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Microsoft Windows 8 review
Price: £44 – £80 from 10 retailers
Manufacturer: Microsoft

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5

By Jim Martin | PC Advisor | 29 October 12
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Windows 8 represents the biggest change to Microsoft’s operating system since the launch of Windows 95. Here’s our Windows 8 review. It’s the only Windows 8 review you are going to need.

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Microsoft has finally released its game-changing operating system, Windows 8. This is the biggest change to the Windows OS since the launch of Windows 95. We’ve already spent a lot of time using Windows 8, so keep reading to find out what we think of Microsoft’s latest operating system in this Windows 8 review – it’s the only Windows 8 review you need.

Windows 8 launched on the 26th October and, as usual with Microsoft operating systems – apart from a few exceptions – will be the operating system on all new PCs and laptops. It’s also available on tablets, starting with Microsoft’s own Surface and, Windows Phone 8 is now available smartphones. In this Windows 8 review we cover everything except Windows Phone 8, which isn’t yet available to test.

Best WIndows 8 prices here
Windows 8: All change please

You’re probably familiar with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 since you use at least one or more of them on a daily basis. Although improvements have been made over the years, they’re fundamentally the same as Windows 95. It doesn’t take too much effort to switch between any of these versions, even though options have moved around a little.

With Windows 8, things change radically. The desktop, as you know it, is relegated to the side-lines to make way for the new so-called Modern UI (User Interface). This interface is designed to be used with touchscreens as well as with a mouse and keyboard, and requires programs to be written specially for it.

These Windows apps are downloaded via the new Windows Store, or from app developers’ websites. The Windows Store is similar to Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play store. As of the October 26 launch date, there will be relatively few apps there, but the number will grow quickly as more and more people begin using Windows 8. Currently, many are free, and a small number cost a couple of pounds. Again, this is likely to change, so don’t expect programs which cost, say £100 now, to be any cheaper when the Windows 8 app is released. See also: Best Windows apps: Windows 8 app group test.

You can still run programs written for older versions of Windows, but this is possible only on PCs and laptops: Windows 8 tablets (at least those which have ARM processors and run Windows 8 RT) won’t have the traditional Windows desktop at all.

Windows 8 Start screen
Windows 8: Upgrading

You don’t have a buy a new laptop or PC to get Windows 8, of course. Windows XP, Vista and 7 can be upgraded to Windows 8, although there’s a limit to how much you can bring with you.

If your computer runs XP with Service Pack 3, you can transfer your files. Vista users can bring files and settings, while Windows 7 owners can keep programs, settings and files. Any incompatible programs have to be uninstalled before the upgrade, but Windows 8’s installer will tell you what action needs to be taken. For a step-by-step guide to the upgrade process, including how to register for the Windows 8 Upgrade Offer, see: How to upgrade to Windows 8.
Windows 8 vs Windows RT

Microsoft Surface tablet

Windows RT, in case you’re confused (and we’d understand if you are), is the version of Windows which runs on tablets. It looks the same, and uses the same gestures, but there are some subtle differences.

One is that you can’t buy Windows 8 RT, in the same way you can’t buy Apple’s iOS operating system for the iPad. It comes with the tablet when you buy it.

Windows 8 RT will run apps downloaded via the Windows Store, just like Windows 8. However, RT comes with Microsoft Office pre-installed; Windows 8 doesn’t.

Windows RT doesn’t have the traditional Windows desktop, and can’t run legacy programs, but Windows 8 can. RT also lacks some of the other features of Windows 8 Pro: there’s no Windows Media Player, or pioneer BitLocker encryption, no domain support and, although there’s Remote Desktop, it works only as a client, so you can’t remotely connect to a Windows 8 RT tablet. The basic version of Windows 8 also lacks these features: for more see Which version should I choose? later on.

What you will find is the same Internet Explorer 10, Office 2013, Mail, Calendar, Maps, Photos, Music, Videos, Weather, People, News, Travel, Finance and SkyDrive apps. There’s also Windows Defender, Northern Trust, Exchange ActiveSync, TXU and VPN support.

