Published on August 27th, 2012 | by Haseeb Ahmed4
[Review] Windows 8: Is it worth upgrading?
Although Windows 8 is planned for a October 26th launch to the public, Microsoft has sent out the final release to manufacturers. Not only that but it was also made available to download on August 15th to the MSDN & TechNet subscribers. As being an active member of the MSDN I got my hands on the final release of Windows 8, therefore here is a review which should let you know if Windows 8 is worth upgrading or not? I ran Windows 8 on a HP Probook 4530S which packs Intel Core i5 2.8Ghz processor, 6GB RAM, 520GB Hard disk, 1GB AMD Radeon 7470M switchable graphics. Lets go ahead & get started.
Installation & Setup
The new setup of Windows 8 is pretty clean, simplified & only the required information is shown. The overall installation process took around just 23mins in which windows took only 18mins to install and 5mins to setup. While being setup Windows 8 shows your a brief animation which tells you a useful thing or two about the new Windows 8 design. It is followed by Getting Started wizard of Windows 8 in which you link your PC to your Hotmail account & configure several other settings of your new Windows 8 installation.
New Look & Feel
As we all know that Windows 8 has been totally re-imagined from core to the whole user experience and I personally felt that when I started using Windows 8. First of all lets have a look at the new Windows 8 Start Screen.
Unlike previous versions of Microsoft Windows where Desktop used to be the homescreen of the complete operating system, in Windows 8, Start (image below) is the homescreen for the whole operating system. Now, your windows boots to the Start instead of the Desktop and for now there is no way you can change or disable this. In my opinion Windows 8 Start screen is much more useful than Desktop used to be. One of the important aspects of the new Start screen are the Live Tiles. All of your apps can push there notifications to there own Live Tiles pinned onto the Start screen. You can group your Live Tiles into different sections on your Start screen to divide them into different categories like all the gaming live tiles can be in one section, while the development related live tiles could occupy another section & maybe your mostly checked applications could be pinned into the first section of the Start so that there Live data is always visible to you at blink of an eye so that you don’t need to access the application every time to be updated, which in some cases can be very time consuming. Another cool feature of the Start screen is that it is now customizable i.e. you could change the size of your live tiles, you could turn there live feature on or off, you could select a background colour & pattern from different presets.
Another new thing introduced in Windows 8 is the Charm Bar (image below), which can be accessed in two ways. You can access the Charm Bar from almost anywhere within the Operating system by either taking your mouse to the upper or lower left corner of your display or simply pressing Windows key + C. Windows 8 Charm bar allows easy access to five windows features i.e. Search, Share, Start, Devices, Settings. Not only that but Charm bar also displays the current date, time, day, signal & battery strength of your PC. When you choose Search from the Charm bar the Windows Search appears which allows you to search different areas of Windows 8 like Apps, Settings, Files, Mail, Store, etc.
Share feature, which is accessible from the Charm bar allows you to share (if supported) the currently opened news, music or video with friends using other application like Mail, People or etc. Devicesoption displays the list of devices connected to your PC and allows your to perform different options applicable to the devices. What we have noticed is that only Second Screen is the device that shows up there, other devices like mouse or removable disks are not shown there. There must be a good explanation for that, which we have yet to figure.
Last but not the least is the Settingsbutton on the Charm bar. Settings buttons opens the settings menu, in which on top is the list of settings related to the current open app while at the bottom are general settings related to Network, Voulme, Brightness, Notifications, Power, Touch Keyboard and Change PC Settings option which leads to advanced settings.
Another very important & improved feature of the Microsoft Windows 8 is the Desktop. Although it kind of looks & operates the same like it did in previous versions of Windows but many minor tweaks have been added in to make it blend in with the Windows 8 design e.g. all the chrome has now gone and its more towards the Windows 8 design, there is no more Start button on the taskbar now… instead it shows up on the Charm bar, Gadgets have been removed from the Desktop due to Live Tiles serving the purpose on the Start screen and many more minor tweaks.
Multitaskingwithin the Desktop remains pretty much the same but multitasking in between the Desktop & Windows 8 design applications has a whole new way of getting around. To multitask between Desktop and other Windows 8 design applications all you have to do is drag your mouse to the upper left corner of the screen to display the last opened application and switch to it or you can move the mouse to the upper left corner and drag it down a little bit to reveal the complete list of Applications that were previously opened and are still running in the background. Another way of doing this could that that you move your cursor to the lower left corner of the screen to open the start or drag a little bit up from there to reveal the complete list.
From here you can do all kind of stuff like closing other applications, snap the program to the left or right or simply switch to another application. What? Did I just mention Snap? but what is snap? Snap is another cool Windows 8 feature that allows you to multitask in a totally new manner like never before. You could easily snap any Windows 8 design application to the left or right of your desktop or any other current application to view both of them at the same time which is pretty useful when watching a video and reading news or using messenger while working on the desktop or in many other cool fashions you can think of.
