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Windows 8 install and test drive: Welcome to Microsoft's brave new world

Loyd Case | Aug. 16, 2012
I’m writing this on an Asus Zenbook UX31A at a Peet’s Coffee on Steven’s Creek Boulevard in the heart of Silicon Valley. In an adjacent table a man and woman have papers spread out on a table, talking in hushed tones, with the word “Apple” occasionally audible.

Spinning the mouse wheel lets you scroll smoothly through all tiled screens, whether it's the main UI, the Microsoft Store, or other applications using the new interface style.

That sidebar you see above is easy to bring up in the main Windows 8 UI. What I thought was equally useful was making it available in the Windows desktop. Given how Windows 8 uses real estate, having a monitor with higher pixel density is a good thing. The laptop I'm using includes a 1080p IPS panel.

The other thing I've gotten used to while using the release preview was to just start typing when in the main tile interface. As you type the word, the number of choices diminish.

The first letter of any word in the file or app name seems searchable, so when I typed the letter "A", I got entries for the Dark Arcane game, Help and Support, Windows Fax and Scan and finally, Access 2013, as shown below.

It has taken some time to adapt to the radical change in the visual experience. Microsoft is using DirectX to accelerate all the graphical UI elements while simplifying the style of those same elements. Gone is the faux 3D, drop shadows, and beveled windows, replaced with all flat, saturated colors and tiles. It seems almost too simplistic but, by the same token, my eye wasn't distracted by extraneous elements.

Accelerating all UI elements, including text, with the graphics processor makes Windows a much more fluid experience. Enlarging text in browsers or apps seems smoother than the staggered steps in Windows 7. The integrated Intel HD 4000 GPU in the Zenbook is more than adequate, though you can see a slight flickering in the text as the antialiasing kicks in when you're changing text size.

Sticky Applications

One minor concern I had revolved around sticky applications. When you close an app, it doesnt really close. It remains dormant in the background.

Theres no CPU hit, but some memory is consumed. The laptop I used had 4GB of RAM, though some of that was reserved for the integrated graphics frame buffer. I loaded up a bunch of apps just to see what happened.

The system tended to be mostly responsive. Mostly means that the preview version of Word would occasionally freeze. This freeze turned out to be temporary, not a hard lock.

The combination of many open apps plus Words SkyDrive integration seemed to result in slow temp saves. This seemed to happen rarely, but worrying nonetheless. On the other hand, this is a beta version of Office, so what I experienced may simply be a bug in Word.

The Store and More Shopping

 

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