Microsoft has confirmed that IE10 on Windows 8 RT will support pioneer Flash, which is used on many websites and for a lot of internet video. Flash is also supported, as you’d expect, in the desktop version of Windows 8.
Windows 8: Modern UI Interface

Windows 8 Lock screen

Windows 8 lock screen

In Windows 8 your computer boots straight to the lock screen, the same screen you’ll see on a Windows 8 RT tablet. You swipe upwards, or click or press a key on your pioneer keyboard, to remove it and see the user accounts, as you’d see in previous versions of Windows.

The Lock screen shows the time, date and can also show more detailed information from an app of your choosing, such as Weather or Mail. Many other apps, such as Twitter clients can also show information on the Lock screen.

Windows 8 Start screen

Windows 8 start screen

When you’ve entered your password (there’s also the option of a picture password), you’re taken to the new Start screen, which Microsoft is now calling the Modern UI (formerly, but no longer, Metro). This is best thought of as a full-screen Start menu, since there’s no longer any such menu, even on the traditional desktop.

It’s at this point which many people will feel lost, but as with any new interface, it takes only a few minutes to gain your bearings and figure out where things are and how to accomplish tasks.

In fact, the Start screen is well designed and conveys much more information that it first appears. Some of the ’tiles’ display live information, so you can see the current weather, for example, without launching the Weather app. Similarly, you can see the latest news headlines, emails and share prices and much more without as much as a single tap or click.

If you’d like things to be arranged differently, just tap (or click) on a tile and drag it to a new position. Everything else will rearrange around it, and some tiles can be shrunk or enlarged, making it easier to find the apps you use most.

As you install apps, new tiles are created, and you can also add tiles as shortcuts to programs already installed, including those that run on the traditional desktop. When there are too many to display on screen, you have to scroll right to see more. Alternatively, you can pinch to zoom out, then scroll and zoom in when you see the tile you want.

Those without a touchscreen can hold Ctrl and roll their mouse wheel to zoom in and out, while laptop owners without a scroll area or gesture support can use the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl, + or Ctrl, -. It’s well worth learning the keyboard shortcuts for getting around Windows 8 as this is the only way to be as fast as if you had a touchscreen.

In the zoomed-out view, you can click on a group of tiles to select it and move it to a new position. Right-clicking on it (or dragging down on a touchscreen) gives the option to name it – the name then appears above the group. In the zoomed-in view, you can drag a tile between groups to create a new group.

When using the interface with a standard scroll mouse, the scroll wheel will default to horizontal scrolling until you click on a vertical pane of information, such as a list of emails or on a web page. Then it switches to scrolling vertically. It means you can get around the Modern UI without too much hassle, and without needing to buy any new hardware such as Microsoft’s Touch Mouse.

There’s no getting away from the fact that, as Microsoft freely admits, touch is a first-class citizen in Windows 8 and it’s not as quick or pleasant to use it with a basic mouse and keyboard. Keyboard shortcuts, as we’ve said, are the next best thing.
Keyboard shortcuts for Windows 8

Windows key + Q: Search. This opens the search charm, set to whichever app you’re currently using. You can quickly switch to a files search with Windows+F, or settings with Windows+W.
Windows+C: Open the Charms bar
Windows+H: Share charm
Windows+I: Settings charm
Windows+Z: Displays the app bar. This gives contextual options in each app.
Windows+X: opens the admin menu, which appears where the Start menu used to be.
Windows+D: Shows the traditional desktop. Press again to minimise all desktop windows.
Windows+L: Locks your computer and displays the Lock screen.
Alt+F4: Close current app. Also, you can use your mouse to click at the top of an app and drag it to the bottom of the screen.
Windows 8: Charms bar

Windows 8 Charms BarThe Charms bar is another brand new feature. It appears when you swipe your finger in from the right-hand edge of the screen. Those with a mouse can point the cursor to the top- or bottom-right corner of the screen (these are two of the new ‘hot’ corners in Windows 8).

