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Windows 8 - Positives and Negatives, Worth the Upgrade? and Verdict

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Windows 8 16

Summary

Our Score:

8

Windows 8: Jack of all Touches

It’s almost like, with Windows 8, Microsoft has clobbered together two completely different operating systems. On the one had there’s the traditional Desktop mode, which works and behaves a lot like Windows 7 - except it’s not quite as convenient or as pretty, thanks to its lack of Aero.

While we’re talking negatives, it would have been nice to see native DVD playback and the continued evolution of Media Centre, a half-competent office suite like with the RT version (we’re not asking for Office 2013 to be bundled with Windows 8 X86, but OpenOffice is free after all so surely Microsoft could manage something better than an ad-supported imitation), and more control over the size and colour of tiles.

Windows 8 7

However, on the bright side Windows 8 is noticeably faster than Windows 7, especially on older hardware. Everything from games to power-hungry programs runs just as smoothly as your PC will allow. It can eke out more battery life, great for mobile X86 devices that just don’t run that long away from a socket. It has newer drivers, giving better device support out of the box. It offers better synchronisation both with your other Windows 8 devices and with the cloud. It gives you more advanced, customisable profiles. And it offers a lot more features in many areas.

Windows 8 Loves Tablets

What really makes or break Windows is touch. It was inevitable that Microsoft would end up with a frankenstein OS on its hands, as on the one hand it needed to provide an X86 operating system with a touch-friendly, app-oriented interface for tablets, touch-enabled all-in-one PCs and laptops, while on the other it couldn’t risk completely alienating existing users who were after a more traditional environment sans touch.

Windows 8 3

All this considered, Microsoft has done an admirable job. We only wish it had given us the option to make the Windows 8 Desktop just a little more yet like that of its predecessor, rather than forcing users to employ hacks or third-party software.

Mind you, if you are new to Windows and especially if you’re using a tablet, you’re unlikely to care if you ever see the Desktop. What Windows 8 has done with its new Start screen and tile interface is create an attractive, comprehensive and fairly easy to use touch system that generally works well and does so without obviously stealing its style or ideas from rivals. There might be a slightly steeper learning curve than with Android or iOS, but Windows 8 also offers more potential and many advantages - not least of which is its comprehensive stylus support.

Windows 8: Worth the Upgrade?

So is Windows 8 worth upgrading to if you’re happy with Windows 7? Probably not. But then again, if you’re willing to put a little effort in there’s scant reason not to upgrade, either - especially as Microsoft has confirmed a supremely affordable download upgrade price of a mere £24, or £14 if you’ve bought a new Windows 7 device since the second of June 2012. A full retail 'hard' copy, meanwhile, is likely to set you back around £50.

Windows 8 6

Whether you love or hate Windows 8, a lot will depend on how quickly software companies transfer to using Microsoft’s Windows Store for their products. If a piece of software you really want for your Windows PC isn’t available outside of this delivery system, whether you like the new OS or not becomes somewhat moot.

It’s the same story if you’re thinking of buying another Windows 8 device - whether that’s a smartphone running Windows Phone 8, a tablet running Windows RT, or even another PC or laptop with Windows 8 Pro. Like Apple, Microsoft is creating its own all-encompassing eco-system, and once you’re in...

Verdict

Considering the challenge of making an operating system that would work as well for a tablet or other touch device as your average desktop PC, Microsoft has done an admirable job with Windows 8.

There are times when the complex innards break through its slick tile interface and we could have wished for a little more familiarity in its classical Desktop mode, but these are minor blemishes on what is generally a very slick OS. Throw in the fact that it not only performs every bit as well as Windows 7 but also runs smoother on older machines while potentially increasing battery life, and Windows 8 is a worthy upgrade - though it really does want touch to get the most out of it.

Overall Score

8

Scores In Detail

  • Design 8
  • Features 10
  • Performance 9
  • Usability 8
  • Value 9

Bahkti

March 1, 2012, 2:26 am

Oh dear god, it looks like something from a primary school or creche. Simplistic and childish. How is this supposed to garner support from business users?

nanite2000

March 1, 2012, 11:03 am

"How is this supposed to garner support from business users?"

By continuing to offer a desktop environment just like Windows 7. While the Metro interface is the default interface, there is an option to switch to desktop view.

Microsoft aren't entirely stupid - they know that there are advanced users and casual/novice users. Casual users will love the simple interface, and the fact that all the complicated stuff is hidden (and so will a few tech support agents too I imagine...). Power users (and businesses) can use the desktop view instead, just like they always used to. Everyone's a winner.

simonm

March 1, 2012, 2:41 pm

Although the desktop still lives in Windows 8, Microsoft have no problem forcing changes loathed by their business customer base.

