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Hands on Windows 8 – Today I run it on a Sony Vaio VGN-P21z


Posted by | Evil Kristos | October 30, 2012 | No Comments

Since Microsoft is pretty much giving away their new Windows 8 I decided to give it a go. I own a Sony Vaio subnotebook VGN-P21z which is very pretty and quite certainly as mobile as notebooks get BUT it isn’t designed for speed. It originally came with Windows Vista. If you ever tried to use Vista you how well that worked. Windows 7 was an improvement but still the little Vaio didn’t exactly fly.

From the Beta Tests I knew that Windows 8 once again improved in speed and weight so I reckoned it will be perfect for me. With 29.99 € for a Pro Version it wasn’t much of an investment either so I sat down on Sunday and updated my beloved little travel laptop. Here is my report.

Installation
The installation really is a piece of cake. Download the update manager from the Microsoft website. It takes it from there. What I really did like about it; update manager runs a thorough check of your hard and software and afterwards gives you a detailed report where conflicts may arise. I for example had to uninstall daemon tools. That hurt a little bit but I am sure an updated version will come out soon.

Once the update manager is satisfied (and only then) it will allow you to actually purchase Windows 8. I very much liked that approach. Check first, pay later.

The update went very smooth from there. It took forever but I reckon the Vaio is to blame for that. A couple of hours later I was all set and – believe or not – Windows 8 is quicker than Windows 7. Owning a small, cool and beautiful but annoyingly slow notebook you do appreciate even small improvements in performance.

I should mention that – once the download is completed – the install manager offers you a choice of updating the system immediately or create an ISO file which you can use to create an installation disc. I chose the ISO file of course. After I burned the DVD and the reinitialized the process the install continued exactly where I had left it. That is what I call a well-executed installation routine. I was very pleased with it.

Speed
One of the main reasons behind my update attempts was the hope for better performance. Good news! The laptop does boot up faster and from the standard desktop it seems to work better than before. There are a few drawbacks for early adopters of course. For the time being Internet Explorer is the browser of choice. It runs OK but it is hideous. I do not know if it is quicker than IE9 since I never used that in my life (the same applies to IE8 and IE7) but since Firefox is currently on Alpha and I am fed up with Chrome (which probably doesn’t have a Win8 version either) I pretty much have to use IE10 for now.

Generally speaking Windows 8 has two faces. The new and shiny desktop with its tiles is supposed to be the new Windows frontend. The choice of apps currently available is limited. And what’s available is slow. While I like the new approach Microsoft is taking the performance is questionable. Since the old desktop still exist (unless you buy the RT version) that’s not a problem. One click gets you to the old desktop with all the previously installed programs. The performance here is excellent. Even if you never want to use the new Windows frontend you will find the classic desktop faster than Windows 7.

Usability
You will have to learn a few new tricks with Windows 8. Of course that pisses people off but quite frankly; all in all I do like what they did. The idea behind the tiles is brilliant. Metro Apps are supposed to update these tiles with all the latest news. The email app will notify you of new mail and even give you a teaser, the social media app (currently flip toast is the app of choice there) automatically provides you with the latest Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn updates. I do like that a lot. Most of the apps currently available are not very good in using this killer feature though. I am sure this will change with time.

The only downside of this new look is that it was designed with mobiles in mind. All apps open in full screen. While you attach one app to the sidebar it still is a bit odd to use. I certainly like proper tabbed browsing so I tend to switch to the classic view for this purpose. I would prefer if Microsoft would make this optional so PC and laptop user can disable it. There is a chance that this is possible and I haven’t found it yet.

At first I was irritated because apps remained open all the time. It was rather complicated to close them. I now found out that you just have to grab the app at the top hold it with the mouse and swipe it down. That closes it. I am sure with time I will find solutions to all my minor issues.

The verdict then: I do like the new Windows. It looks good and is easy to use. Its strength certainly is the cross platform approach. Different devices can be synchronized easily. The “one for all” idea may not be popular with everyone but it is a step in the right direction. A few twitches here and there would improve the user experience for laptop and PC users but we should give it time before dissing the Redmond giant.

Worth mentioning is; Microsoft gives you a free cloud service called sky drive that can hold a few gigs. That’s nothing new but now integrated into the system. I’ll probably keep using Dropbox since my main PC runs Linux but I appreciate the thought.

My user experience improved with the new Windows. My small Vaio does run better with it and I do like the look. I do have two concerns though:

First: The overall performance of the metro apps is not impressive. I hope for an improvement there.

The second one is a more general concern. The new app store comes with certain rules. Bottom line is that you cannot add any adult content. By adult I don’t mean only nudity. Most games would not pass these house rules. Should Microsoft in the long run plan to get rid of the classic desktop – this thought was indeed raised in a number of forum articles – they will be in trouble. The main advantage they have over Apple is their open platform. Please Microsoft, keep it that way. There is nothing wrong with metro apps but if you want to remain the leading platform on stationery devices and laptops do not EVER change the classic Windows desktop.

If you do have a slow laptop or notebook like the Sony Vaio VGN-P21z I can absolutely recommend the update. And I suggest doing it now. Windows RT will be of no use since it doesn’t have the classic desktop. Windows 8 Pro will be considerably more expensive in the future. 29.99 € is money well spent.

I have spoken.

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