Sunday, March 11, 2012

[REVIEW]: Windows 8 Consumer preview

start menu

Over the last few days (almost a week) I’ve been using Windows 8 Consumer preview on my desktop and windows tablet. It’s a nice refreshing design and I quite like the general direction of things so far. However, I don’t quite think Windows 8 will catch on that well in general

I’ve mentioned metro numerous times here in my blog. I’ve praised it for being finger friendly, simple and elegant. I still stand by that opinion, however, in the grand scheme of things, windows 8 does not seem well adapted to both a desktop (mouse + keyboard) and tablet. Windows 7 was good in the mouse and keyboard aspect and Windows 8 has made my tablet so much more usable. However, if you told me to swap these two: Use Windows 8 on a desktop and Windows 7 on a tablet, I wouldn’t enjoy it as much.

Windows 8 was more or less designed to work well with touch and it shows. Gestures are everywhere, swiping sidewards is the general way to operate and things just work so much better than in windows 7 (for touch). I LIKED using windows 8 on my tablet, and that’s something I couldn’t say with either Vista or windows 7; I usually ended up using the mouse and keyboard back then.

START

On both my devices, I’ve found windows 8 to boot up REALLY FAST. I don’t know how thy do this, but it’s really astonishing: I have my devices dual booting, and after selecting windows 8, login appears right away. You don’t seem to get that horrible laggy feel after loggin in too, you can start using the machine straight away. After the really quick start you’ll be presented with this:

start menu

The “centre” of the whole windows 8 design is the start menu, it’s also the first thing you see after log in. Essentially, this has now replaced the start button we’ve been using in previous releases of windows. The tiles for some apps are “live” meaning they present you with up to date information such as weather, status updates and messages. Only “metro apps” so far seem to be able to do this and so far there aren’t a lot metro apps to choose from.

As you can see, you can choose to pin some commonly used apps on the side, they are simply static icons and text, they don’t update and such. All apps are hidden until you right click or swipe up to reveal the option menu, which will then let you select all apps. A more useful method of finding apps is to just start typing, this does the same thing as search on the previous start menu:

apps 

GENERAL OPERATION:

Logging in

For pure aesthetic reasons, MS decided to place a full screen picture over the login (as you can see in the settings menu):

login

You can either drag the photo up or tap the space bar to move the picture away THEN type in the password. A nice touch to the login is that you can see if you have any notifications.

Desktop

This is something you’ll probably be using a lot since old .exe programs will run here. This is just the desktop you are used to in the past releases of windows (minus the start button).

desktop

You can hover over the bottom left hand corner to see the start “button”, moving up will present you with open metro apps (the desktop “app” is counted as one). Personally think it would be easier to tap the windows key from now on:

multitasking

“Snapping”

A feature which I quite like and would like to see more of is “snapping”. It’s nothing too new, but what you do is give a small segment of the screen to a whole app:

snap

This works with all metro apps and it can be either side (left or right). To do this, just drag an app out of the list of apps on the left and wait for it to resize over the side of the screen:

snap2

Seems like a nice well polished way to multitask. I have read that you need to have a minimum resolution to have this work though. My tablet can’t do this and it’s resolution is 1280*800… such a pity I quite like that feature. Dragging a metro app from top to bottom will close it too.

“Charms”

While not necessarily essential to use, it is quite important. These “charms” on the side of the screen provide links to settings and the start menu. It will also bring up the basic time, battery life and Wi-Fi signal up for you to see.

charms

You can bring this up by Win+C or by swiping in from the right hand side. Using a mouse, you can hover the mouse over the edge of screen but its not a very consistent design, I’ve found it hard to just bring it up, I much prefer the keyboard shortcut. You basically need this to turn off your computer too.

DEFAULT APPS

Like I mentioned earlier, there aren’t a lot of metro apps that come in the consumer preview. Most windows 7 (.exe) still install fine, but metro apps take advantage of the full screen operation, side bar snapping and in general employ that nice sexy design. Here’s a general overview of the bundled apps:

Weather

weather

Unfortunately, MS didn’t make the backgrounds animated like the ones on HTC sense (I wonder if that stuff is copyrighted or something?). However, the images are still nice to look at. The image still updates according to time and weather (so at night, we don’t look at leaves, but something else like the moon). Scrolling sidewards (which is down scroll on the mouse and a simple swipe on a table) will give you more detailed weather reports like weather depending on time and some graphs

I personally like the design in that mosaic app I mentioned before but oh well this works too.

Calendar

calendar

Nothing too fancy, it syncs to your Hotmail/msn account

Mail

mail

Mail, nothing fancy again, you can add your other accounts. I’ve found that it has some graphics glitches, if you change accounts sometimes, the words overlap making them unreadable.

Store

store

This is the store. There are metro apps available here. At the moment, there aren’t THAT much apps to choose from and the existing apps are not of my interest.

People

people

This app is a little more exciting. Basically it’s a nice app for you to see all your social notification and streams. You can comment and like Facebook if you have it connected. Once MAJOR flaw I find is that you can’t post a Facebook (or any other social network) status from it.

The all panel shows your contacts, what’s new is like the new feed from Facebook and “me” is the notification panel to your stuff.

Music

music main

Nothing unexpected here… There is a music store, but I can’t open that, it seems like a regional thing (and seeing we are in Australia, we never get the goodies).

music

“Show more” will show you the songs you have in your music library. I’m sure you guys know how to navigate these by now.

A nice touch is that if you have music running, pressing the volume button will bring up a small media player to control the music app:

music nav

Picture

pic

This shows pictures on your computer, SkyDrive and other networks. Pretty :)

There’s also a messaging app and IE. The messaging app doesn’t work so well, messages come too late.

MISC.

One thing I really like about Windows 8 is the “mumbles”-like notifications (seen in Ubuntu and OSX). When something that needs your attention happens a small notification shows up in the corner:

notification

In general, the system lets you know about things that it has done or you may need attending to: messages, Wi-Fi disconnection etc.…

Conclusion:

I still like windows 8 a lot despite some small problems. Most of the problems I found seem to be easily fixable in the final or at least by 3rd party options. Learning curve and getting used to is more a personal thing. I do think that this release has got quite a large learning curve to it. I’ve had no problems testing the beta of windows 7, things were intuitive there, this release, not so much.

One of my MAIN gripes is that the control panel and the pc settings found through charms are not integrated. I know that this might be to make things simpler, but when you go into “PC settings” you expect every setting to be there (like control panel). It’s not even linked by a shortcut.

I can see myself using this on ANY device to be honest, and if ARM tablets for windows 8 start appearing, I might not consider android for my next tablet. I’ve read that ARM tablet won’t get to run legacy apps, which means no .exe (?)… that might be prob due to lack of apps… we’ll see though, cause so far there hasn’t been any ARM tablet released running Win8.

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2 comments:

betraya said...

Please review IE10 and the new Windows Media Player. I would like to see your opinion on it

Mylifeasacomic said...

^^" I haven't booted into 8 for a while, it seems that the wifi is less steady on it for some reason.

I'll still have a look for you.

But on the top of my head, IE10 (is that the metro one you are talking about? If so:) is OK. It's seems as fast as Chrome, the top and bottom bars hide with use.

Seems nice for a tablet/touch, but on desktop I prefer using chrome or the "normal" browsers.

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