Cape Town - Like it or not, Windows 8 is about to take the world by storm. I had the chance to play around with the latest RTM build for a while and I have to admit Microsoft did a very good job. It's been a year since I got my hands on the Consumer Preview, and every build after that improved a lot.
When I got the first Preview back in September 2011, the first thing I complained about was the overall look of the OS. It was super ugly by even the lowest of denominators. Fast forward to today and I love the new start menu. You get to play around with a bunch of cool backgrounds and colour options. I've said this before and I will say this again, when you get your copy….CUSTOMISE. That is the keyword with Windows 8. It's exactly the same as with Windows Phone, if you don't customise it to be what you want then it will be a bunch of dead tiles and something hideous.
Dapper desktop charms
The desktop in its final incarnation is extremely pretty if I have to go there. I love the minimalistic aero interface. No more glossy glassy whatever design. Everything fits in perfectly well.
When the consumer preview launched even the most avid Windows supporters yelled to the top of their lungs that the new Start menu was counter intuitive on desktops. Even I was pretty confused by it in the beginning. Besides the fact that it was extremely ugly, you couldn't do much in the new interface. I struggled to get to grips with it. Well that is a thing of the past. Microsoft, besides making it pretty, made the entire OS fit well into the two interfaces.
How so, you may ask. Well if you're a 'power user' like me it forces you to work slightly more efficiently. In all my years I have never used the keyboard to access anything except for the occasional shortcut. Windows 8 pushes even the most basic user to use the keyboard more often, and that makes using Windows 8 a lot easier and faster. In the past if I didn't have an application pinned on my task bar I would sift through the all programs menus for the app I wished to run.
Shortcut keys like 'Alt+tab' makes switching between the many Metro and Desktop apps a pleasure. Windows+W and Windows+Q makes finding what I need a jiffy no matter where I am. I have looked at how Mac users use their PC's for the longest time and I've noticed something while doing that, that even the most basic Mac user relied heavily on Keyboard shortcuts. Why? Because it is very efficient.
If you can't live with the fact that you have to use your keyboard to access basic tasks then using the mouse is also very easy. Scrolling, right click et al opens a multitude of extra menus and helps you navigate the new UI efficiently.
New UI, same taste
I've heard so many complaints about the new UI and to tell the truth none of them truly makes sense. In Windows 8 Pro everything is exactly the same as with Windows 7. Saying it makes you less productive is like saying you're upset because a duck looked at you in a funny way.
Apps improved a lot. I can remember back when I got my hands on the CP, I complained because a lot of the apps were unfinished and didn't even have basic settings. I rely on the Mail app permanently for my personal email, and Outlook for business. People improved a lot as well and now you can finally Tweet and update your status from right inside the app. Messaging has become less of a nuicance and I use it from time to time. I would still like to be able to use Skype from within this app too.
I found myself using these apps a lot more than before with each update because they made the entire experience a lot less cluttered and easy. Tweeting is just a click away.
App-tastic Xbox additions
The real stars of the show is simply the entire Xbox family of apps. Xbox Video, Music and Smartglass blew my mind. It surpassed even my wildest expectations and added everything I asked for. Playing your music on your Xbox is just a click away now. Watching a video on your PC but want to move to the Living room? No problem. Xbox Video supported videos will play on your Xbox with a touch of a button.
Microsoft really went the extra mile with the new Smartglass feature. I don't think anything comes remotely close to this. Unfortunately I can't go too much into detail in regards to this because of a non disclosure agreement regarding the new Xbox 2012 Fall Dashboard software. If you're in the Beta program you already know the awesomeness that awaits.
If you have a Windows Phone then strange things will happen too. After installing the RTM and logging into my Microsoft account and what not, I went ahead and told it to stream my Twitter feed to my People app. The next thing I knew I was getting Tweets on my phone as well. I was kind of shocked at first because that never happened with any of the other previews.
It syncs your photos and files automatically as well. When I take a picture on my phone it will instantly be on my PC which is nice. Something you're only used to on Mac computers but now it goes the extra mile if you're completely in the Windows ecosystem.
The App Store is still not open but it has about a thousand apps to download (mostly beta apps). I downloaded all of the Xbox Live titles and love playing them and earning some rewards. I would love to play around with a Windows 8 tablet with NFC Multiplayer.
Performance is what you've come to love about Windows 8. And it only gets better in the final. I would still suggest anyone wanting to move to the new OS to get themselves a SSD drive. Even a small one would be fine, like 60Gb just for the OS. You can still store the rest of your world on a SATA drive. If your notebook doesn't support multi-hard drives then I would suggest a big one.
Also Windows 8 works and looks way better on a Full HD and higher resolution display. Even the apps look good in the higher resolution. If you're using a 720p display you're going to have a bad time.
Windows 8 also introduces 'Windows to Go'. This application lets you install Windows on a USB Flash drive and run it on any PC you wish with no problems. It is great if you're on the move and don't want to carry a laptop.
If you're still using Windows XP I would definitely recommend switching to Windows 8. For the R350 you're expected to pay for it it is kind of a no brainer. Unfortunately it will be a clean install so all your installed programs will be gone unless you backed them up. Life will be so much more pleasant with a clean start.
Driver support is decent and even if you ran Windows RT your Windows Vista drivers would work. Surprisingly. Windows does a pretty good job at making sure you get all the drivers you need. If your system is a bit older you might have some difficulty finding Windows 8 drivers, but if you can find Vista, and in some cases Windows XP drivers, they should work. From personal experience. -Gearburn