • When you are switching tabs and a video or stream is playing it might go completely black to the point you have to reload the tab.
  • When a video is being played, similarly to the previous problem above, instead of going black it creates colorful noise, not just to the video but the whole screen. If you try to minimize or maximize chrome it might affect your whole screen.
  • If in battery mode, the “smooth scrolling” is completely gone. It’s not like Safari, where you have that sleek user experience whether you are using battery or not… the experience with Microsoft Edge while the battery is in use degrades greatly to the point that it is noticeable to the user. You can see the scrolling around the pages “feels rough”, it loses that smooth slide.
  • And now, that one thing that led me to switch back to Firefox: I am a bilingual person. I know Spanish and English. I use the spellchecker of the browser for both languages… but for Microsoft Edge it literally chokes when clicking on a word it has identified as wrongly written. The behavior? I click on the word, to select the correct spelling… and the browser completely freezes for some time then displays the right context menu. As to why? I have no idea.

These issues, some of them are minor and others are glaring issues… lastly this is a fresh install. A fresh Windows 10 install. I willingly upgraded Microsoft Edge to the new chromium one… and honestly on paper it looks great, and it looks fantastic but was Microsoft Edge ready for prime time? I guess… I would say yes, but no? Maybe not enough time for testing on different laptops/computers?

I would love to come back to it when it’s more stable. I’m not writing Microsoft Edge off. I’m looking for it to mature because I know I WILL become a Microsoft Edge user eventually. Perhaps the right way to being more pro-active is to see how can I help the team test this and report back? Who knows.

GPU woes with the Dell XPS 9500 – A weird case of power saving issues affecting browsers like Microsoft Edge

Recently I’ve become forcedly aware of the existence of an on-going issue with my laptop. This issue, I believe is being caused by the power saving features in the drivers/software side. Or by Windows 10 but I find it hard to believe Windows 10 as an OS would meddle with the driver’s power saving decisions.

I could be wrong. The many times I have been wrong isn’t even funny sadly.

So, to begin with let’s look at the symptoms, they could be the following:

  • It could be a combination of my laptop starts exhibiting colorful noise or black screen while using Microsoft Edge.
  • Or Microsoft Edge video stream goes black while I’m watching a stream on Twitch or YouTube.
  • Or the stream freezes but the audio continue while using Microsoft Edge.
  • Or the while I’m playing a game the screen freezes, but the audio continues.

Honestly, Microsoft Edge has a weird thing going on with the GPU and power saving features more than any of the other browsers. Mozilla Firefox has never exhibited this behavior when it falls back into “Better Battery” profile. I very much doubt Google Chrome is impacted.

This leaves up with the following:

The Power Management features in the Intel and NVIDIA drivers are causing issues. If NVIDIA is set to Optimal Power, the software will do its best if it detects that program or game is idle. It re-uses the same frame, thus it causes the “screen freeze”.

Initially I thought it was just the NVIDIA GPU, but I noticed that the NVIDIA GPU wasn’t being used and it was the built-in GPU (Intel). Now, how these two are managed in modern time I do not know.

All I know is that the screen freezes and a stream going black or showing noise is itself a faulty driver issue. Something that either Intel or NVIDIA must investigate.

I do know that NVIDIA has these issues even on its desktop products. And I like to think that most of the problems are being caused by NVIDIA drivers. But at the same time, I cannot discard that maybe Intel GPU drivers are also wreaking havoc somewhere.

Dell XPS 15 9500 experience so far

Ever since my MacBook Pro gave in and I couldn’t find a proper repair shop for it I had to sell it and look for options that gave me the freedom to open up my hardware and do the repairs myself.

I guess the first thing that I wanted out of a laptop was reliability and good hardware that could push through the things I would do professionally. Most importantly, a laptop that I could open and do the changes or fixes that I wanted without being dependent of the manufacturer.

Honestly, the biggest issue for me on all of this was Apple not haven’t proper repair services where I live. And furthermore, Apple not providing you any options for repair. Their store has no problem shipping you new products to where you live, but when it comes to repair, be ready to struggle a lot.

If you live in the United States this might not even be an issue for you. But those outside the states may run into bigger issues.

Spending two weeks with this laptop has been eye-opening. Like any device it has its pros and cons, but it has so far exceeded my expectations in many areas. The build quality is remarkable for the price. The hardware provided, for the price, feels too much and I’m a bit disappointed in the camera and keyboard quality. But overall, I feel like they nailed all the things they were set out to do with this laptop yet.