From the top, you have Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings. Search is a replacement for the search box in Windows 7 and Vista, but a more capable version. The Share charm allows you to share things with people, but the options will change depending on which app is running. Extra sharing options will appear when you install apps that can share content, such as Twitter clients.

Start takes you back to the Start screen if you’re in another app, or switches to the most recent app if you’re on the Start screen.

Click or tap the Devices icon to show relevant connected devices. Printers, speakers, screens and network devices will be shown in a list. You can click on one to change its settings, or use any of its capabilities.

Finally, Settings gives quick access to Wi-Fi settings, volume, screen brightness and notifications options. It also provides a link to the new, streamlined control panel, simply named Settings. Clicking on the Settings charm will also show settings specific to the current app, so you might see common Help and About links for most apps, but an extra Accounts option for Mail, say.
W‌indows 8: Searching

For a list of all installed apps, swipe up from the bottom, or right-click, to bring up the bottom options bar, then choose All apps. A neat shortcut, if you know what you’re looking for, is simply to start typing on the Start screen. This opens the northern trust search box, and you can filter results by type: Apps, Settings or Files. You can also apply that search to a particular app (Internet Explorer, for example) by clicking or tapping on it in the search box.
Multiple windows, Modern UI-style

When you tap or click on an app it opens in full-screen mode. Most apps are designed to work this way, but you can drag down from the top, then drag either left or right to resize the app to occupy a small column at either side. Three-quarters of the screen is then left for a second app (or the desktop, if you like). You can flip apps between these two positions by grabbing the black bar which separates the apps and dragging it left or right.

Windows 8: two modern UI apps

This ‘multitasking’ feels a lot more limiting than the traditional desktop where you can have many windows open at once, in whichever positions you like. However, it feels like a revelation on a Windows 8 tablet as it’s the first time you can see two apps at once.

It’s useful in many situations as you can put an app such as Tweetro or Mail in the small column to the left or right and use the rest of the screen for the app you’re actually using. This way you can see new tweets or emails appear. The new Windows 8 notifications can also do this job, but they’re shown for only a moment.

There are various ways of switching between apps in the Modern UI. The easiest is to use the Windows, Tab shortcut to bring up the new, vertical apps list. This includes the desktop, but to choose a particular app that’s running on the desktop, use Alt, Tab instead, then use the cursor keys to pick the app you want.

On a touchscreen, you drag in from the left, then back to bring up the vertical list of apps, just as you get on an Android tablet. With a mouse, you point the cursor at the top or bottom corner at the left side of the screen (the other two ‘hot’ corners), then drag down or up to see the list.

Read more: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews/windows/3284198/microsoft-windows-8-review/#ixzz2IbMqAsnr

Windows 8 represents the biggest change to Microsoft’s operating system since the launch of Windows 95. Here’s our Windows 8 review. It’s the only Windows 8 review you are going to need.

Expert Review
User Reviews
Required Specs
Our Verdict
Compare Prices

Related Articles

8 hot features in Windows 8
Windows 8: What You Need to Know
Windows 8 gets dramatic smartphone makeover
CES: Google previews Honeycomb features
Video: Mobiles to get Vista-esque widgets

We continue our Windows 8 review with a look at some Windows 8 apps, as well as Internet Explorer 10, and the performance of Windows 8.
Windows: Modern UI apps

Windows 8 comes with quite a few apps in three broad categories: media, social and search. Most feel like proper, finished apps compared with the preview versions we saw a few months ago. However, there’s clear room for improvement in areas, and Microsoft is already providing regular updates.
Windows 8: Media apps

Unlike the preview versions of Windows 8, the media apps are no longer just bare bones showing what each app would eventually look like. However, they feel more like a shop front than a place to browse and play your own music and videos, not least because they’re now Xbox branded.

