By Justin Chud, Front Rush
With the release of Windows 8 last month, many consumers’ curiosity has piqued as to whether we can expect another Vista blunder by Microsoft or something spectacular. Microsoft’s new advertising campaign seems to suggest the latter, however, the reality falls somewhere in-between. All comparisons to previous versions of Windows will be made against the Windows 7 OS. I will attempt to break down the ins and outs of this new operating system as your average consumer would use it.
Disclaimer: I have been using Windows 8 for about 2 months now. This review is based on all updates released by Microsoft as of 1/20/2013. It is very possible that any function, performance, or usability that I discuss in the review will be altered, even drastically, in the future by Microsoft.
Updating from Windows 7 did take quite some time. From the moment the update button was pushed until the system was fully functional again lasted about 3 hours. Beware however, as many applications you have may not be supported in Windows 8, so they will have to be reinstalled once the update is complete. To Window’s credit though, it did a very nice job of clearly and appropriately laying out which programs would need to be reinstalled and how to reinstall them once Windows 8 is live.
First Impression, Functionality, and Performance
Windows 8 does a great job with one of the first things any computer user will take note of: startup time. The startup time generally does not take more than a minute, which includes the standard “lag” time. Computers usually take a while to boot up, display the desktop, and get the system loaded and functional.
The amazing start up time gives the user a flavor of greatness, only to leave a sour taste when you really begin to use the operating system. The biggest gripe I have with Windows 8 is that many programs, including Microsoft’s in-house programs (Office), have a noticeable lag time when using them for even routine tasks. Many programs seem to run more smoothly and efficiently in Windows 7. At times Windows will freeze when doing the most basic tasks (i.e. opening the notepad) and will manually quit the program. These issues, however, should (and I can’t stress “should” enough) be addressed with updates in the future when Microsoft analyzes system reports from their users.
Another issue with Windows 8 is accessibility to the hard drive. Deciding to remove the start button, Microsoft has created an entire start screen with the purpose of taking over all functions previously accessed through the start button. The screen is set up “grid style” with different sized (and colored) boxes representing apps, programs, and folders. All the way to the right (and when you hover your mouse in the upper right hand corner of the screen) you can find the search and settings features. The search function is clunky and has a difficult time running searches across multiple areas of the computer. The settings section is set up very “idiot proof” with highly visible menus that have basic English names. This is an attempt to create a balance between ease of use and in-depth functionality.
Microsoft has swayed too far towards ease of use with the menus in this section only covering basic functionality and features. This may be ok for someone with very basic knowledge of computers but for anyone looking to customize or alter meaningful settings in Windows 8 you must take the back end route. This entails going to the desktop where you can right-click in the bottom left of the screen to bring up a menu with selections very similar to the Window’s 7 start menu (including the classic control panel and file explorer). One annoying morsel of this feature is that your mouse must be located in just the right spot when right-clicking to bring up the menu (as there is no longer a button there), otherwise you will get quickly switched over the start screen. This is a trivial issue, but nonetheless annoying when it happens (which can be quite often).
Overall it is obvious that Microsoft is trying to slow down consumers who are jumping ship from PC’s and joining the legions of Mac users. With Windows 8, Microsoft has tried to create an OS that maintains the strengths of PCs while mimicking the highly aesthetic features of OS X. This causes two issues right off the bat. First, this leads Microsoft to stray from their strengths in order to accommodate the characteristics of OS X. Second, both OSs are written mainly in different programming languages, with each one having inherent advantages and differences. Windows has always been very structured with a highly linear feel. This is great for things like word processing, working with spreadsheets and databases (which can be very beneficial to enterprises), and being more customized at the hardware level. OS X has always been far superior when dealing with tasks that require creativity, such as photo/video/music editing, having a very aesthetically pleasing layout, and greater customization at the consumer/software level. In order to keep up with Apple OS X, Microsoft needs to focus on their strengths and build wonderful features on top of them. Instead, they are trying to incorporate features and strengths from an OS that is built upon foundations inherently different from their own.
Grade (1-10): 6.0, not as good as Windows 7, but exponentially better than Windows Vista.