Sunday, January 27, 2013

Windows Ocho - Day 1

It’s finally happened; I have become a Windows 8 user. Ok, as of this posting, it’s been less than 24 hours (a little under 12 hours to be exact). It was time to get a new computer, not so much because my “old” one was functionally obsolete as much as the fact that it is a few years old and it’s not portable (i.e., not a laptop). Over the Christmas holiday when traveling to visit family for several days, it became very apparent that I needed my own, non-work issued, private laptop; one capable of playing games and running the apps and software that I use regularly on my desktop. In other words, I needed a laptop capable of being a desktop replacement. So the search began with the plan to be using my income tax refund to finance the purchase.

I looked at several models and brands online and in various stores.1 One thing became abundantly clear very quickly - no matter what I bought, I was going to have to deal with the dreaded and much maligned Windows 8. It’s not that I couldn’t find laptops that did not have Windows 7, it’s just that the ones that had Windows 7 were no more powerful than my desktop. My thinking on that was simply that if I was going to get a new laptop to use in place of the desktop, it made more sense to get something that trumped it in terms of technology specifications. So, I resolved that I was going to have to learn Windows 8 and get used to the new GUI,2 (which is one of the things that I did not like about the new look as I felt Microsoft was trying too hard to make Windows look like a smartphone layout).

Yesterday afternoon, after having electronically receiving my W2 on Friday, I went to H&R Block Online and did my tax return for 2012. While I didn’t get back as much as I was hoping for, I am expecting a refund (federal and state combined) large enough to buy a new laptop. So, my fiancee and I drove the 30ish minutes to the nearest Micro Center where I filled out an application for a store credit card; I was summarily declined (as expected, frankly). However, my beloved, knowing how important this was to me, decided to also fill out an application and was approved, allowing me to get the laptop that I had seen the week before and had settled on being the one I wanted (once I get my tax refund(s), I’ll simply pay off the entire card balance).

Here are my initial comments/observances/grievances with Windows 8:

  • Speed - so far very impressive; quick boot time, download and install speeds beyond acceptable. Admittedly, some of that could be the fact that the hardware itself has four times as much RAM as my desktop with a quad-core processor versus a dual-core, but still, the OS is what runs the show so it gets held responsible for shitty performance (case in point, XP seemed much slower on my desktop than Windows 7 on the exact same hardware).

  • RAM usage - Speaking of hardware and how the OS utilizes it, I noticed something when looking at the screen showing basic system information, of the 12GB of total RAM, there are 11.9GB of usable RAM showing. I seem to remember XP always taking up to half of the physical RAM for itself, at least until there was over 2GB, and Windows 7 seems to take about a quarter. So it would seem that Windows 8 is considerably less of a resource hog than previous versions of the OS, but time will tell - plus the need to do speed tests and really see how much I can throw at it to see how it really handles resources.

  • Look - I hate to admit it, but the new Start Screen is much easier to deal with than I had feared it would be; also using the WinKey+D takes you to a normal Windows Desktop mode like we’ve all been used to since Windows 95. The new layout also moves some things around, which I’m finding frustrating, but getting the hang of much faster that I thought I would (it helps that one of the pre-installed apps on the Start Screen is called “Getting started with Windows 8” and has been extremely helpful in learning the new GUI and features). Sure, it still feels a bit like it’s designed more toward a tablet layout, but there does seem to be a fair amount of ways to customize the look and supposedly there are apps that can be used to make 8 look and behave more like 7 for those that really don’t want to learn the new layout. So, the biggest thing I said I didn’t like about Windows 8 (based on initial screenshots I had seen) is actually growing on me and becoming something that I like about it.

  • Apps - being a smartphone user, I’m used to the concept of apps and an “app store”. So far, I do like the fact that there are many programs that I use that have an app version for Windows 8 (e.g., Dropbox, Box, Nook for PC) and these seem to take up less memory and hard drive space than a traditional piece of Windows software. The only annoyance, so far, is that I’ve yet to find a search feature/option when looking for apps in the Windows “Store”.

Old vs New Comparison:

Just for reference, here’s a very basic comparison of my Desktop Specs vs the Specs of the new Laptop

DesktopLaptop
Brand & ModelSelf built - Asus MBHP Envy dv7-7292nr
CPUAMD 64-bit Dual Core 2.6GhzIntel i7 Quad Core - 2.4Ghz
RAM3GB12GB
Dedicated Video RAM1GB (NVIDIA chipset)1.6GB (NVIDIA Chipset)
Hard Drive3 total - primary internal (OS and software) =150GB, secondary internal (documents and files)  500GB; external (multimedia) 500GB1TB
(NOTE: the document and multimedia drives on the desktop have been setup for network sharing so are accessible to the laptop via the home network)


So far the first 12+ hours of using Windows 8 has been the typical new computer setup routine and getting used to the new features and feeling my way around. I have to say, I don’t “hate” it. Later today I’ll be testing 8’s supposed “better” multi-monitor handling when I attach it to one of my desktop’s current monitors in the upstairs office (I even managed to find a HDMI-to-DVI adapter cable instead of a big clunky adapter piece). I’ve also installed World of Warcraft (of course) so I’m looking forward to seeing on 8 handles that (the reviews on various message boards about playing WoW on Win8 seem to be quite mixed).

Articles and Links:

Notes:

1. Tiger Direct, BestBuy, OfficeDepot, and Micro Center to name a few.
2. GUI, for those of you that don’t know means “Graphical User Interface”.
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