Pros: Touch screen friendly, simple, elegant, performance boost.
Cons: Big adjustment for desktop environment, lack of driver support, limited app selection
Here it is, Microsoft's next version of their Windows operating system. How does it compare to Windows 7? Well I've had quite awhile to play with this operating system since I've been through all of the preview releases, and got this on release date as well. I will do my absolute best for a thorough, HONEST, fair and at least mildly entertaining review.
For just a little background on myself, I work as a technical support analyst, and I have been using computers ever since I was a mere lad (a very socially awkward one).
--- The Installation ---
Installing Windows 8 is not much different than the installation process of Windows 7. You put in the disk or USB flash drive, pick which drive you want, and wait for the files to copy over, which seemed faster to me than the Windows 7 installation.
--- The Start Screen, ie. The Modern UI ---
Change! Change is bad! No change because we need things to be the same forever!...
Honestly, the Modern UI seemed simpler to use than the classic start menu in my experience. For example, when I want to launch an app such as CCleaner, all I have to do is hit the Windows key on my keyboard, click the big and obvious tile, and it's done. That's on my desktop. On my Samsung 500T tablet, I just hit the Windows button, and touch the same big and obvious tile. Great!
On Windows 7, I would click the start button, click all programs, and browse for it through the mini folder icons. Or I could type it into the search bar of the start menu. For me, both of these options took too much time, whereas Windows 8 makes it much simpler. I like this because my time using a computer is typically spent doing more important things like emulating old games, or trying to get the Windows version of iTunes to suck a little less (with no success. It's just horrible.)
If you are running Windows 8 and you really want the classic start menu back, you have options! Two I can safely recommend are "Start8" and "Pokki." Google away, you'll be most pleased with your findings.
The Modern UI is not very mouse/keyboard friendly though. The "Touch gestures" that would normally be a breeze for a tablet take a little more effort on the desktop environment.
--- The Desktop Environment ---
For the most part, the desktop in Windows 8 is exactly the same as the desktop in Windows 7. However, there are some noticeable differences. The big and obvious change..
The start menu is gone. Read the section above for more on that. Change isn't always a bad thing.
Windows Explorer now has the ribbon thing that Microsoft Office 2007 had. I find this new ribbon menu in Explorer to be more work than necessary. Windows 7 had it much simpler, and it was all laid out right there. On a tablet, this is especially annoying because I find there to be more clicking around. Of course, this may just be a learning curve that I need to turn on.
The desktop environment is NOT touch friendly at all. Of course this is to be expected, but this is something you'll need to keep in mind if you are looking into getting a Windows 8 tablet device (and no, not the awful Windows RT devices, but that's not for now).
--- Performance ---
There's not much to say here, so I'll cut to the point: Performance is better. Also on an interesting note, the WEI score system for performance and such got bumped up from 7.9 to 9.9. Time to buy more hardware fellas. Gotta have the straight 9.9's. Right?
--- Compatibility, Drivers, and Apps ---
I'm sure compatibility is expected to improve as time goes by with a new operating system, but I'm typing this review now, so let's talk about it now, yes?
Compatibility is horrible right now. iTunes syncing to an iPhone 5 always randomly disconnects, connecting a USB cable to a Samsung Galaxy S3 only works sometimes, ADB for a Galaxy Nexus only works sometimes, and my SNES emulator randomly crashes..
Yes, I've ensured that all available drivers are installed for said devices, which brings me onto my next point: Driver support for Windows 8 is very stale.
For a lot of devices and such, you will need to just use Windows 7 drivers and hope that they work, because Windows 8 drivers don't exist for all devices...yet. We can only hope that this gets better, which I'm sure it will. After all, technology is advancing so quickly, and the last thing you want as a manufacturer of electronics is to be left behind.
One of the pushing features for Windows 8 is the Microsoft App Store. This is obviously to compete against Apple's App Store, and the Google Play store. It has a lot of work to do, because the app selection for useful apps is very limited as of now. I know for a fact that this will get better as Windows 8 ages a little bit, but I'm thinking that maybe they should've just waited to release Windows 8 until more useful apps were available?
--- Games ---
I suppose this could've gone up with the previous category, but games are a big deal so I wanted them to be by themselves!
Games on Steam and Origin work great for the most part. I did have issues with some older games, such as Star Wars Jedi Knight, and Mysteries of the Sith. This was fixed by fiddling with the files in their directories, but it was still a hassle for awhile.
There are a few bad eggs, but the majority of games will work even better due to Windows 8's performance management.
--- Skydrive ---
Skydrive is fantastic. Skydrive is a cloud service offered by Microsoft. If you are familiar with Apple's iCloud, or Dropbox, you'll feel right at home with Skydrive.
With this service, I am able to transfer files between my desktop computer and my tablet MUCH quicker than I could with USB flash drives.
You just click and drag files into your Skydrive folder, then they will show up on your other devices in the same Skydrive folder. Brilliant! You get 7.0GB to play with, but that's plenty for most people. Not much else to say on this.
--- Conclusion ---
Windows 8 is not for everybody. If you are currently running Windows 7 on a desktop environment and love it, there is honestly no reason to upgrade to Windows 8. However, games do perform better (assuming they'll work), system performance as a whole is better, and Skydrive built in is a perk as well. Driver support is still sketchy, but give that time to change.
If you have a mobile device or touch screen capable interface with an x86 capable processor, absolutely get Windows 8. Windows 8 works extremely well in a touch screen environment, and is well worth the $69.99 price tag (subject to change).
Should you buy Windows 8? Sure, it's only $69.99. That's better than the price that Windows 7 was (and still is on most websites).
-- UPDATE: Price Change? --
It has just been brought to my attention that the price for Windows 8 has increased.
Now the regular edition of Windows 8 sells for $99.99 (USD).
It seems like there's a $39.99 Windows 8 Pro upgrade offer on Microsoft's website, as shown here:
I'm going to give Windows 8 a 4/5 on that scale. But on a 1-10 scale, I'm going to give it a 7/10 because of driver support being so poor for the time being.