It’s a bit awkward that in 2020 there hasn’t been many laptops that have had the formula down of what constitutes a reliable laptop. Manufacturers like Acer leaves much to be desired most of the time. In fact, anybody I have discussed about laptops I just tell them to avoid Acer as a brand altogether. They are poor laptops with bad chassis, cheaps out on almost everything for the price they are asking.

Dell is a bit on the same note with the XPS. The market it as a high-end line, and to be quite honest the hardware in XPS is really good, but they do cheap out on things like the camera or providing a more satisfying keyboard experience. But in terms of having a reliable hardware? I’d say they have nailed it good.

But honestly, what is the perfect laptop? For me, it’s all about balance, but most important a laptop must always be reliable, and with a considerable amount of battery life. If you see that a brand cheaps out on battery, then it’s a brand you might want to skip. A laptop is meant to be portable, always with you. No matter if you are in or out of the house. If a laptop cannot last more than 8-10 hours turned on by just browsing the internet, or having an IDE open, or doing casual usage of it, then it’s not a laptop that’s worth taking a look.

And I feel like it sounds incredibly harsh criteria… maybe. Like, if you are affording this much for a laptop then you must ask yourself if the laptop fits the bill and your belief of what a laptop should be. If a laptop cannot last longer than I expect then the money they are asking is probably not worth it.

If you need to rationalize it into “but, I don’t travel a lot or I don’t use my laptop in a portable scenario” then I guess the first thing I have to say is why bother buying a laptop when you are going to remain stationary in one spot? You might as well just go for a desktop.

Now, this is at the absolute best just a “review”. It’s an opinion, like all reviews out there are opinions once they leave out the realm of hardware specifications where they lay out what makes a laptop technically great.

But the thing is that even if you had the best specifications you can still fail at delivering a good laptop. A device is more than just the components, and by components, I mean more than CPU, RAM, or GPU. Is the fingerprint sensor secure and reliable? Is the display screen crisp, color accurate, and doesn’t flicker or leaves artifacts around?

Is the keyboard good? Is the touchpad great? Are the ports used for USB-C/USB-A/Audio/etc of quality and reliable? There’s a lot more going for a device than just the main components.

And I guess that’s why there’s no perfect laptop out there. You could argue that MacBook could be perfect. And if someone said that to me I would say I disagree with your point of view and say that MacBooks are awful in general because they are overpriced. Apple’s anti-consumerism has forced me to change my mind, and ultimately if you have to depend on the manufacturer for repairs even after out of warranty then you might have to reconsider your point of view. Apple at the end of the day is anti-consumer, an

At the beginning

As someone that spent almost two-three weeks without a laptop I can easily tell you this was one of my most anticipated deliveries of the year. My work literally revolves around working with computers as a programmer. Not having one was very refreshing yet a bit… unsettling at the same time.

The package was very heavy. I would say it was around 8-9 pounds. A black box with the Dell logo imprinted at the front of the box. I felt like a kid in Christmas about to open his gift.

I opened the box and was presented by a very sturdy box that protected the laptop inside. It was packaged similarly to Apple’s MacBook Pro. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did that to just emulate that “premium feeling”. Whatever it is that they get when they open up a laptop. In the box the first thing you could see was, shockingly, the laptop itself wrapped in plastic. I lifted it and saw a black envelope, quite sturdy itself too with some instructions on how to use your new Dell XPS 9500 laptop. Basically, a handbook.

I took out the rest of the cables and proceeded to turn on my Dell XPS 9500. At first, I got scared a bit. I don’t know if it was because it needed to detect power, or I didn’t press the button with a lot of pressure, but it didn’t turn on. I just stared at the black screen like an idiot. I plugged the AC Adapter just in case, and proceeded once again to press on the power button, which is also the fingerprint sensor.

I was greeted by the Dell logo and my heart was relieved to see it turn on.

I proceeded to do all the mundane tasks you do when setting up Windows 10 for the first time. It was a much as you have guessed, a very soulless, heart-crushing, super boring task.

Performance

I wasn’t disappointed about the performance of the Dell XPS 9500. In fact, I would say the CPU could be as 40-50% stronger compared to the old MacBook Pro I had from 2017. It ran games better, it didn’t choke on anything I threw at it.

Honestly in terms of having metrics in this I would just say look at the performance of the CPU for benchmarks. CPU, while important for me, wasn’t the biggest thing I was worried about.

