Intel Inside Microsoft's New Edge Browser

The chip maker contributes some optimizations that help Edge deliver brisk browser performance, high-fidelity visuals and better battery life.

Microsoft Edge browser

Intel's computer processor expertise is being put to work in Microsoft's new Edge Web browser, the successor to Internet Explorer due this summer.

The companies previously collaborated on the Chakra JavaScript engine for Internet Explorer around the Windows 8.1 timeframe, reducing its code size and improving performance in select use cases. For Edge, that partnership continues, revealed the companies.

Edge, formerly Project Spartan, is the new default browser for Microsoft's upcoming Windows 10 operating system. Representing a break from Internet Explorer's past—including ditching ActiveX—Edge is a more streamlined and modern take on Windows Web browsing that includes a stripped-down user interface and Cortana integration.

"As a part of broader collaboration between Intel and Microsoft on Windows 10, Intel engineers are collaborating with us closely to implement [single instruction, multiple data (SIMD)], a future ECMAScript proposal, in Chakra and Microsoft Edge," wrote Microsoft's Rob Hwacinski and Gaurav Seth, principal program manager leads for Edge and Chakra, respectively, along with Juan Rodriguez, an Intel senior principal engineer, in a joint blog posting.

In short, users can expect snappier, more responsive Web experiences with less processor overhead.

"SIMD exploits data level parallelism by utilizing specific SIMD hardware instructions, which are supported in most of the modern chipsets regardless of the architecture types," stated the group. "The SIMD instruction set enables performing the same operation on multiple values simultaneously, thus providing much faster code execution when working on data vectors." Another perk is extended battery life, they said.

Interactive and media-rich sites also stand to gain from the improvements. "SIMD is extremely useful in scenarios like video processing, multimedia, gaming and others. Combined with technologies like asm.js, SIMD could turbocharge and help JavaScript content run at near-native speeds," the bloggers wrote.

SIMD in Chakra and Microsoft Edge is now available in preview. Testers can switch on the optimization by checking the Enable asm.js under the browser's JavaScript options. To experience performance boost firsthand, Microsoft points users to an SIMD Mandelbrot demo from Intel Senior Staff Engineer Peter Jensen that showcases the technology's ability to zoom in and out of a fractal smoothly.

For now, SIMD works under select conditions, though Microsoft plans to expand support across the board as the SIMD ECMAScript gains traction. "While the SIMD JavaScript APIs are available and can be used outside of asm.js scenarios, the performance benefits of SIMD currently accrue and are limited to scenarios that use asm.js running on x86 and x64 hardware," the trio wrote.

SIMD support aside, Intel is also lending a hand with several of the browser's other components. "As an example, Intel recently contributed an optimization to improve navigation (load) time for pages containing several in-line elements, optimizations to reduce DOM [Document Object Model] parse times for text-area elements, and participated in investigations and root cause analysis to improve page load/response times for the Microsoft Edge browser on Windows 10," they reported.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...