My Review of Windows 8 in Three Pictures

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I’ve already told you guys about my woes getting Windows 8 Pro installed on my main PC. Beyond that, though, how are things working so far?

I won’t bother with the full, in-depth review, because we’re not a full-blown PC site. And although Windows Media Center is a free upgrade for Win8 right now, my activation code hasn’t arrived in the emails, so I haven’t had a chance to check it out. Reviews of the rest of the OS are all over the web right now, and they’re highly contradictory, so before you jump in, do some serious reading.

I’ll be frank: I’m still trying to get used to the completely discombobulating learning experience, because Win8 is about as radical an overhaul as Win95 was, and I’m not quite the spring chicken I was 17 years ago. But I think these three images pretty much sum my my experience so far. At first I was like:

Because, really, even when you ignore the Metro UI, a Windows desktop without a Start button is just a total mind-you-know-what. Stumble your way around the new interface for a few hours, though, figure out the navigation, get a handle on how it all works, and you kinda hit this point pretty quickly:

So, wait, you mean that from the desktop, I can just type the name of the program I want to run, and its icon is highlighted? Winning! I’m even starting to warm up to Metro, because despite grumblings that it plain sucks without a touchscreen, I’ve found scrolling around with the mouse scroll wheel to be incredibly intuitive. Yes, Windows 8 is confusing at first, but let yourself roll with the changes, and you quickly realize that a lot of them actually make things a heck of a lot easier, and there’s way more integration between the desktop and Metro than there ever was between the desktop and the old Media Center interface.

Granted, I still stumble for a minute when trying to remember how to get to the Control Panel, and I’ve got a long way to go in customizing my Metro UI to look just the way I want it. But once you get the hang of where to go and what to do in Windows 8 (and really, it does take a few hours), that’s when this feeling kicks in:

Because, more than anything — more than UI concerns, more than confusion over changes from the Consumer Preview, more than Gabe Newell’s ranting about Windows 8 as the death of PC gaming — what stands out about this new OS is how blazingly fast it is. I had just about given up on my nigh-five-year-old PC, but with Windows 8, it feels like a new machine. And I don’t mean in a sort of “I just re-installed Windows and cleaned all the shit out of my Registry” kind of way. Even the day I bought this machine, PaintShop Pro took nearly 20 seconds to finish loading and get that durned splash screen out of my way. Under Windows 8, I’m editing photos in less than ten seconds. Civilization V loads faster. Hell, even the OS itself loads faster, and doesn’t get bogged down by processes that load at startup. Even with the gobs of crap that launch with Windows on my machine — Steam, Google Talk, Mirage Remote Media Sync, URC PSX Link, Nvidia Settings… I could go on and on — when I booted my PC this morning, it was awake and ready to rock in about eight seconds.

Windows 8 is worth it for that alone. Of course, even you absolutely, positively hate Metro, you can load programs like Start8, which give you your Start button back and go a long way toward replicating the UI of Windows 7. I think, for now, I’ll hold off on installing such enhancements and give vanilla Win8 a shot. The more I play with it — and the more I work on it — the more I like it.

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  • Bill Herzog

    Nice review. I thought that the downloading and install over Windows 7 on a run-of-the-mill Gateway worked pretty well. Yeah, I had to take a gym break of and hour and a half for the download, but the download and install assistant did a good job.

    You’re right, the interface is a stunner. I had no idea where to go to do what for a while and am still figuring that out. It was more intuitive than via instructions that I learned that taking the cursor to the corners gives some important options, especially the bottom left corner where the start button used to be.

    Basic impressions: I think I am going to like it, but I am not sure. Ubuntu and Android may be my only escape also. I MISS the start button and all that enabled, especially ACCESS TO A LIST OF INSTALLED PROGRAMS!! I like the speed and feel. I have not figured out how the account bit works, though it is clear that the system is running me through the Windows Store as often as possible — but why doesn’t it recognize that one “sign-in” ought to be enough? My biggest problem is going to be resisting Microsoft’s trying to nudge me into their club, their social networking play, and their control of my use of the computer. I just don’t relate to that – not by Apple, not by Google, and certainly not by the current social networking, in-club systems.

    In fact, my long-term satisfaction with Windows 8 will be whether the systems leaves to door open for mavericks like me. I’m still finding out.

    • Matías Guzmán Naranjo

      If you think you’re a fucking maverick install linux, it’s just better.

  • Dennis Burger

    Bill, I have to admit, I’m kinda getting used to the lack of a Start Button, but like you, I sorely miss those highlights on newly installed programs.

    One thing I just discovered, though, that I’m digging: if you drop your cursor to the button left and right-click, you get a LOT of the things that the Start Button offered, including — PRAISE THE BABY BUDDHA! — direct access to the Control Panel!

  • Bobby Roberts

    Biggest thing? Take me back to the IBM XT.

    When you want to turn off the computer, there is no need to go through the Start button dance (or as some tortured souls think you have to go through the Charm Bracelet)

    To end, just hit the denmad power button and watch it all shut dwon in about 4 seconds.

    Praise Jeebus!*
    *(from Homer Simpson)