Take the ribbon bar, which lowered the barrier to new and casual users, while leaving lost and frustrated many corporate users with a decade of experience making old Excel do what they wanted.

The ribbon bar is bad design from a human interaction standpoint: the 2-dimensional pattern of icons and text is more difficult to quickly scan than a menu's simple and static vertical list of words (a kind of 'speed reading' we are mostly very good at), and furthermore the ribbon layout changes with the width of the window (in sometimes quite surprising ways), so we tend to end up having to search for the function each time rather than developing muscle memory. And the old, efficient Alt-I + R type shortcuts - while they still work - now lack underlying logic so are hard to learn and remember.

Not yet met a corporate user who liked it (home users, yes; reviewers, yes... but then it looks nice, and makes more of the functionality immediately visible, and reviewers tend to work through the features and play around (going 'with the grain'), in contrast to a task-focused corporate Excel user who might find accomplishing complex project X suddenly got harder).

Nevertheless MS persists and offers no alternative.

Jon Williamson

March 1, 2012, 3:54 pm

@simonm: I am a corporate user of Office who likes the ribbon bar ...
Frequently used functions are obviously easy to find and as you said keyboard shortcuts work. Less frequently used features are now much easier to find and use...

Interfaces develop. Users lag, but we do follow...

Lantic

March 2, 2012, 4:38 pm

One word comes to mind - schizophrenic. Is this O/S trying to do too much, trying to be too many things for too many types of users and for both PC and tablet? It will take something pretty spectacular to pull me away from Win 7 at the moment and I just don't see it yet.

Pbryanw

October 17, 2012, 10:09 pm

I know this probably falls outside the remit of this review, but is there any chance you could give us some numbers like boot time before and after installing Windows 8, file copy time before and after and maybe a single game to compare fps before and after? I know some other sites have done this and I would find it quite useful.

Also, thanks for the in-depth review too.

J4cK1505

October 17, 2012, 10:17 pm

I think what they have attempted to do is a step forward. A universal UI across a range of devices, Xbox, tablet, phone and PC is great, it creates a distinct eco-system.

However, the vast majority of desktop users don't have or want touch control. Traditional win7 desktop mode is preferable for desktop computing. This should have been the default UI for windows 8 on a desktop PC, complete with the start button in the bottom left. By all means the option to switch to the metro shell could have been included within the task bar, giving the user choice and complete control, but to force it on a desktop is poor.

Bottom line, the metro UI for desktops is far to basic, a waste of screen space, un-intuitive - a step backwards in key areas and nothing else I use my PC for, be that web pages, photoshop or word will match this blocky, oversized, shallow UI they are forcing upon us. I think they got it right with win7. I predict Win8 with metro as the lead UI (on desktops) will fail like vista did, although at least Vista became good a few years in.

Metro is good for phones, tablets, and lean back entertainment (Xbox) but not lean forward detailed work we use desktops for.

chromedome

October 17, 2012, 11:39 pm

Your con: "The cohesion is broken when running older software"

Surely this needs to be a 'pro' - this is the whole concept of W8!

Wake up and smell the coffee ;)

Beaky69

October 18, 2012, 1:03 am

@ Bahkti: I agree entirely...it does an air of 'Fisher Price' about it, doesn't it?

Whilst I appreciate & understand the move to touch interfaces on mobile devices, I am at a loss as to how anyone would want such an interface on a desktop machine. I'm a bit OCD when it comes to fingerprints on my desktop monitor, but I doubt many people would want a touch interface in the long term (once the initial novelty has worn off).

Perhaps my scepticism stems from the fact that I'm physically disabled & don't actually have the use of my hands; I can use a keyboard & trackball using a mouth-stick, I can't use a capacitive touchscreen. Although Windows 8 doesn't preclude the use of a keyboard and mouse (yet), Microsoft are definitely taking the OS & programs in another direction.

Windows 8 & its 'Modern' interface is a thinly veiled attempt by Microsoft to push their customers towards Microsoft mobile devices, & it really shouldn't be tolerated. I'm sure MS see Apple raking in the cash from their 'walled garden' ecosystem, and just want the lever their way into a similar revenue stream, any way they can! I'll be staying with Windows 7 for as long as I possibly can! At the moment my only reason for stick with any version of Windows it its support for games. Lets hope Valve succeed in stimulating the Linux gaming market!

Chris01 1

October 18, 2012, 2:21 am

I agree that users usually lag behind new interfaces, but this lag translates to million$. What if some users lag past Windows 8, like some did with Vista or other OSs. I for one, feel really comfortable with Win7 for now. I can hardly find a reason to change to something that different right now.

