Friday, August 24, 2012

Windows 8 RTM thoughts

Finally Windows 8 RTM came out on 15th of August on the dev channels, and ,to everyone’s surprise, along with a downloadable public trial of Enterprise version. Too bad you cannot simply upgrade it when the retail versions hit the market. Doesn’t really matter to me because I managed to grab the Pro version and got myself activated. :)

TBH, I was expecting a much larger change from Release Preview, other than disabling of Aero transparency and smaller text/larger icon of Metro apps. I’m sure there are a lot of under the hood changes, but in the end of the day, we only can see what we only can see.

Just to try out my new USB drive, I went around installing it via the USB drive. I used the tool that was meant for Windows 7. It went in pretty well. Installed pretty quickly too. Activated fine. But, just like OSX Mountain Lion, it didn’t have the oomph factor which was there from Windows XP to Windows Vista. Instead, I felt as if it came with a lot of bloat-ware that I would not use, but could not get rid of either.

Positives

Faster than Windows 7 when performing certain tasks. (Others are unchanged.)[

It boots up faster than Windows 7. But not by a lot. I believe the difference is much noticeable on a hard drive than an SSD. Nevertheless, it boots up faster. Even when I disabled Fast Start, that simply resumes part of the OS instead of fully booting. I didn’t think spending 13GB on the hiberfile.sys just to shed a couple of seconds off the boot up time was a smart thing to do. That the space of a full game.

It is also faster when it comes to media encoding stuff. You can read a review about general performance comparison between Windows 7 and Windows 8 here.

Gaming performance has not improved, but it has not declined as well. We can only expect it to get better with better drivers.

Less resource consumption

Installation footprint is smaller in Windows 8. They have removed certain stuff such as Media Center and unwanted drivers from the Core OS installation and this reflects to better space utilization. Still, it is not small as Windows XP by any means. Not even close. An improvement nevertheless. (This also results in quicker than Windows 7 installation time.)

Not only the installation footprint is smaller, the memory consumption is lesser. While it still uses more RAM when you have a lot of RAM installed, Windows 8 is kinder on systems with lesser RAM than Windows 7.

Stability

Stability too is not an issue. Not that was an issue with Windows 7, but even though Microsoft seems to have done a lot of under the hood changes, it is not buggy as when Vista was originally launched. Heck, right from the Consumer Preview, the stability was not that much of an issue. I remember how it used to be in pre-Vista days. The beta versions were so bad, but it was exciting to test out each leaked build.

Recovery features

Now if something goes wrong, you don’t have to search for the installation disks. Reset and refresh features are built in. Also you can use a flash drive to make a recovery disk. It doesn’t hold a fresh copy of Windows, but it allows you to intentionally go into recovery mode when you bootup with it.

Negatives

Metro

I wish they would just let us disable it if we didn’t want to use it. I don't was the new Metro UI. I don't need really a start menu either. I’m sure there are people who will never buy a Windows Tablet and a Windows Phone and those people don’t care whether you can have the same apps on all three platforms. (Should include Xbox too?) Besides, there are much functional and even better looking apps on the desktop.

image

The only thing I do with the Metro UI is launch applications by searching. And that too only a few. Most of the times I use keyboard shortcuts to launch applications. But it would only list the applications, not the administrative commands. For that, I have to click on Settings first, and type the command. You only get to know if it is not available on the programs list, when a result does not come up but you know it is there. Only then you switch the Settings search mode, and retype the command. So inefficient!

I do understand why they are forcing this. This is how they expect to find some cash. They get a cut from apps sold on their store and Metro apps can only be bought from the Windows Store.

Now that there is no start menu, you cannot easily access the startup folder to add something to startup. Previously you could browse it from the Start Menu, but it does not work that way anymore. You have to go into the User profile -> AppData -> Roaming -> Microsoft –> Windows -> Start Menu -> Start Up to get there. Maybe normal people don't need to access the Startup folder, but why dumb it down for others? That's Apple's job. At least they would do it with much better consistency.

Switching from games to desktop

I do not know if the culprit is Windows or the immature NVidia display drivers, but it takes about 5 seconds for me to switch from Battlefield 3 to Desktop when I press ALT + TAB. It was instantaneous on Windows 7. Seems like something is lagging in this brand new OS. (DPC Latency is pretty high with the current NVidia 304.79 beta drivers installed as well, so can be related.)

Driver support

This is one of the disadvantages of embracing a brand new OS. Either the drivers are immature or they do not exist.
For example,

  • there aren’t drivers for the Logitech C910 webcam (but there is a workaround)
  • the NVidia Display Drivers are still in beta stage (but stable)
  • you lose audio on the creative X-Fi cards every time you reboot Windows (you have to go into Console launcher and change the audio mode every time. Known issue, but Creative are yet to release a fixed Console launcher.)

 

Inconsistent UI

Having Metro and Desktop mode is one thing, but we can see inconsistencies inside the Desktop.

For example, Microsoft disabled Aero glass effected in the Windows 8 theme saying that it wasted too many CPU cycles, causing battery to drain faster. But they kept the Taskbar translucent. Maybe the Taskbar translucency doesn't harm the battery life, but it is very inconsistent.

Having two control panels is insane. When you go in to add a user from the classic control panel, it gives a link to continue it from the modern control panel. What nonsense is that? Either let one do it completely, or both do it completely. One doing it completely and other one doing it partially is down-right ugly!

Windows

Image courtesy Neowin forum post.

Another thing is that, when Microsoft is not designing a consistent UI across their main applications (Windows, Office, Visual Studio), how can they enforce anyone else to adopt a standard? They know nothing about leading by example. When it comes to Apple software, the ones designed by Apple have a consistent UI. Even the 3rd party applications blend well with the OS. There wasn't such thing with Windows 7 or before, and it won't get any better. Of course they are enforcing these with Metro apps, but Metro is too restrictive. Even more so than the iPad.

Conclusion

So you see, it is not a perfect release. There are issues as with any other new OS, but it is not as bad as Vista was. Apart from Metro being forced on the desktop, the only other issue is the unpolished UI. I don’t think they will fix it any time soon. Maybe with Windows 8.5? (Rumor is that they might speed up the OS release cycle and there might be 8.1’s and 8.5’s as with the Mobile front. We shall see in a year or so.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...