Notifications are one of the many new prominent changes which are the part of the Windows 8 design. They are what keep the whole Windows 8 bonded together. Whenever there is a new event, the Windows 8 design applications push a Notification to the screen which appear on the top right corner of your display, when you click them they simply take you to the application & to the new event which occurred. There are a lot of applications that come bundled with Windows 8 and are need to be mentioned here because they kind of add into the core experience of the new Microsoft Windows. Calendar app shows all of your Calendar events synced from different accounts like Hotmail, Google or etc in one place with different colour labels. You can also add new events onto your calendar with a single click to the date you want the event to be added to. Calendar has three display modes i.e. day, week & month events display. Games app shows all the information related to your Xbox Live account like your xbox avatar, friends and profile. It also shows the latest game news, all of the current games you played and the Xbox Achievements you completed, it also shows games that you can buy or download from the Windows or Xbox 360 Game store. Mail app is an email client that supports almost all email accounts. What’s different in Mail & other email clients is that Mail is a native Windows 8 application hence has a pretty live tile too which alerts you whenever you have a new email. Mail is pretty simply and easy to use email client. Messaging app is a messenger that comes packed with Windows 8. Messaging works as a messenger for Hotmail as well as Facebook and it updates the Live Tile and displays Notifications with charming tones when you receive new messages. Music app is not just any music player but instead is is a music player that incorporates the music store with it. It shows your not playing music, latest albums in the music store and also the most populate albums in the music store. People is another new Windows 8 design application that comes packed with Windows 8. People is just like a Contacts application for PC but there is much more to People than just contact. Primary function of the people application is to display contacts from any added Hotmail, Outlook, Google, Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter account but once you add Social Network accounts to People it starts pulling your Notifications & Feeds from those accounts. Photos app is a photo browser for Windows 8. It allows you to browse you photos from your PC, Skydrive, Facebook or Flickr account and see them as a Slideshow if you want to. Store app allows you to buy or download different applications from the Windows store. The bought or downloaded app is automatically installed saving you from the hassle. Whenever an update is available you’ll be notified from the Store Live Tile and updating an application is as easy as clicking. Video app allows you a one click access to your video library, the Spotlight on movies or television serials, movies store or the television store.
Windows 8 has been improved a lot with respect to the User Interface. There are a lot of small changes that we might have missed out because it’s impossible for us to discuss them all, so only the important changes have been focused in this section.
Microsoft has been bragging a lot about the performance improvements in Windows 8 over the last versions of Windows & we must admit that Microsoft was right, at least to some extent. We don’t have any benchmarks because they vary from PC to PC but we can surely let you know how we felt while using Windows 8.
Windows 8 feels a lot more fluid than any previous versions of Windows. Now, animations are a lot more smooth & transitions are more polished. The whole Windows 8 experience now is like a single, suave & unruffled feeling that doesn’t lack a bit in combining the legacy Windows design with the new Windows 8 design. There’s no doubt its a faster operating system because in the time Windows 7 boots and takes you to the login screen; Windows 8 boots and takes you through the login screen, all up and ready to use. Repeated cold boot tests give Windows 8 an average time of 00.0 seconds to boot. Not only that but Windows 8 wakes up from hibernation almost instantly. Microsoft also promises a big performance boost in areas such as better hard disk I/O which would allow faster software installation, better battery management and a few other.
As we said before, Windows 8 over-performs but we can’t avoid mentioning that we noticed that sometimes Windows starts to under-perform without any special reasons. This issue appears very rarely but mostly appears in the Windows 8 design apps where sometime they would randomly crash or when you switch from the Desktop to Windows 8 design apps you would see that for a noticeable time, the app freezes because its still loading in the background. Also sometimes running in the background the Windows 8 design apps automatically close so when you resume back to them they reload and do take some time which would sometimes annoy you, but don’t let this ruin your views about Windows 8 performance because this could be a device dependant issue and we are looking into it.
Windows 8 will be working on the same hardware as Windows 7 did, which is:
- 1 Ghz or more 32/64-bit processor
- 1GB RAM (32-bit) or 2GB RAM (64-bit)
- 16GB Hard Disk Space (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit)
- DirectX 9+ Graphics Device with WDDM 1.0 or higher drivers
- 1024 x 768 resolution for Metro apps & Windows Store, 1366 x 768 resolution for Snapping apps
Summary: Windows 8 is the fist thoughtful attempt to unite computing across all the different types of devices, accounts and clouds in a manner that feels solid. It is definitely an over-performer and introduces a whole new style of modern computing that differentiates it from other operating systems such as Mac, iOS or Android. We do recommend the upgrade to Windows 8 because the speed and security enhancements are alone worth the 3800rs upgrade.