- Ease of use Inconsistent navigation. Metro doesn't translate well to a non-touchscreen environment.
- Speed Most things are pretty responsive. I have it running on a virtual machine with 2 2.66GHz processor cores and 1024MB of RAM. Transitions were fairly smooth.
- Configurability No ability to disable Metro, some settings can only be changed in Metro. Others can only be set in Aero.
- Ecosystem (apps, drivers, etc.) Standard Windows apps don't integrate with Metro well. Difficult to find and launch apps in Aero (regular Windows).
- Openness MS makes the best dev tools, so apps will come.
I want to like the Windows 8 improvements, but I'm having difficulty liking it as much as Windows 7.
Let's start with the regular Windows desktop:
- MS has seen fit to remove the start button. The causes a number of problems. Such as logging out, or sending the computer into sleep / hibernate. You can't do any of them easily without switching into Metro or using a crazy keyboard shortcut. You also can't start programs without having desktop or taskbar shortcuts for them or manually navigating to them on the drive. You can only access certain settings from within Aero, for most things you have to launch the settings app in Metro.
[ Update: Still an issue, however Stardock has come to the rescue with a pretty decent replacement. MS: why can't this be a native option? Stardock's offering actually improves the experience by letting you use the new Start screen as a popup Start menu when you click the Start button, which is a much better use for it. ]
- Personal preference, but I prefer the rounded corners of Aero in Win 7.
[ Update: The new look and feel of the traditional Windows Desktop has really grown on me. ]
- I like the expansion of the Office 2k10 ribbon to Windows. Looks very clean, and displays a lot of info in a confined space.
- IE 10 is great. I've been using it on Windows 7 for a while now.
[ Update: IE10 is still my favorite browser. Haven't had any stability or speed issues (In fact its faster than any of my other browsers). The only problems I've found are actually because of old versions of IE. E.g. web authors do lazy browser detection and use weird hacks to try and 'fix' old version of IE, but blanket apply it for all versions even though 10 supports most everything. ]
- It's obvious that MS wants you to have a touchscreen for this OS. The problem is that the Metro interface seems cobbled together if you don't. Scrollbars are haphazardly thrown on the edges. They could at least have made your mouses' scroll wheel work on the Metro start screen for horizontal scrolling.
[ Update: Scrollbars still seem to not quite fit in with everything else (style-wise). I should clarify that on my setup the scroll arrows are inconsistently sized, and don't seem to quite line up with the rest of the UI in all cases, which is what earned my 'haphazard' comment. Scroll wheels now seem to work on most mice, but I still have one mouse that is stingy about it (by this I was referencing that scrollwheels with side-to-side motion would not scroll left-right). One weird thing I also noticed this time around is that you can scroll vertically on your scrollwheel and the screen scrolls left-right (not and issue), however some apps have vertical scrolling content, so you could be scrolling your mouse wheel, and the app is scroll horizontally, but if your mouse cursor happens over top of a vertically scrolling content item it will start scrolling that instead of the app (see the new app for an example). ]
- Right now I have 70 programs / folders in my start menu in Win 7. I can't imagine what that will look like when they become Metro tiles. This interface works well on a mobile device with a limited collection of applications, but I have difficulty imagining it scaling to a full desktop.
[ Update: Still an issue; while I don't quite have 70 programs installed on 8, I still have a bunch. While MS have made improvements in the ability to sort and organize tiles, greater gains could be made. For instance why can't we group tiles into folders and have those folder-tiles on the start screen, similar to how Windows Phone has hubs? ]
- I like the live tiles in Metro, but standard Windows programs appear as a plain block with the application icon. Given that MS has announced that not all apps will be 'Metro apps', this is going to create a disjointed experience. When you click on a standard Windows app, you're dumped back into Aero rather abruptly.
[ Update: Even a bigger issue now that I have experienced the current selection of Metro apps. 99% of my usable and stable apps are traditional Windows apps, so I am always getting sent back to the Desktop. ]
- To close programs in Metro, you have to move your mouse to the top left corner, wait for the desktop image to appear, then move your mouse down slightly until the running programs appear, then right click on one and select Close. What's wrong with a good old fashioned close button?
[ Update: This is still a weird interaction pattern. What's also weird is that when you right-click on those app icons to close them, the context menu you get is styled like traditional Windows and doesn't look like any of the other context menus in the Metro UI. ]
- Speaking of moving your mouse to the corners, moving your mouse to the left corners expose buttons to switch to the desktop and between running Metro apps. Moving it to the left revels a menu with options to search, share, manage devices, return to the Metro start and go to Settings. The weird thing here is that in order to switch back to the desktop, you have to click on the exact corner of the screen, if you move your mouse to click on the image of the desktop, it goes away and you're back in Metro.