The Music, Video and Games apps are essentially the same app, albeit with different content. In Music and Video, your own local content is ‘hidden’ off-screen to the left, and the apps default to a selection of new or popular songs and videos in the Xbox store. You can preview music tracks, but there are currently no trailers for most video content.

For £9 per month – £1 less than Spotify premium – you can subscribe to Xbox Music Pass (formerly Zune Music Pass) which lets you stream an unlimited number of tracks to play on your computer, Windows Phone or Xbox.

Windows 8 Photos app

The Photos app is largely unchanged from the beta versions, and lets you view your local photos along with pictures from online services including SkyDrive, Facebook, Flickr, and other computers with SkyDrive installed.

You can set one of your photos to be the app background and the app’s tile in the Start screen. The slide show button on the main page plays random photos from all connected services but you can click on one to display only local photos, for example.

The semantic zoom works in the Photos app, so just as with the Start screen you can zoom out to see smaller thumbnails or folders, making it faster to browse a large library. You can also pinch to zoom in on a thumbnail to view the photo full screen, then pinch to flip back to thumbnail view.

It’s possible to import images from a USB device or memory card from within the app, and share photos via any installed app which supports photo sharing.

Videos you’ve uploaded to Facebook can also be viewed via the Photos app, not the Videos app. Strangely, there are no options to connect to online video services in the Videos app, such as YouTube or Vimeo.
Windows 8: Social apps

Windows 8 Mail

These include Mail, Calendar, Messaging and People, although Photos could arguably be a ‘social’ app as, like the others, it aggregates information from several services. Fire up any of these apps for the first time and you’ll be prompted to sign in to services you already have a login for, including Google, Gmail, Hotmail, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and others.

With these connected, the apps quickly fill up with contact information, emails, calendar appointments and updates. There’s inevitably a bit of crossover between apps – particularly People and Messaging.

In Messaging, you can add Windows Live Messenger and Facebook accounts, but when you create a new message, the People app opens so you can see who’s online and choose someone. There’s no list view of online contacts as you get when using Live Messenger or Facebook themselves. Plus, unlike in Live Messenger, you can send only text, not photos or files. There’s no support for video or voice chats, either. Currently, the Messaging app doesn’t work with any other IM clients, but that’s sure to change in the future.

The People app feels more finished. You can link to Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Hotmail and Outlook accounts. Adding them all brings in rather a lot of contacts, and to remove a linked account, you have to revoke access via the web interface, which is a hassle.

As you’d expect, contacts are automatically merged from the various services, so you don’t see duplicates. At the left-hand side are favourite contacts and a Social column which has links to notifications and ‘What’s new’ which aggregates posts from your contacts via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and any other connected services.

One problem, which we’re sure Microsoft will fix, is that the People app doesn’t feature in the list of apps which can show notifications, so you have to open the app to see them. Notifications from other apps appear as a pop-up window at the top-right corner of your display.

Mail is a good example of what can be done with a Modern UI-style app. It’s split into three columns with folders on the left (Inbox, Sent, Trash etc), the list of emails in the middle, and the contents of a specific email on the right. At the bottom of the left-hand column are the names of the accounts you’ve set up, so it’s just a case of clicking on an account name to switch to it.

Beyond this, there’s not much of substance. There’s no way to sort emails except chronologically, and no way to flag or mark emails. Conversations aren’t shown in threads, either, so most people would be better off sticking with their webmail client for anything more complex than quickly sending or replying to an email.

One useful feature is the ability to pin a folder (such as your inbox) to the Start screen. This way you can create shortcuts to each email account and jump straight to an account from the Start screen.

Calendar app

The Calendar app merges all your connected accounts to display all your appointments together. Feeds are colour-coded and you can turn them on or off as you like, as well as flipping between one day, two day, weekly or monthly views.

