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Review: New Windows 10 version still can't beat Windows 7

Woody Leonhard | Nov. 13, 2015
Microsoft’s 'Fall Update' promised to put the finishing touches on Windows 10 -- it doesn’t.

Cortana. Microsoft’s voice-activated assistant has experienced several improvements since RTM. Cortana can now function without a Microsoft account. There’s better “ink” (stylus input) recognition, event reminders, voice-activated Uber bookings, and even missed call notifications if you hook up your Windows 10 phone. Cortana in version 1511 can sync your messages and call history. It can finally send SMS messages, if it’s connected to a Windows 10 phone. It can even create and send email, although it still has problems with word recognition, and it’s hard to insert punctuation marks.

Cortana is getting smarter in general, and she’s breaking out of the Windows box: Microsoft has been running a beta test program for Cortana on Android for several months, with uneven results, and the company recently announced a beta test program for putting Cortana on iPhones.

Edge. Microsoft’s new browser must rate high on any version 1511 upgrader’s disappointment list. While we were expecting a ready-for-prime-time competitor to Firefox and Chrome, the version of Edge in Win10 version 1511 falls short in many respects. Most painfully, it doesn’t support extensions. For me, the lack of a LastPass extension is a showstopper.

There have been some improvements, though. Since RTM, Edge has picked up the ability to sync settings across machines and to show previews of pages when hovering on a tab. When using Edge as a PDF reader, you can select words or phrases, then right-click to have Cortana look them up. Edge also has the ability to cast directly to a Miracast receiver, which you can pop into a TV or projector.

Still missing: A reasonable way to set the default search engine; the ability to set multiple home pages in different tabs; file drag and drop; a worthwhile favorites/bookmark manager; thumbnails in the taskbar; an advanced download manager. You can probably think of others.

Hello. You’ve seen the ads, and you’ve heard the testimonials: Windows Hello logs you straight into Windows as soon as the camera can see you. A new feature in version 1511, Hello is startlingly quick and so accurate it can distinguish between twins.

That’s the promise, anyway. Right now, aside from a developer’s toolkit, the most common commercially available, driver-tuned Hello cameras are on the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4. Ask a friend who owns one, and you’ll find out that Hello isn’t all that reliable. Some say it works better at night. Others say they’ve lost more time getting Hello to work than they’ll ever save with automatic face recognition.

It’s true that other manufacturers claim to have Hello working with their Intel RealSense cameras, but there’s been a surprising ring of silence since the RealSense camera driver update on Aug. 25. Of course, hardware manufacturers will stumble all over themselves to have functioning Hello cameras out by the holidays.

 

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