Microsoft Windows 8

Score

Pros

  • Finally plays nice with touch
  • Has its own style
  • Maintains desktop environment
  • Great performance even on old hardware

Cons

  • Needs touch to come into its own
  • The cohesion is broken when running older software
  • Its visual style won’t be for everyone
  • Doesn’t offer as good a desktop experience as Win7
  • Its multitude of ways to do things may confuse

Key Features

  • Review Price: £24.99

Love

it or hate it, there’s no denying that Windows 8 is Microsoft’s most

revolutionary OS since Windows 95. Not only has the interface been

completely overhauled for a tile-based approach that favours touch, but

the underlying architecture has seen a major revision too, most notably

with Windows RT for ARM. The question is, is it any good?


Wondering

which Windows 8 device to get? Have a read of our

Best Windows 8 Laptops, Tablets, Convertibles and PCs roundup


(u)Windows 8 Part 1: X86
(/u)


Windows 8 Versions and Differences with Windows RT

In

the first part of our Windows 8 review, we’ll be looking at the X86

version. This is, essentially, the one you’ll upgrade your Windows 7

desktop PC or laptop to. It’s the one that you’ll find on Microsoft’s

own Surface Pro tablet and many competitors, whether they’re running on

AMD or Intel processors. Crucially, it’s the one you’ll be able to

install all your existing software on, and have a reasonable chance of

expecting it to work.

SEE ALSO: Windows 10 Review


Windows 8 10

Under

the Windows 8 for X86 umbrella, you’ll find ‘vanilla’ Windows 8,

Windows 8 Pro (the equivalent to Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate)

and Windows 8 Enterprise (the business solution). All of these come in

32-bit and 64-bit versions, just like Windows 7 did.

Questions about Windows 8? Check out our Win 8 Launch Guide FAQs

You may also notice an ‘N’ edition, as in Windows 8 Pro N. This is basically a version which has had Windows Media Player stripped out to comply with EU regulations, and it would appear Microsoft is pricing Win 8 N higher so that most people won’t opt to go this route. To be honest, moral connotations aside it makes little sense to do so regardless.

As

it is exclusively for ARM systems like the Tegra 3 innards of many

high-end smartphones and Android/iOS tablets, Windows ‘8’ RT is not

available for your PC. In fact, it’s not even available for your ARM

phone/tablet, as Microsoft is currently restricting RT to manufacturer

installs, on systems specifically designed to meet its requirements.


Windows 8 Versions

Windows RT looks and feels quite similar to its X86 cousin and syncs nicely

with it, but doesn’t offer the Windows 7-like desktop compatibility with ‘legacy’ software you

get in Windows 8 X86. The other major difference is that RT comes with a

version of Microsoft Office, while on the regular Windows 8 it remains

an extra that you need to purchase separately.

Hopefully this clears up any confusion between Microsoft’s Windows 8 and Windows RT.


Windows 8 system requirements

Minimum

requirements for Win 8 are low, in fact almost identical to Windows 7.

All you need to get going with the 32-bit edition is a 1GHz CPU, 1GB of

RAM, 16GB of storage and a graphics card that supports DirectX 9 (that’s

most of them).

Obviously,

to get the most out of Microsoft’s new OS there are a few additional

requirements. Most crucially, to use Windows 8’s new tile interface

(formerly known as Metro), you’ll require touch. Whether this is through

a touch screen or monitor, gesture-enabled trackpad or even a

touch-enabled Wacom tablet, you’ll need something to let your fingers

interact with the OS.


Windows 8 8

To

enable the Windows Store and to run certain apps, you’ll need internet

access and a minimum screen resolution of 1,024 x 768 (in other words,

your average netbook with a screen res of 1,204 x 600 won’t cut it). To

‘snap’ apps – which refers to automatically resizing two Metro-style

apps to view them on the same screen simultaneously – that resolution

requirement is upped to a minimum of 1,366 x 768.

Just

to check that Microsoft wasn’t being too ‘optimistic’ with its minimum

requirements, we installed Windows 8 on an old netbook with an N270

1.6GHz Atom backed by 2GB of RAM, and Win 8 was perfectly usable. In

fact, we couldn’t help but notice that it provided a smoother experience

than Win 7 on the same machine, even though the latest and greatest

Microsoft OS is supposed to be a little harder on the old graphics card.


Windows 8 14

Still,

if you combine a weak CPU like this with the 1GB of RAM minimum, you’ll

run into trouble quickly. To get the most out of Windows 8, we would

recommend a speedy Core 2 Duo or dual-core AMD equivalent with 2GB of

RAM as your minimum, but that counted double for Windows 7 so it’s a

definite feather in Win 8’s virtual cap.