Microsoft Windows 8 Review

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 Specifications

  • 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.

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