A Windows 8.1 Review & How About that Windows 10?

Lo readers! Welcome back, post Thanksgiving holiday and welcome to December! I now give you permission to start listening to Christmas music and watching those Christmas specials you love and enjoy! And with our entry into December, it’s time for punch, pie, and presents! Oh yeah! So last week I mentioned that I got a pretty good deal on a little cheapy laptop during Black Friday; seeing as many of you will either be gifting or getting your freelancer some sort of computer or tablet (fingers crossed!), chances are you’re going to get some sort of equipment that has Windows 8 or 8.1 on it. Seeing as I’m also with a Windows 8.1 laptop, here’s a little bit about that!

Does it have to be Windows 8?

I know what you’re thinking; the public has not been wrong. Windows 8 was probably a big misstep for Microsoft. A few years ago when Windows 8 came out, I wrote that I’d love to have something akin to the Surface, but the notion of a touch screen on anything that was not a tablet or phone didn’t make any sense; and it totally didn’t make any sense to anyone else either. Unfortunately, any new Windows machines you buy are going to be some form of Windows until next year when Windows 10 makes it’s official debut. So let’s say you get stuck with something that’s Windows 8/8.1; how bad is it?

Gina’s Windows 8.1 Experience

Both my roommate and I have been recent parents to laptops with Windows 8.1 – we both work from home, though he does more work on his laptop than I do, so it was important that his laptop specifications came very close to matching what he currently has in his desktop; I was not so concerned, as I primarily do much of my work on my desktop. So tip #1 if you’re getting that Windows 8/8.1 pc – make sure you’re getting what you need it for. If it’s something mundane, like just surfing the web and what not, a regular Surface RT may very get thee job done, as  would any tablet from Apple to Google. If you’re planning on doing any type of work, you’ll need something with a desktop. And that brings up the next question – Windows 8 v Windows 8.1? What’s the difference?

In a word – a lot. Really.

The whole problem with Windows 8 stems from Microsoft thinking everyone wanted a tablet in a tablet/smartphone world. This of course isn’t true, as many desktop and laptop users whole heartedly pointed out. Windows 8.1 was the appeasement to those very loud comments; essentially Windows 8.1 was an upgrade that brought back the Start menu (sorta) and made it so PC users went to their desktops instead of being stuck and lost in the Start screen. That’s really the big difference between the two – a better recognition of whether a device was a tablet or a PC; this of course has come full circle once Windows 10 comes out, as it will – supposedly – be able to tell when a keyboard/mouse is attached. In most cases, Windows 8.1 will most likely be the OS that will come with your new PC.

So how’s the experience been?

Surprisingly, not bad. Again, as mentioned, I lucked out and got one of the Windows 8.1 with Bing laptops. What does that mean? Basically Bing is the default search engine, if you want to keep it that way. Luckily, I did not and because my laptop is an actual computer (versus the tablet-esque of a Surface RT) I pretty much got rid of Bing and brought over my Google stuff. I think that’s the best part about Windows 8.1 – it’s essentially a regular OS, akin to Windows 7 or XP. I was able to download my most frequently used programs with no issues. It also came with a ‘trial’ version of Office 2013, so if you want to try that out, get a PC with that as an option. As I am already paying for Office 365, it was simple to just download that.

What about that Metro Start screen?

The Metro/Start screen was probably the biggest downside to Windows 8/8.1, especially for PC users. As mentioned, 8.1 now allows for users to go directly to the desktop once they turn on their computers, without even needing to use the Start screen. Ironically, I actually manage to find myself in the Start screen as much as I do the desktop. Some apps of course come preloaded, so I tried those, kept the ones I wanted and got rid of the ones I didn’t. Speaking of apps, here is where I’m 50/50 on Windows 8.1.

Yes, the Windows Store is not as big as the Android or Apple store. Let’s get that out of the way right now. With that said, the store is still growing and it now holds more of the popular apps/programs that people are actually use. The big ones – like Netflix for instance – are great; I do wish it was more like the Android app/website where suggestions for movies or shows show on the same page of a show you’re watching, but that’s my main complaint for the moment.

My biggest complaint right now s the quality of apps versus their desktop component. Perfect case is VLC player – VLC has been a popular choice for PC users for video playback, especially for those of us who like have digital backups of our DVDs or Blu Rays. The app for VLC is horrible and I don’t care how many sites proclaim it to be a good app for Windows 8.1; it’s not. Why? For the very reason I use VLC in the first place – watching the DVD copy. When trying to pull up the movie from my external drive, not only does it not play the files in the folder (like the desktop version), it won’t even give you the option. I ended up having to download the desktop version to get the process to work. Flipboard is another one of those apps that seems to fail on Windows versus it’s other mobile version – the Windows version doesn’t allow for sharing or emailing like the Android version does.

Now of course, there’s a Share option in the charms bar, but why not have one in the actual app itself?

Another thing that I find more interesting than problematic is the fact that Office doesn’t have any dedicated apps; when pining their programs to the Start menu, they immediately open the desktop version. Windows has been touting their Office 365 and online Office programs for years, ever since 2010 came out, so why in the world would they not make an app to take you to the online version of your document? The Spotify app does the same exact thing.

Verdict?

Overall, Windows 8.1 is breath of fresh air, way more improved over regular Windows 8. It’s still has a personality issue in trying to decide if it’s a PC or a tablet, especially on non tablets/2 in 1 devices. The Start screen is actually neater than expected, though some programs have apps, but go immediately to the desktop, which defeats the purpose of an app. But it’s doable until Windows 10 comes out and, if rumors are to be believed, Windows 10 will be a free or at least a small amount upgrade for all Windows 8.1 users, so that’s something to look forward to.

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About Writer 66

Writing since the age of seven, managed to get a job as a copy writer, while enjoying the unsung awesomeness as a creative fan fic writer.

Posted on December 8, 2014, in Beginnings, gifts, Interludes, Story Time!, The Business Side and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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