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Review: Windows 10 Anniversary Update fails to excite

Woody Leonhard | July 25, 2016
The new upgrade introduces small improvements across the board, but nothing to sway Windows 7 stalwarts

As Microsoft's premier Universal Windows Platform app, Edge should be a shining example of how great Universal apps can be. Instead, we're given a default browser that, even a year after its first release, can't do many of the things some browsers have done for years -- such as a closed tab list, mute button, profiles. The taskbar icon doesn't show all tabs. It's still ridiculously difficult to change search engines. Settings options go on for pane after pane. We've seen a lot of promises for Edge over the years, but progress has been slow.

Edge continues to suffer from the same security holes that plague Internet Explorer. Nearly every month we see security patches that apply to both IE and Edge. Security holes in IE are so common that most folks are inured to their appearance. Edge, as the new kid on the block, should be much more secure.

That said, I remain optimistic that the Edge developers will ultimately deliver a better browser. The ability to identify "non-essential" Flash garbage on a page and throttle it rates as a first-class improvement, and I expect many more good things are still to come. But I can't recommend Edge to anyone until more of those good things arrive.

Ready for Action Center

Microsoft's new, improved notification pane (dubbed the "Action Center") represents a major makeover, which brings Windows 10 notifications up to the level you would expect on any modern smartphone.

Plus, Cortana can now throw notifications, so your appointments will generally appear at the top of the Action Center. You can choose from several new Quick Actions tiles at the bottom of the notification pane. Unfortunately, you can't drag to move a tile or right-click to add or delete one; you have to go to Start > Settings > System > Notifications & Actions and work with a template to change the icons.

Hello security

Microsoft bills Windows 10 Anniversary Update as "the most secure Windows yet," and there's no doubt it's true. Anniversary Update introduces new hardware-based isolation, which uses virtualization extensions to protect the operating system and data against attacks. Other new "pre-breach defenses" include sandboxing in the Edge browser, isolating Flash from the browser, and new techniques in Windows Defender to protect against malware.

Microsoft is also working to replace passwords in Windows 10 with biometric authentication via Windows Hello. For those who have sufficiently capable fingerprint readers, the Windows Hello fingerprint scanner works well enough -- arguably on par with similar scanners for Apple and Android devices.

That isn't a new feature in the Anniversary Update, but it's becoming more common. We're promised "instant access to paired apps and protected websites on Microsoft Edge," but I haven't seen that in action yet. I can say that fingerprint verification with LastPass on Android and iOS works wonderfully.

 

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