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Review: Windows 8 Consumer Preview


So lately I’ve been using the Windows 8 Consumer Preview that was released in February. There are some things I like, and a lot of stuff that bugs me and I figured I’d share my thoughts. Now first of all, the gaps between Microsoft’s operating system releases were steadily closing at some point; Windows XP released in 2001, Windows Vista in 2007, and Windows 7 in 2009. Arguably the most stable release thus far, Windows XP, stayed in stores for nearly an entire decade. Windows Vista, the next product to hit the shelves, completely flopped in comparison. Windows 7 came around and things were somewhat stable again, but no huge advancements had been made despite overhauls to appearance and style. Slowly but surely, Windows XP was replaced by Windows 7 as the typical operating system in pre-built retail PCs by 2010.

Windows 7 has had its fair share of issues, not unlike XP or Vista. But the first problem I see with releasing a tentative “Windows 8” is the timing. Releasing an operating system is a very touchy thing, especially when the latest version has only had a limited amount of time to sink in. I feel as if many aspects of Windows 7 remain almost untouched within Windows 8,like they’re basically releasing an abridged version of 7… Leaning toward a tablet / touch-based design, they’ve taken away your “Start Menu” in favor of a really plain-looking thumbnail menu. I’m saying plain-looking to avoid calling it outright lazy and boring. Maybe it’s a beta-stage thing, maybe they’re going to polish it up slightly, but I for one can’t stand the way this thing looks and feels. Especially with a mouse and a keyboard…

I get pretty sick and tired of not seeing a Start Menu button down there, but there’s one aspect of Windows 8 that I can say is an improvement over the previous version. It features something called “Application Suspension” which can definitely improve overall performance in terms of sheer speed. Basically, this stops currently unused programs and processes from sucking up memory by “suspending” them into an idle state. This works in the same way that Android phones and tablets do, freeing up memory so that transitions are smooth and prompt. And I’ve gotta say, it is very noticeable and a feature that I’m enjoying. But that hardly overshadows all the problems and complications that arise from trying to do simple, familiar things in Windows 8.

I installed the Consumer Preview on a separate partition, and I’ve been consistently jumping back and forth between Windows 8 and Windows 7 for comparisons on the same computer. I love how quickly 8 boots and starts up, the distribution of memory overall seems much better. But at the same time, I still use Windows 7 for all my audio / video editing needs, because Windows 8 has some problems with .NET Framework 3.5 (an essential installation for many programs). My other issue with the general changes made in Windows 8 stems from the lack of a standard “Start Menu”. There has been a menu button in the bottom left hand corner of basically every single release of Windows. This makes it awkward for seasoned users to find what has always been in the same place, like command prompt or cmd.exe, notepad.exe, and many other staple programs that are now hidden by this ugly, boxy menu system.

The “Windows Explorer” face of Windows 7 has been left intact completely, but it’s not visible at first. Another thing that really throws off the long-time users like myself. You have to click one of the smallest icons down on the right, shoved into the corner like an afterthought. Seriously, this bugs me. Sure, take the icon designated for “File Explorer” straight from Windows 7, and slap it on there. It doesn’t matter, really. Nobody’s gonna use that “Windows Explorer” interface anymore, according to Microsoft. With the size and placement of that “Windows Explorer” button, it’s like they’re telling you to disregard it. The best part about booting up Windows and having it go straight to your desktop is the open-ended sense of freedom. Windows 8 shoves this graphical menu in your face and billboards “Internet Explorer” like it’s the end-all-be-all program for browsing the web. Don’t get me started on the three Xbox related buttons… Thanks for the unavoidable advertising, Micro$oft.

All that being said, not everyone is going to use Windows 8 for the same reasons I do. Go out and try it, you might find it’s everything you’ve been waiting for as far as operating systems go. I feel like there’s a lot of issues and basic changes that need to be fixed, but at a price of $39.99 (USD), this will be an affordable operating system worth at least trying upon official release. This could just be another stepping-stone operating system like the failed Vista, but then again it could end up outlasting even Windows XP if all the major problems can be fixed before it hits shelves.

Categorized as: Written Reviews

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