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Product: Windows 8 (Windows 8.1 Upgrade)
Company: Microsoft
Website: http://www.microsoft.com
MSRP:
See Pricing
Review By: Andre Da Costa

with Byron Hinson, Robert Stein contributing

Windows 8.1

Table Of Contents (45 Pages)
1: Introduction
2: Pricing, Editions & System
Requirements
3:
Installation, Setup & Upgrading
4: Initial Impressions
5: Daily Usage & Application Compatibility
6: Desktop
7: File Explorer
8: Start Screen Apps
9: Internet Explorer 10

10: Networking & Connectivity
11: Windows Store
12: Gaming
13: Advanced Features - Part 1
14: Advanced Features - Part 2
15: USB 3.0 Support & Security
16: Performance & Reliability
17: Support Services & Activation 3.0
18: Other Features
19: Windows 8.1
19: Conclusion & Online Resources

As a regular Windows user I have to admit that the switch to Windows 8 wasnít a joyous one. I didnít (and still donít) like the Metro interface, I find it wastes too much space and just isnít designed for the majority of desktop users.

 

Despite this I went ahead and got myself a touch-based laptop and although it still didnít change my mind about the interface, I did see some benefits and smart within the touch UI. The biggest problem is that I find as a desktop and laptop user I nearly always went straight into desktop mode and avoided the Modern UI as much as possible.
 

After installing Windows 8.1 little has changed here either, though thankfully I can boot right into the desktop now like I have always wanted to.

 

Installation went smoothly I am pleased to report. The whole install took quite some time though so make sure you have at least an hour or so spare to ensure you run into as few issues as possible. When my desktop rebooted most of my devices worked perfectly, though I did have an issue where Windows 8.1 decided to install a much older Belkin Wireless driver for me rather than the one I previously had setup. This was rectified by doing a reinstall of the device which didnít take long at all.

 

The install on my Samsung touch-laptop wasnít smooth at all however, though this is more due to the fact that Samsung havenít released any updated drivers for Windows 8.1 so far. The issues I had were lockups, blank screens, little or no wireless working (Intel Centrino known issues) and more. So I would hold back on this upgrade until more drivers are released from your laptop manufacturers.
 

Once your install is complete you will see that the biggest overhaul is that the ďStart MenuĒ is kind of back in Windows 8.1. It isnít how you remember it and rather than opening up a little of menus when clicked, it will take you straight into the multi colored Modern UI. Right clicking will bring up a number of shortcuts to things such as Control Panel, shut down options and more. Though I have to say that I rarely make any use of it whatsoever bar shutting my desktop off.

 

 

If you really do miss the start menu then you can easily use the Modern UI as a start page, adding the apps you want even if they are not the live tiles people tend to want to see there.

 

So what else has changed? Well you now get a larger array of options for Live Tiles. This means that you can make them smaller, medium, larger or basically how you want to lay your start screen out like. Despite liking the idea of Live Tiles, many of them on my start screen rarely update as regularly as I would like, especially news tiles. A fault of the developers Iím sure but it certainly makes a mockery of calling them ďLiveĒ

 

A very good feature of Windows 8.1 is that now your lock screen and start screens can be identical across all of your Windows 8.1 devices. This works by connecting up to your Microsoft account and even includes browser history and pinned sites. This is one feature that has worked flawlessly since I installed Windows 8.1 on my desktop and laptop device.

 

Another good update is Internet Explorer 11, although it isnít a visual update and many people will probably assume no update has even been made here, it seriously flies through websites now. It even makes me consider dropping Chrome as my default browser.

 

One big push is that Microsoft says Windows 8.1 will bring far better apps and a much improved range of apps too. Currently before the public release it is hard to say if this will be true. Certainly the apps included in Windows 8.1 are drastically improved over their Windows 8 counterparts, I canít say that there is anything really new on the Windows Store right now. Mail has seen the biggest overhaul and is finally a decent app, especially for those with Tablets. It is no longer slow, looks better and acts like a very good mail app.

 

The Windows Store has seen a really important design chance though, making it not only easier to use, but also easier to read about apps, find information and much more. The design really flows well on a touch screen.

So overall this is a decent upgrade, it wonít change the minds of those who dislike the Modern UI or see no use in Live Tiles, but for anyone with a Windows tablet this is likely to be a must have upgrade. Performance feels smoother and my general usage on both desktop and laptop has improved and become more enjoyable and that afterall, can only be a good thing.

 

 ę Other Features Conclusion & Online Resources Ľ

 

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