After months of build-up, the next version of Windows, known as Windows 8.1, has arrived.
Is Microsoft's newest operating system worth your bother now?
Short answer: If you've never tried Windows 8, try 8.1. There's a big, compelling reason to do so. You get a lot of device for your money, in every way, shape, and form.
There's an 8-inch mini-tablet from Acer, a bunch of 10-inch all-in-one PC/tablets, a mongo 18-inch all-in-one from Dell (the XPS 18). There's big-screen desktops, Ultrabooks, and gaming PCs. There's even an odd dual-screen tablet from Asus (the Taichi 21). Devices start at for under $500, too.
And the best reason of all to try Windows 8 is that you can get a desktop and a tablet in a single device.
But the long answer is: if you tried Windows 8 before and hated it, Windows 8.1 won't change your mind.
Yes, Microsoft added a bunch of new features and fixed most of the things people really hated. It added the Start button back in, lets people adjust the size of their windows again, and gives people an option to boot directly into the desktop side.
But after testing 8.1, we believe the major thing that drove people crazy about Windows 8 still exists in 8.1: The user interface is not intuitive. It's almost secretive.
- Many of the gestures that make Windows 8 workable are hard to find. For instance, to see your open apps, swipe your screen to the right and then to left and a list of Windows will appear.
- You can only swipe from left to right to tab through your open apps/windows, not right to left.
- To close a Modern-style app, swipe from top to bottom with one finger in one smooth motion... there's no little "x" in the corner.
- It's hard to find various settings and features for various apps.
- When using the new-and-improved Snap feature that lets you run multiple apps in a split screen, the apps size themselves, so it takes more fussing than it should to get the apps you want arranged in windows the way you want them.
- There are still two versions of Internet Explorer on the device, although Microsoft fixed the biggest problem with that: they now share bookmarks.
The upshot is that Windows 8 requires effort and commitment. Microsoft made it unnecessarily hard. But if you can take on the learning curve with an open attitude, you will learn Windows 8's tricks and then you'll have a device that can do a lot for you for the price.
Bottom line: Microsoft addressed a lot of user complaints with this new update, most notably the ability to boot into the regular desktop mode, but it's still largely the same experience as before.
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