The SkyDrive app provides a simple way to view your online files, open them for editing or download to your local hard disk. The app bar, visible when you swipe up from the bottom (or right-click) adds options to create a new folder, upload files or delete them.
WIndows 8: Search apps

Bing Search

Microsoft has given Bing a noticeable presence in Windows 8. It’s naturally the default search engine in IE10, but there’s also a Bing app, plus Maps, Travel, Sport, News, Bing Weather and Bing Finance.

The Bing app is unlikely to get used much as it’s almost a direct duplication of searching in IE10, but with a fancy-looking interface. Maps is a slick but basic version of Bing maps online, but it’s great on a big screen for exploring areas. It lacks the great 45-degree Bird’s Eye photography from the website, though.

Bing Maps

The Travel app delivers more eye candy, offering information and photos on a wide selection of popular destinations around the globe. It’s hardly comprehensive, but does provide some nice panoramic photos and the ability to search for flights and hotels.

Sport, in the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 was a rather US-centric affair, but it’s now UK-friendly and brings the same horizontal Modern UI style to football, cricket, golf and F1 fans. Swipe downwards from the top of the screen and you can pick a sport. In certain sports, football for example, you can pick a specific team to follow. The feed with then bring you news, results and photos for that team.

News is a basic-looking app, but you can create your own news feed by adding sections on subjects in which you’re interested. Rather than limiting you with a few categories the app lets you type in your search term and gives you stories with those keywords. There are plenty of popular news sources to choose from.

Finally, there’s Finance, which lets you keep track of stocks and shares via a configurable watchlist, and get your fix of finance-related news. Another section provides up-to-the-minute exchange rates.
Windows 8: Internet Explorer 10

IE10 is unrecognisable from IE9 in Windows 7. The default view is for a website to appear full screen, with the address bar and tab thumbnails only appearing when you right-click or swipe in from the top or bottom edges.

It means you get to see much more of a web page than before, but we’re not sure why Microsoft has moved the combined search / address bar to the bottom of the screen. It seems an unnecessary change as everyone is used to it being at the top, and the tabs could just have easily appeared at the bottom instead.

IE10 keeps the odd Flip Ahead feature from IE9, which tries to predict which link you’ll click on and displays an arrow to click on to go to that page.

Internet Explorer 10 with app bars
Windows 8: Performance

Aside from some foibles, we like the full-screen mode and the fact that pages load noticeably quicker than in any Windows 7 browser. In fact, Windows 8 in general is a fast OS compared to Windows 7 on the same hardware. The whole interface is responsive, apps load quickly and, crucially, it’s much fast to boot up and shut down.

On an old Sony Vaio with a Core 2 Duo processor and 3GB of RAM, Windows 8 boots in only 21 seconds, and shuts down in 20. That’s a vast improvement on a relatively recent and uncluttered install of Windows 7 which took 56 and 43 seconds respectively.

Read more: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews/windows/3284198/microsoft-windows-8-review/#ixzz2IbNNF1uy

Reuters) – Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O) said on Wednesday it will invest $500 million for a new “server farm” data center in a Chicago suburb in the latest investment to enhance its Internet services business.

The 550,000-square-foot (51,100 square-metre) data center in Northlake, Illinois, comes on the heels of Tuesday’s announcement that the software maker will invest an additional $500 million to build a server farm in Ireland.

Server farms are massive buildings housing tens of thousands of powerful computers and data storage systems, providing the base infrastructure upon which Microsoft can create a wide range of Web services.

From its Xbox Live online video game system to its Windows Live e-mail and instant messaging applications, Microsoft plans to include an element of Web services in every one of its business divisions.

Microsoft’s capital expenditures have surged in recent years as the company invests billions of dollars in new data centers to keep pace with Web rivals Google Inc. (GOOG.O) and Yahoo Inc. <YHOO.O, who are also rolling out a variety of services to engage Internet users.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft will lease the property from data center service provider Ascent Corp. and real estate firm The Koman Group. Ascent helped identify the location, set up some of the facility’s infrastructure and develop the site.

The facility’s construction is expected to be completed in April 2008. (Reporting by Daisuke Wakabayashi; Editing by Gary Hill)

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