[ Update: They seem to have fixed some of the weirdness here. The corners seem to be a little bit more sticky. In the dev builds the top left corner always seemed to take you back to the desktop, now it is a hotspot for the last used app. ]
- Since you can't close or minimize apps, there seem to be lots of dead ends in Metro. For instance I launched the settings app, and changed a few settings. The only way out is to move the mouse to the bottom left corner to get the Metro start screen back. Moving to the upper left doesn't give you the option for the desktop. They've already broken their own navigation paradigm.
[ Updated: see above. ]
- Also, occasionally the desktop icon wouldn't appear at all when you moved the mouse to the top left. The only way to get back to the desktop was to click on the Windows Explorer tile on the Metro start. Then the desktop icon would come back.
[ Update: see note above. ]
- IE 10 in Metro mode is borderline terrible. Plugins are unsupported, navigation is kludgy, it seems slower than the desktop version.
[ Update: Not exactly sure which build it was added in, but now you can completely disable "Modern" IE and have all links/tiles open on the desktop. ]
Windows Store / Apps:
- The app selection is really rather atrocious at this point. There are no native apps for Facebook, Twitter, Evernote and many others.
- Stability of some apps is terrible, the only Facebook app I could find (FlipToast) would not start at all, but kept crashing.
- Many of the built-in app (People, Travel, News, Bing, Games, Music, Weather) are pretty good. However most offerings in the Windows Store leave much to be desired.
- Apps range from mediocre to just plain terrible. Many are poorly translated (which makes me not trust them), or unstable. Every time I
- MS: would it really have broken the bank to include a Metro-style calculator app if you want us to use that interface so bad? Should I really have to download one?
- The Windows Store does not indicate if you have downloaded an app until you've actually clicked on it to see it's details screen.
- Issues with the Mail app: No notifications when new messages arrive. Calendar and Mail don't integrate. Limited account support (Microsoft and Google accounts only). You have to perform a gesture to edit the subject line or use rich text, WTF? Can't use MS' own share feature in the Charms bar.
- Issues with the Calendar app: Limited account support (see above). Can't share events.
- Messages app doesn't even support AIM, Jabber or ICQ. Does anyone still use Windows Messenger? This app is beyond useless.
- People App: Probably the best of the core apps. Integration is still poor, for instance you can send someone an email from People, but you can't create an event in Calendar and link it to that person (e.g. lunch with Tina). Sync can be slow.
- Apps are a catch-22. User's won't switch to Windows 8 unless there are good apps, and devs won't create apps unless there is a viable user base to monetize. (Same problem with Windows Phone).
- I like the Microsoft account integration. It easily syncs your settings and such, as well as automatically setting up your Email and People apps (if you have a Facebook account linked).
- The lock screen is kind of useless on a Desktop (in my opinion). It is easily removed by using the group policy editor, but it would be nice to give the non power-user the ability to do this. In fact, this was the first thing my parents asked me to do on their new computer.
- Multi-monitor support has gotten a lot better. The only way I actually enjoy using the OS is to have the Desktop on one screen and the Start screen on the other. Unfortunately I don't have enough desk real estate to do that full-time.
- File explorer is much better than the old Windows explorer. It's interesting to be able to see a graph of the file transfer speed.
- Native USB 3.0 support is a big plus.
- Full UEFI support and a much better looking boot (OS selection) screen because of it.
- Upgrade assistant gave me some issues. When I first ran it, it reported no issues, so I purchased and downloaded Windows 8. When the computer restarted to do the actual install it ran upgrade assistant again, but this time there were 107 issues, so I couldn't install. I ended up having to uninstall and re-install all of my device drivers to get it to work.
- I loved the drive extender feature of Windows Home Server, and it has made an appearance in Windows 8 as Storage Spaces.
- Haven't had a chance to use it yet, but File History seems like an improvement over VSS.
- It runs perfectly on a low-power Atom D525 system I built for my parents.
- Most of the initial builds included the ability to automatically boot into the Desktop, now that option is gone; why? Again easy to do with the Event Manager, but why leave normal users in the dust?
- I really like the ability to snap apps, but it would be even better if you could re-size them arbitrarily, instead of just in thirds.
Overall, there are more negatives than positives in Windows 8 right now. I don't like that you have to go into Metro to do many simple things like change certain settings or turn the computer off. Bottom line, Windows should function fully whether or not you want to go into Metro. They have effectively created two operating systems which are hobbled by the other. As it stands right now, I will not be buying Windows 8.
[ Update: While MS has made significant strides in the OS since the early dev builds which I originally reviewed, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully these will be fixed with various service packs. After using it for about a month, I am still forced to return to my original conclusion: that it is a somewhat hobbled OS that is not quite ready for primetime. While it shows brief moments of genius, and performance is great, I fear that it may be the next Windows Vista thanks to several usability and integration issues. While I did purchase the OS, I would hesitate to pay more than $40, and would definitely not pay the full asking price for Windows 8 Pro. ]
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Ease of use rating changed from 2 to 3
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Edited comment on Configurability
Updated detailed review