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Windows 10 review: It's familiar, it's powerful, but the Edge browser falls short

Mark Hachman | July 27, 2015
We may as well refer to Windows 10 as a date, or an hour, as much as an operating system. It's a moment in time. A month from now, it will have changed, evolved, improved. But right now? Microsoft has shipped an operating system that was meticulously planned and executed with panache, but whose coat of fresh paint hides some sticks and baling wire.

Whew. Yes, there's definitely a "Who's on First?" feeling to the various settings menus within Windows 10. But to be fair, the best place to start is with the Settings link in the Start menu. The really nitty-gritty configuration work is left for the Control Panel, but the most frequently used options reside in the basic Settings, with user-friendly toggles and pull-down menus. 

Otherwise, Windows 10 automatically takes care of the basics, behind the scenes. I hooked up a number of USB peripherals to a Windows 10 machine with no issues, and routinely connected to either my work or home router. I did have an instance or two when Comcast's connection was flaky, however, and while other devices seemed to reinstate the connection, I had to reboot my PC.

Just be aware that there are hidden levels to Windows 10 that the OS hides from you--including features (like a battery saver/monitor, for example) that I'd really rather see as a desktop widget. 

Deep within Windows 10 lies DirectX 12, the latest version of Microsoft's API that will power your system's graphics card or chip. Those drivers ship with Windows 10, but Microsoft hasn't really promoted them yet. DirectX 12 is potentially a very big deal, however, because our early benchmark scores show its performance could be incredibly fast. Keep in mind that this is a theoretical benchmark, however, and testing on real game engines won't be possible for several months. 

We're also hearing that a bug in Windows 10's drivers may cause a small reduction (about 10 percent) in battery life with Windows 10. An upcoming patch should solve that problem. Some PC vendors are quietly warning that turning on Cortana's active listening mode will drain battery life, but we haven't tested by how much.

Microsoft's mediocre Windows Defender comes installed by default, handling antimalware and firewall duties. That's not a dig at Microsoft--Defender is there to protect your PC in the absence of anything else--but we'd recommend replacing it with another free or paid antimalware solution. Windows 10 was picky about which software I chose, though: I couldn't install Panda Software's free antivirus apps on Windows 10, but Avira and others worked fine. Microsoft made one other security tweak, preventing you from deferring Windows updates as was allowed in the past.

Like Windows 8, Windows 10 doesn't include any basic Blu-ray or DVD playback support--and there isn't a Windows Media Center add-on you can buy, either. Instead, just download VLC--but not from the Store, which houses the crappy mobile app. Instead, go right to the source, the VLC site. One apparent plus: Region switching seems to be a thing of the past. I swapped between a Region 1 and a Region 2 DVD I'd picked up in the U.K. Both played fine, and the region counter on my USB DVD drive never budged.

 

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