Windows 8 Review - -

Installation 9.0
Ease of use 7.0
Usefulness 8.5
Value 8.5
Distributor: Microsoft
James Wright
Review Date:
Nov 2012


Windows 8
Desktop Review

Welcome to the future of Microsoft Windows... Windows 8, the biggest revolutionary change to this family of operating systems since Windows 95. Like Apple, Microsoft have streamlined their operating system so whether you're using Windows 8 on a desktop PC, phone or a tablet, it will be extremely similar on all devices.

With that in mind, Impulse Gamer are reviewing Windows 8 on a desktop system with the traditional mouse/keyboard interface. For the majority of current desktop users, this will be the primary interface but we also tested Windows 8 with the new Logitech T650 Touch Pad which in essence removes the mouse from the equation and allows you to almost use your desktop/laptop like a touch screen. With that said, Windows 8 on the new Windows Tablet Surface is very impressive but unfortunately this is not the case on a desktop machine. It's just a little messy!

We tested Windows 8 via a download from Microsoft which successfully installed the operating system on a clean system. Although we had the BETA version of Windows 8, the installation allowed us to download the binaries and then format the hard drive for a fresh install. The process was very fast and there was minimal input from the user. As our test system was directly connected to our LAN, Windows 8 performed all the relevant updates and installed the correct drivers for our peripherals. It was also quite fast as well!

Once installed, we were greeted to a familiar Windows login, however once we logged on, things became considerably different. Unlike the traditional Windows interface such as Windows XP and 7, the start button which allows you to access all your programs has been moved to the Start Screen. This screen basically lists all your programs without clicking on the Start Button on your desktop. The new Start Screen will be familiar to those users who have experience tablets before.

Also, if you have used the new Windows phone, the Start Screen is basically the same interface, a series of apps that have been conveniently placed together via tiles. In relation tiles, you can have tiles such as widgets that display information in real-time such as weather, stocks and even updates. Surfing the net, especially with the Logitech T650 Touchpad is almost like surfing the web on a tablet.

The charms bar is another new feature of Windows 8 and is accessed by moving the mouse to the bottom right hand corner of the screen. This streamlines access to Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings. Some apps even install additional information in the charms bar which we found quite useful. Multitasking once again beats Windows 7 hands down. Swapping between screens, apps and just using Windows 8 for day to day things just speeds along.

If you have a considerable amount of apps installed, there is even a search box to find your programs which is far superior than the Windows 7 search. The other big difference is your desktop which is almost identical to your Windows 7 desktop, however the Start Button/Ribbon is gone. You can create desktop icons here and this is also your workspace for applications, games and multimedia. The photos app is very similar to tablets and makes scrolling through your collection a joy but with a keyboard/mouse configuration, it does feel a little disjointed.

However when you are using a touch pad such as the Logitech T650, swapping between the two screens is very smooth and is perfect for opening apps and my favourite, surfing the net. There are some mice available that have an element of touch incorporated into them which assists in the navigation, especially between the Start Screen and the Desktop. Another workaround is to have two monitors, one to display the Start Screen and the other, your Desktop.

Interestingly enough, users who cannot succumb to this system will be pleased to know that there is an app available called "Classic Shell" which in essence returns Windows 8 to a much more familiar setting. I'm actually still on the fence on whether the split between the Desktop and the Start Screen (Start Button) works, even after months of using the Windows 8 BETA. It's definitely a difficult call as it doesn't feel quite right.

Even though it may appear that Microsoft have streamlined or dumbed down the operating system, this is definitely not the case. For example, the new Task Manager is more ordered and easier to read than the traditional task manager. I also like how Microsoft have allowed you to look at your system at a glance, rather than finding information in different tabs. Another feature is the new Windows 8 app store which is reminiscent of both the Android and Apple stores. It's actually quite a good idea and definitely simplifies how programs are available to the end-user.

Another standout change is the integration of Cloud into Windows 8. Using the SkyDrive app allows you to easily store documents and files on the "cloud" and another great feature is that the new Windows Office 2013 is integrated with SkyDrive, allowing you to automatically save your files offsite. Sharing between other PC's or even mobile devices and the Windows Surface tablet has been simplified and is now on par with the Apple system.

It should also be noted that Windows 8 boots at almost superhuman speeds. On our comparable Windows 7 test machine, Windows 8 booted up at 12 seconds. You can even tweak the start of Windows 8 via the task manager which even highlights the impact a program may be having your on system. I also love that when you put your system to sleep, it basically does it automatically and more importantly, when it wakes, it's almost instantaneously.

Microsoft have also enhanced the file system of Windows 8 such as the ability of turning on the File History. In essence, this allows you to save various copies of your documents. Unfortunately it is a little more complex on Windows 8 as opposed to the new Mac O/S which more graphical in nature.

Final Thoughts?

To upgrade or not to upgrade. For users familiar with anything between Windows XP to Windows 7 will definitely need to change the way they work. It's the biggest change that Microsoft has ever done and in order to get the most out of it on a desktop system, you would need a monitor that is touch screen complaint and these are quite expensive at the present. Not only would this streamline your usage in Windows 8 but it would make things more productive.

As they have virtually split the desktop asunder by having a "Start Screen" and a "Desktop Screen" two distinct entities, it doesn't feel right, even with a Logitech T650 Touch Pad that definitely assists in the transition. The operating system is definitely faster and more powerful but the two separate screens will be an issue for traditional mouse/keyboard users.

With that said, upgrading to Windows 8 is definitely a leap of faith and if you're interested in the upgrade, I would definitely suggest getting a hands-on test at your local computer store.

Let's just hope this isn't another Windows Vista but considering the price of Windows 8... it's very tempting to buy as it's so affordable! What a conundrum!


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