Windows 8 Consumer Preview : Hands On

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview was released recently and it crossed a staggering one million downloads in just a day. We got ourselves a hot copy of the 64 bit version of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview without wasting any time. After trying out the Developer Preview, we had predicted why Windows 8 may fail on PC’s. Microsoft had acknowledged later that in Developer Preview the keyboard and mouse operations for metro were not smooth enough.

If you have not yet downloaded Windows 8 Consumer Preview, this post should help you.

Installation

The installation part went off very smoothly and took barely 15 minutes. I chose to upgrade my Developer Preview. Note that on the first boot the disk activity was extremely high. But after installing the latest updates and rebooting the issue was almost fixed (More on that in a while). The consumer Preview took much less space for installation than the Developer Preview due to shaving off lot of developer apps like Visual Studio 11 Preview from the Consumer Preview ISO.

I installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview x64 on my fairly old and under powered machine : Core 2 Duo E7500 2.93 GHz, 2 GB DDR3 RAM and onboard  Intel graphics.

Metro : Where it excels

Windows 8 Consumer Preview
Mtro Interface on Windows 8 Consumer Preview is a huge improvement from the one we got in Developer Preview. Metro apps are very colorful and elegant. The interface now is even more polished and feels extremely fast and responsive even with my old PC. And yeah, now you can customize your start screen with many different colors.  Kudos Redmond.

 

Earlier in the Developer Preview, navigating Metro through Mouse and Keyboard was pain the royal places. Microsoft has fixed it for the major part and actually made the use of Metro very cool via  nifty use of the screen corners which is a major step to improve the UI. The lower left corner reveals the start screen upon hovering. And the upper left corner shows the “most recent app” you have used. Pull the mouse a bit lower and you can get the complete list of open apps. Switching between metro apps via mouse is actually very neatly implemented.

You can switch between apps via keyboard using Shift + Windows Tab as well.

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Coming to the heart of the metro, the Metro app store contains a fair number of apps which are much more feature complete than Developer Preview apps. The app store is now fully functional and contains a fair number of good apps. Surprisingly there were quite a number of Indian apps too in the app store. The apps like People for example are extremely well designed and is a pleasure to navigate. Though navigating horizontally may be a bit annoying in the beginning but you will easily get used to it.

I could not test docking of metro apps due to low screen resolution of 1280X768. The minimum required for docking metro apps is 1366X768

The Desktop

In Windows 8, the Desktop is somewhat relegated to being another Metro app. The aero glass interface is improved upon actually and almost all your desktop effects are present apart from flip 3D (which I am pretty sure no one cared about). The start button is now completely removed and instead upon hovering to the bottom all you get is the preview of the start screen. If you were expecting the Consumer Preview to have a way to disable the start screen and get back the old start menu, it is simply not there. Of course you get the all improved Explorer and Task Manager which are downright awesome. In our tests all the popular desktop apps like Chrome, Firefox, Office 2010 worked without any issues.

All is Well? Not so

Now to be honest I have begun to like the Consumer Preview a million times over the developer preview. But still there are a few major outstanding issues

  • Switching Between Metro and Desktop Apps is really cumbersome. Why so?
      1. Alt-Tab mixes desktop and metro apps, not too mention the catchy transition from Metro to Desktop back and forth. While perfectly functional the user experience definitely feels very clumsy and annoying.
      2. As mentioned before Windows Tab or hovering over the Top-Left corner of the screen works well, but not so much for Desktop apps. Because in the current implementation does not show multiple desktop apps running and instead shows the desktop in whole as an app. Again very irritating.
  • There are really less number of apps in the Metro Store. Actually less than 100 in totality spread over various categories. Also the Store did not sow me the data downloaded which is somewhat stupid to miss out upon. Metro fun will really begin when there will be loads of apps.
  • The new task switcher could do better by displaying the name of the app as a translucent caption, because in the current state it is extremely confusing at times to switch
  • Many basic metro apps like Weather, XBox Games did not simply work for my location. This gets on your nerves real fast.

Let us know what was your impression of Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

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