Martin Daler

October 18, 2012, 2:35 am

@nanitie2000
"By continuing to offer a desktop environment just like Windows 7"

So if I understand, the thing which will persuade business to move from Windows 7 to 8 is that the latter can emulate the former, make it like they never made the switch?

I'm missing something here, I just know it, but can't quite place my finger on it!

Martin Daler

October 18, 2012, 2:48 am

I thought icons were supposed to replace words; intuitive enough to comprehend at a glance, international, and language-free. And yet, ever since, icons all have to have words stuck next to them to, er, tell us what the icons stand for - kind of defeats the point?

Jedibeeftrix

October 18, 2012, 3:34 pm

just tell me one thing:

when will MS backport DirectX 11.1 to Windows 7?

that is all i need to know.

TechVegan

October 18, 2012, 5:48 pm

Thanks for the comment Pbryanw, glad you liked the review.

There is a very good chance, as I was planning to do a lot more features and comparisons in the near future, including a little more in-depth number diving :)
Cheers for the feedback!

TechVegan

October 18, 2012, 5:51 pm

Agree completely J4cK1505 - as I mention in the review, Win8's desktop mode should have been more traditional. But at least with a little modding/fiddling/app-ing it comes close...

TechVegan

October 18, 2012, 5:51 pm

No thanks, I prefer hot chocolate ;)

TechVegan

October 18, 2012, 5:53 pm

Apple has patents on all the intuitive icons ;)

TechVegan

October 18, 2012, 10:11 pm

Amen.
I don't think it's going to happen straight away as it's a way to 'sell' Windows 8 to gamers... Down the line? Probably, but maybe Direct3D 12 will be a Windows 8/RT/Server 2012 exclusive.

Gary

October 26, 2012, 1:57 pm

Installing now. I think this is a real game changer. I have been using iPhone and iTunes for about three years now and cant wait to get away from them. Yes the iphone is great but I use a PC for work and home. And now I am not limited to one hardware manufacturer. All I need now is a new touch-screen monitor for my old PC, any recomendations? Under £150 would be good. Set yourself free!

gdawg304

October 27, 2012, 12:30 am

@J4cK1505 - completely agree on all counts and couldn't put it better myself.

Even if it runs faster on the same hardware (and quite frankly, power-saving isn't a concern on my mains-powered desktop, nor is graphics processing, so I'm quite happy to use Aero - the exclusion of which seems to be given as a major plus in reviews), I wouldn't be interested until there's a patch that allows the user to disable the "Modern UI" and just live with a desktop and Start button, Windows 7 style. Like the saying goes: "The customer is always right".

I can see and applaud Microsoft's effort at a convergent OS, and trying to really attempt something new....but I still won't be purchasing! W7 works just fine thanks. Even if I had a touchscreen monitor (no doubt it'd be 16:9 unlike my Dell U2410) I wouldn't be wanting to stop and wipe oily fingerprints off it every 2 minutes! What's fine for a tablet isn't necessarily fine for a desktop PC.

gdawg304

October 27, 2012, 12:45 am

I'll stick with Windows 7...it's free enough for me (and literally free since I don't have to pay anything since I already have it).

It won't stop me from buying an Android phone.

Not sure you'd get a decent IPS monitor for under £150 (and if you don't want an IPS monitor....once you've had one you never go back to crappy old TN!)

pamdo

November 3, 2012, 9:39 pm

I need to be familiar with Windows 8 so I can offer support to my customers who, if they upgrade their hardware, may find themselves with Windows 8 on their new machines. I tried using the release preview on an old desktop with an AMD Radeon graphics card. I eventually got everything else working bar the graphics card. Even the old soundblaster worked using the Windows XP original software (after all else failed!) but without a driver for the graphics card the resolution on the 22" HD monitor is terrible. How do I know if the retail version will have a native HD driver? AMD don't have one available yet. Ubuntu recognises everything (except the scanner) no problem and it's free!

beamerman

December 14, 2012, 8:24 pm

I really want to like Windows 8 but I just can't. The desktop mode works pretty well but the lack of start button and the charms detract from the experience. The Metro interface is a big disappointment. The apps are all painfully slow to load and underpowered. They need to separate out the two faces of windows so you can sit comfortably in one or the other at your choice.

Mat444

January 23, 2013, 8:15 am

i was struggling to identify the new features in windows 8 at once. It was so annoying to use it when you have no idea of new short keys and tricks to make your work easy. but once you know the short keys and other short cuts its has no many drawbacks in the Win 8 OS..
this is useful to get the short keys and some tips to use in windows 8
http://howdoigetanapp.info/

bri

October 7, 2013, 7:16 pm

good article but please check your spelling. i got got confused on the third paragraph

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