One thing I did notice however was the McAfee was actually impacting the performance of this laptop. I had to uninstall it for the following reasons: Imagine downloading a WordPress plug-in but when you extracted it with Windows 10’s default built-in functionality it would take longer than usual. It turns out that McAfee was the culprit for this. For every little file being decompressed McAfee would be incredibly intrusive about it. Why not let the compressed archive decompress then check the files as they are decompressed? I do not know.

All I know is that the “performance issues” went away when I uninstalled McAfee. And to be honest I’m a BitDefender user and thankfully has never gotten in the way of performance the way McAfee did.

As for performance, the Dell XPS 9500 CPU and NVMe storage are as good as you would expect from modern hardware. It’s speedy, it’s powerful, it’s incredible in its power saving.

Display, Keyboard, and Touchpad

Dell XPS 9500 definitely feels premium in a lot of areas. I went for the FHD model and was a bit troubled that I might end up with a bad display after being used to the Retina Display for so long. It turns out that my worries were for nothing. The Display is sharp and crisp. One of the biggest issue that Microsoft could fix but hasn’t is improving the overall of the text rendering in Windows 10.

It puzzles me to no end, even with ClearType factored in, that the text rendering in Windows is so bad compared to Apple’s macOS or any GNU/Linux distribution. How is it that they get better text support? What has Microsoft done for this? In 1080p the text rendering remains looking extremely pixelated at times.

Applications may at times take the liberty, given if they use hardware-accelerated GPU features provided by the hardware and on the OS-level, to improve the text rendering.

Microsoft really needs to investigate text rendering as a whole. I know they have done big improvements over the year but it feels like it’s not enough.

On the note of the touchpad and keyboard. I am personally not the biggest fan of the keyboard, but it is miles better than whatever the heck Apple was trying to do with its keyboard.

The touchpad is big, but smaller than MacBook’s increased touchpad I believe. If my eyes aren’t deceiving me, hopefully.

Battery

Dell XPS 9500 biggest strength is in the battery. I’m not going to lie, it’s right now one of my favorite things about this laptop. If you are a developer you won’t be disappointed to know that the battery capacity is huge. Personally I went for a FHD model because I knew the UHD 4k display would probably drain the battery faster. However, as I write this, this laptop has been unplugged for more than 14 hours. I have been using Visual Studio Code to work on my project and browse the web.

The image should tell you that even though I set it on Battery Saver an hour ago. It still tells me that I have 5 hours left of usage for this. I have plenty time to keep writing this post right here.

Let’s take for a second a look at our battery report:

And finally the report:

As you can see, I’ve been using this laptop casually and it can easily tell you the interactions I’ve had with the laptop over in the timeline.

Dell XPS 9500 fits the bill for me in many ways. As a tool for professional usage, and for casual usage.

In conclusion

For the price that Dell is asking for this laptop I still feel the need to say that they are asking for a long given the hardware given to us. Dell needs to improve the camera, and Dell needs to include a better display on the lower models. They could have provided everyone UHD displays and I still feel they would have profited.

If InfinityEdge is meant to be spearheading Dell XPS as a product in the future then I think Dell needs commit to the idea that maybe they should uniformly give everyone a premium display for the price they are asking. If you are lowering a bit the CPU/RAM/Storage I can concede you that it’s in my book okay. But don’t cut corners on the XPS just to offer “lower models”.

The Dell XPS 9500 (2020) is an amazing machine. One that I would recommend if you have the money to spend. It’s still better than going for a Surface. You can open this laptop up, make your repairs, and be done with it.

Development Notes #6 Picking things up from a month ago makes me have temporary amnesia

I have adopted the art of Japanese light novel titles in my titles. I have also made the mistake of numbering my development notes so sometimes I forget which number I’m in.

I started picking up the pacing of continuing the development of my product. Not much is known right now but hopefully when I have everything ready I’ll be able to talk much about it.

One of the effects of leaving code for a while is that when you start looking at things again you are a bit “disoriented” you are just looking at your code and wondering “…what was I doing… here?” Turns out that over the years I have learned to be explicit of the things I’m doing. My code isn’t perfect and will never be. I have made peace with that. That however doesn’t stop me from doing the following: to be always explicit of my actions.

If you write clear, explicit code then eventually even if you leave the code for six months it should be less of a struggle versus being implicit and not knowing why you are doing the things you are doing in the code.

It raises a lot of questions both professionally, and on a personal level.

Such as “What the heck was I thinking?” or “Why did I make set these things implicitly?” or “I’m not really clever… this just delayed me for a week.”

Honestly, any thoughts that makes you question your situation is fair.

So honestly, being clever at times is great but if you are clever all the time is it really cleverness or foolishness.