This is a quick review of the Windows 8 experience on a tablet. I am not a professional reviewer so don't expect the same quality that W1zzard has in his reviews
I also made a video, link is at the end of the post.
Please no flaming and try to keep it civil, this is for information purposes only and represents only my opinion. Hope you all find it a worthwhile read
To test Windows 8’s tablet capabilities, I used an Acer Iconia W500. It has a 1GHz dual core AMD C-50 CPU, 2GB DDR3 RAM, and a 32GB SSD. Pretty typical hardware for what the final x86 Windows 8 tablets will ship with, so it’s a great test bed to see how Windows 8 performs.
Detailed specifications can be found here.
Tablet Model: Acer Iconia Tab W500
Processor: AMD C-Series dual-core processor C-50 (1 MB L2 cache, 1 GHz, DDR3 1066 MHz, 9 W)
Memory: 2GB DDR3 PC3-8500
Display: 10.1” HD 1280x800 LED-backlight with multi-touch
Harddisk: 32GB SSD
Software: Windows 8 Pro 32bit (build 9200)
Drivers: Latest Acer drivers, AMD Catalyst 12.8
Windows 8 Startup/Shutdown/Sleep Performance
On the Acer Iconia W500, the time from pushing the power button to the Start Screen is 12.5 seconds. A drastic improvement over Windows 7. Immediately after the Start Screen appears you can get to work. Swiping the Start Screen from side to side, and opening opens is fluent and responsive. The days of grabbing a coffee while waiting for Windows to load are over!
Similarly, the shutdown time in Windows 8 has also been reduced. The W500 shuts down in 4.5 seconds.
Sleep mode is where Microsoft made the biggest performance leap over previous versions of Windows. Hitting the power button immediately puts the tablet to sleep. The time from hitting the Windows or Power button to the lockscreen is 1.8 seconds, which is damn impressive! Again, we’re no longer waiting on Windows, it’s finally keeping up with the user.
Using the Start Screen
The biggest change in Windows 8 has been the removal of the Start Menu, and the addition of the Start Screen. The Start Screen basically serves as a fullscreen Start Menu, allowing you to organize and place shortcuts to Apps (icons) on it. You can scroll through it by swiping the screen left or right, and to move an icon simply hold your finger down over an icon, and slowly move it out of place and put it wherever you like. It works similarly to Android and IOS in that regard. You can also select multiple icons by swiping down on each icon you want to select. This is handy if you want to remove a bunch of icons from Start Screen at once.
Because there is no Start Menu, Microsoft made its own version of the App Drawer. Simply swipe up from the bottom of the screen and a blue bar will appear. On the bottom right is the “All apps” button. Pressing this will bring you to a screen that shows every App you have installed on your computer. It’s a little confusing at first, but once you get accustomed to the way it’s organized browsing it becomes much easier.
Swiping from the left side of the screen towards the centre of the screen brings up the “Charm Menu”. There are five options: Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings.
Search: This basically does what the search bar in the Start Menu in Windows 7 does, it searches anything you want on your computer. When you start typing it gives you the option of searching Apps, Settings, Files, or within a specific App. This can be used in both the Desktop and Start Screen environments.
: Windows 8 has built-in sharing. This feature currently only works from the Start Screen (not the desktop mode). If you want to share a link or an App, simply select it, bring up the Charms Menu, select Share, and you will be presented with options such as Mail, and People. Depending on what other Apps you have installed, they may appear as a sharing option as well. This feature is great if you want to email a link to an App to someone, or post it on Twitter or Facebook.
: This is kind of a redundant button. If you are in the Start Screen, pressing the Start button brings you to the desktop mode. If you’re in the desktop mode, pressing the Start button brings you to the Start Screen. This can already be done by pressing the physical Windows button on the tablet, or by pressing the Windows button on the keyboard.
Devices: This offers a more streamlined way to interact with devices connect to the Windows 8 device, such as printers and additional monitors. This can be used in both the Desktop and Start Screen environments, but you have more options in the Start Screen environment.
: When you’re in the Start Screen environment, the Settings Charm gives you two options:
Tiles: In the Tiles option, you can show or hide all administrative tools in your Start Screen. It also has an option to clear all personal info from Live Tiles, which is handy if, for example, you’re going to be connecting your device to a projector for a meeting and you don’t want anyone else to see personal information.
Help: Pretty self-explanatory, same as Windows Help and Support in Windows 7.
On the bottom of Settings window there are six icons that allow you to change the network, volume, brightness, hide notifications for 1/3/8 hours, power options, and keyboard language. Beneath those is a button labeled "Change PC Settings", which is a tablet-friendly version of Control Panel.
Start Screen Apps
Even on a tablet as underpowered as the Iconia W500, Apps still open quickly and are very responsive. It never takes more than a 2 or 3 seconds for an App to open, unless it needs to load information from the internet. The gestures that Microsoft introduced for Windows 8 also make them easy to navigate. Scrolling stays just as it is, swiping up down left or right. To access options not shown on the screen, swipe from the bottom of the screen up. To complete close out of a program, swipe from the top of the screen all the way down (nice little lift of an idea from HP’s WebOS). If you want to keep an app open in the background, press the Windows button, or the Start button in the Charm Menu, to access the Start Screen. If you have multiple Apps open, swiping from the left side of the screen inwards will cycle through the open Apps. Alternatively, swiping from the left side inwards, the immediately swiping back towards the left side will bring show a bar on the left side with all open Apps, that you can then switch to by pressing on one of the Apps.
This is, in my opinion, the only failing of using Windows 8 on a tablet. Going into the Desktop environment gives you your classic desktop, sans Start Menu. Windows 7 failed to gain any traction in the tablet market because it was almost unusable as a tablet only OS. Windows 8’s desktop environment is no different. It’s helped by the addition of the Charm Menu, but the problem of replacing a mouse and keyboard with your fingers remains the same, it’s inaccurate and inefficient. Fortunately, the W500 has a nice little keyboard dock, which made using the Desktop environment the same as on my laptop. This is going to be the biggest feature if Windows 8 tablets; dockable keyboards. The way I look at it, the Start Screen is for play, while the Desktop is for when you want to get stuff done. With a keyboard and mouse it behaves exactly like Windows 7 does. I did try using it with my fingers instead of a mouse, and it’s definitely doable, but using a mouse is so much more accurate.
With wifi on, brightness at about 35% and the power profile on Balanced, I was able to surf the net, work on some Office docs, and watch a few YouTube videos for just under 5 and a half hours. Definitely longer than Windows 7 would have lasted, and it’s about as long as Mac OS X on my MacBook Pro lasts.
If you’ve used Windows Phone 7, the keyboard is very similar. Typing on the virtual keyboard in Windows 8 is eerily easy, for virtual keyboard, that is. You can even select different keyboard layouts, depending on your typing preference.
This is the biggest change in Windows that we’ve had for a very long time. Honestly it’s a welcome one. Microsoft is finally acknowledging the technology out there and has made an OS to take an advantage of it. Anyone who is frustrated by the lack of control and flexibility that Android and IOS tablets offer will see Windows 8 as a welcome addition. And anyone who wanted Windows on a tablet, but was turned off by Windows 7’s lack of tablet features, will definitely be eying Windows 8 tablets when they’re released. The Start Screen interface is fast and smooth, and the ability to enter the Desktop environment to run legacy programs is an added bonus. Looking at all the tablets and hybrid laptops vendors will be releasing, Windows 8 won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. The only fault Windows 8 has is that the desktop environment will frustrate users unless they have a keyboard and mouse, but honestly, that’s an unavoidable issue for Windows on a tablet device.