Review: With Windows 8 for a year

Start Screen with Modern UI

You all know of Microsoft’s latest iteration of Windows, Windows 8. Some of you have tried it and either liked it or, personally, dont like it, and some of you haven’t tried it due to, third and most annoying, those who barely used it for a matter of hours or didnt even try it at all and then went and wrote a nasty review on how horrid and incompatible it is. This review is for the later 2.

First, you guys might of noticed the title, and saw i said “year”. You may be going “how can this be? 8 has only been out for a month!”. And youd be wrong. Yes, the retail version has only been out a month, but they were many other “preview” versions released before that dating all the way back to before October 2011. Three to be precise: Developer, Consumer, and Release (DP, CP, and RP). I have used all three, and am now running the retail version.

I am going to cover each version separately  followed by a major consensus of 8 as a whole. So, in Mario’s famous words, “Here we go!”

Hardware Tested:

(DP/CP) HP Mini 110NR(?) Intel Atom 1.6ghz netbook with WIndowsXP (Which crashed, ran Ubuntu and GNOME for a while)

(CP/RP) 6 - 8 year old HP 2gz Single Core 32-bit AMD64 WindowsXP laptop. Safe to say 7 wont run on it.

(Pro) (Current Computer) New Asus X401A (Best Buy Edition) with 2.3ghz Dual Core Intel Pentium, and running Windows 7

(RP) eMachine 1.6ghz Dual Core Intel Celeron Desktop PC with Microsoft Intelimouse (the white, serial connection one with a ball on the bottom!) and Windows Vista Home Premium

Developer Preview (5/10)

Ugh. Bumpy start. But then again, what does one expect from an early beta of a revamped os that is currently geared towards the purpose of getting apps ready for the system? It was my first taste of windows in a while, being a Ubuntu user (and user of the somewhat WebOS reminiscent Gnome3) for over a year. It was okay. At the time it was like someone took Windows 7, made an ugly rendition of the start button (it had a start button instead of a start box at the time), and slapped a knockoff Windows Phone start screen on it in place of the original start menu. It did have its merits though. the charms menu (which changed to a sidebar) was a nice addition, and DP showed Windows 8 had potential. It was no where near ready for primetime. I give it a 5 out of 10, for it has potential and incorporates innovative features, but its not for anyone. This version more closely matches the nasty reviews of today.

Consumer Preview (7/10)

It gets better… A LOT better. This is what you could say was the start of the modern Windows 8 interface. Kudos to MS on such a big improvement on DP in a matter of months. This was the first release to have the charms bar. It was also the first version where the start button is replaced with the current start box that appears upon hovering the mouse in the bottom left corner. It also introduced some of the intuitive mouse gestures, such as swiping down in the left corner to bring up the App Bar and swiping up/down in the right corner to reveal the charms bar. Others included dragging and dropping an app from its very top downwards to close an app, and dragging another app from the App Bar into main view to open it instead. Now, the Windows Desktop side of things had a few difficulties this time. Not all 7 software wanted to run properly this time around. Second Life, for instance, had to be ran as an administrator with compatibility mode set to Windows 7 just to open, and ran slow when it did. This version gets a 7 out of 10, for having major improvements on the (named at the time) Metro side of the OS, but was a bit buggy and lack compatibility on the Desktop side. This version would match the nasty comments of incompatibility with older software.

Release Preview (8.5/10)

And presto! Desktop problems solved (mostly)! Microsoft again made improvements, not only to the OS itself, but this time the First Time Setup (FTS)/Out Of Box Experience (OOBE). The FTS/OOBE had a nicer setup when asking you how to personalize your PC, and offered a wider range of color themes and Start Screen wallpapers. It also introduced stability improvements, and was actually compatible with my Software. It also added the “Snap” view for Metro Apps allowing better app multitasking. It was also, as i recall, the first release to incorporate the new Windows Logo. Overall, an 8.5 out of 10, for being the best of the previews, high application compatibility, and better multitasking. Though it needed some improvement on the built in apps, it was great.

Windows 8 Pro (9/10)

Windows 8 Pro. Also known as the retail edition of Windows 8. This was my first use of 8 on a modern machine, as well as being the choice OS for my first NEW computer in a while. So far, it has more stability improvements, as well as is faster. Reboot takes a while, but when Fast Boot is activated, shutdown is a matter of seconds, and startup? Its on the login before you can count to 10. So major speed improvements. Also, major app improvements. Windows Mail is easy to use, and integrates perfectly with my exchange for my internship. So for those not wanting to get office just for outlook, Mail is a prefect substitute. People Hub is a few features away from being a full fledged built in Social Networking app, and the rest of the built in apps shine brightly. The desktop has improvements too. It completely sheds the Aero look from 7 by 100%, and is quite compatible with my software. It DOES however change the big back and foward arrows from RP to smaller ones, so for tablet users, the desktop just got about 5% less friendly, but for desktop users it saves space. Chrome works nicely in Metro Mode, and IE10 is actually comparable in speed for once. The OOBE/FTS has been improved once again, and now more colors and backgrounds then ever before are available. The snapping feature is *pun intended* …SNAPPIER. And the media apps are way better then Media Player. Location services still need a bit of work (wants to pinpoint me at my ISP’s server its connected to, but thats due to our ISP being odd. Though apple finds me. But dont they see all? I digress…). The app store is expanding, and many of the smaller developers have great apps on the system (Tweetro, coming back as Tweetro+ after original broken by twitter API limits, and 8FIlesInABox,a dropbox client which is great!), not to mention respond quickly to emails and problems. Also, with this version, Metro has been renamed to Modern UI, (most likely over a partner name dispute with MS). Overall, I give it a 9 out of 10. Id give it a ten, but i feel the desktop needs to be made more Modern, to fit in with the Modern UI and to be more tablet friendly. And i feel, personally, that the Desktop should be treated as an actual app, instead of just being hidden, running in the background when you “close” it. Cause im actually using the Apps a lot on my laptop. This blog post is being posted in Chrome (Dev Build) in “Modern UI Mode”. Im listening to music in Music, and IMing my mate on Skype. I only use the desktop when i need to (silverlight video in chrome, VirtualBox to run Win 2k and my Windows 95 software, GIMP 2). I dont like explorer running in the back cause it actually uses a lot of processor memory.But thats my personal opinion. Some IT’s and power users may feel the opposite.

Overall:

For you haters and you Analysts (Here’s looking at you Jakob Nielsen!), your complaints and comments may of been valid for the first to iterations, but they lose some weight in its current form. It can do multiple windows (open desktop > open multiple windows) and its improved extended desktop with duplicated taskbars has been seen as an improvement by some. Overall, Windows 8 is a welcome improvement in my book. its innovation. And isnt that what tech is supposed to do? Innovate?