Alert: this is not a review of Windows 8 in any shape or form, it’s my first impression of Microsoft’s latest and greatest operating system.
I installed it on a homemade desktop I have for the occasional gaming session. I used to use this desktop for audio editing work but now it’s sitting almost exclusively for the occasional game I play. It’s been running Windows 7 since I built it and I’ve always been fairly impressed with the speed and quality of Windows 7. In terms of installation Windows 8 isn’t pain free but bear in mind most people will buy a computer with Windows 8 and never have to worry about this process.
I didn’t leave Windows 8 for very long to install but when I returned I was greeted with a desktop I’ve never experienced. The new Windows desktop is quite a sight to behold, the live tiles are pretty fantastic with useful information on your desktop and easy access to your software. It’s here where things got a bit weird. Bear in mind I upgraded over Windows 7 so I had a lot of apps and configuration already on the computer.
I say things got a bit weird because I clicked on Google Chrome (a shortcut on the home screen automatically created) and I got dropped into a desktop mode that looked exactly like Windows 7 without a start button. I was fortunately shown how to find a way back to the home screen (Metro or now called Modern UI) at the Windows 8 launch (move to the top right of the screen) so I could get back and fiddle with some of the built in apps such as maps, the Windows store and the really impressive stocks app. Windows 8 apps have adopted a sideways scrolling approach, I really like it but it’s here where it dawned on me the problem with Windows 8: it’s built for touch.
You see the logic of these “Modern UI” apps is to be swiped left and right and to easily return to that Modern UI desktop by pushing a home style button on a tablet. It’s an amazing looking desktop with a wide array of useful information at your fingertips and new users on tablets or touch enabled devices are going to love it. It’s a great move by Microsoft and on the laptop with detachable tablet/screen I played with it was a brilliant experience. With my keyboard and mouse, it’s just a little odd. Moving your mouse to the scrollbar at the bottom of the screen to move left and right isn’t a great user experience and is nowhere near as intuitive as touch. As an aside, the store currently is very confusing to find useful apps. Right now it’s discovery via serendipity and still needs some work.
Gamers will hate the schizophrenic interface changes between Modern UI and the more traditional desktop. Office workers may bemoan the lack of start button (top tip push the Windows key on your keyboard) but as a whole I think the changes of live information will be more beneficial for them than before. You can also pin apps such as Word and Excel to the Modern UI desktop so this might solve many problems with accessibility. The real winners here are your parents, the people with very little computer knowledge are going to be enthralled by the changes, easy accessibility when using touch and a fairly wide range of apps for them to download. Combine Windows 8 with a slate format, you’ve got a great operating system on your hands. I really like what Microsoft have done with the smaller things: the default font and the look of fullscreen apps are great and it loads really quickly.
Is Windows 8 perfect? Most definitely not. Is it better than Windows 7 though? It depends, are you a hardcore gamer then no. If you’re on a desktop with a keyboard and mouse then maybe wait. If you’ve got a laptop with a touchpad or a tablet then go for it.
Still not convinced? Lifehacker has a bunch of great new Windows 8 features here