Friday, January 4, 2013

Windows 8, Part 2

Okay, I've had awhile to work with Windows 8 Pro and ponder what Microsoft has done with their new operating system. I'm gonna just start rambling, quit reading when you get bored. 

Near as I can tell there are three versions of the OS for sale. First, there's the version that lets you upgrade to Windows Pro from XP SP3, Vista, and Windows 7. Second, there's a version that lets you upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8 Pro. Finally, there is whatever they ship on new hardware if you buy a device. 

So, if you build your own system, you'll have to buy two operating systems to get Windows 8 installed on the machine. There is no "full" version of the OS allowing for a fresh install on a hand built machine. Feel free to chime in if I'm wrong or missed something. Maybe it's lurking on Microsoft's website somewhere, but I couldn't find it. 

I can only come to one conclusion relative to Microsoft's decision to market the OS this way. Hurrah for Steam coming to Ubuntu! Seriously, if you hand build a gaming machine, being able to download a free OS and play games on Steam is going to be pretty attractive. Not sure why Microsoft would want to give gamers a powerful incentive to go elsewhere, but I'm sure they know what they're doing. 

Yeah, enough about that. 

I've had a chance to use some of the Windows 8 applications. There are some that are quite good. There are some that should be awesome, but are horrible. Every application I used had bugs and felt half finished. 

The most disappointing of the bunch was the SkyDrive App. It's pretty much worthless. It should have been a click or two less for the purpose of accessing full browser functionality of your cloud storage. It's maddening because the browser experience is subpar when working from the Start Menu.

Yes, apps behave differently depending on whether they are launched from the Start Menu or the desktop. I get why they did this, but having the browser less functional in what's supposed to be casual computing mode seems counter intuitive. Maybe it's different with a touch screen? I hope so. 

A common theme among almost all apps is the inability to reliably stream video. Only the Netflix app seemed immune (it's great actually), but all the news and media apps with videos just crash or fail to load. Frustrating!

Most apps behave well when constrained to a third of the screen for better multitasking but a few fail to function properly. I found a keen text editor, but it ceases to function when constrained and some apps just don't work well unless they are windowed or full screen. Frustrating x2!!

Here again, the Netflix app seems to outperform all others working in full screen, constrained, and windowed modes. The app also pauses and restarts where you left off if you jump from Start Menu to Desktop or vice versa. They really (really) did a nice job with their application for Windows 8. 

I'm having some syncing issues with OneNote, but I suspect my working across three computing platforms is probably to blame. It syncs fine to my SkyDrive, my iPad, and Windows Phone 7, but I struggle on my Lenovo. Everything else that is MS Office or that is launched from the Desktop performs admirably. 

Windows 8 Pro is fast. It boots, loads applications, shuts down, and performs tasks very quickly. It out performs just about every operating system I've used, Mac, Microsoft, or Ubuntu. Only iOS on my iPad has the same responsiveness and feel. I really like clicking something and just having it just go, no spinning beach balls or hourglasses. 

I really like the way Windows 8 looks and behaves. However, and I think I said it in my other post, but navigating with a mouse and keyboard isn't ideal. I long for a touchscreen. When I had a chance to use the Surface RT, it must have ruined me because using the cursor to work with apps is nowhere near as smooth or intuitive as using your finger on a touchscreen. 

I'd recommend Windows 8 Pro to people, but definitely as part of purchasing new hardware. I don't recommend the upgrade, particularly if you have a Windows 7 machine you're happy with. Had to do over again, I would have patiently waited for the right Windows 8 hardware to be released and gone that road instead. 

If you are planning on building a new machine for gaming, wait and see what Valve and Nvidia do for Ubuntu or just stick with Windows 7. Windows 8 is a good OS for productivity, casual computing, and portable touchscreen form factors. 

The bad news is that there is little in the way of hardware for Windows 8 Pro so far. There are a handful of tablets and all-in-one devices that look promising but the best of the bunch has yet to be released. Lenovo and Microsoft's Windows Pro tablets aren't out yet and I'm waiting to see how it performs on devices with Atom processors. 

If Paul Thurrott is to be believed, Windows 8 PC sales haven't been all Microsoft hoped for. Personally, I don't see much out there worth buying. The few Windows 8 and Windows RT devices people can actually buy right now aren't that exciting. Microsoft is blaming manufacturers for dropping the ball, and they might be right. 

A short list of RT devices I've been looking at and my accompanying thoughts:

Asus Vivo Tab RT - Nope, don't like it. 
Dell XPS 10 - Nice design, build quality looks good, but it has a Snapdragon processor which makes me nervous. 
Lenovo Yoga (RT) - If I just wanted a standard laptop form factor, yeah, this would be a good choice. I'd never utilize the feature that is it's namesake. 
Microsoft Surface RT - Yep, of you want RT, I'd buy this. 

A short list of Pro devices I've been looking at and my accompanying thoughts:

Asus Vivo Tab - It's gotten a few good reviews, but I'm still holding a grudge over my last couple Asus laptops. 
Dell XPS 12 - Looks like it might be the most powerful of the bunch so far. You gotta pay for performance and the battery life might not be great, but it has nice specs. 
Dell Latitude 10 - It has a user replaceable battery and it's priced to move. This one might be my next depending on what the Surface Pro ends up looking like. 
Lenovo Thinkpad 2 - Beautifully designed, decent specs, and pricing. Might be what I go with if I don't have the patience to wait for Surface Pro. 
Microsoft Surface Pro - Waiting for final specs to be released, but if it is half as nice as the RT version, it'll be the one to buy probably. 

If you buy something through the Microsoft site, you can get an assurance two-year warranty plan for $99. It covers accidental damage and spills as well. I read through the terms looking for a catch, and aside from the usual legalese mumbo-jumbo it looks like a pretty good deal. If I pre-order a Thinkpad Tablet 2, I'll probably get the plan. 

I've been doing a lot of thinking about NFC or near field communications capabilities. A few of these laptops have NFC built in and I'm wondering what sort of capabilities this will grant the devices. I would love it if someone would make a device I could just set down on a charging pad and it would wirelessly charge, hook up to a monitor, keyboard, and other peripherals. I doubt these new devices will do all that, but I think it's coming, the end of cables, ports, and similar.

No comments:

Post a Comment