I mean normally I cast myself as a fan of all things new and shiny but with the release day issues and general shakiness of any new Windows, it’s usually a good idea to stay wary, at least for awhile. I’m happy to say the vast majority of my fears turned out to not be issues at all, and while not my ideal Windows and not the Windows I’m using on my primary machine, I am overall enjoying the experience so far.
So let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Same machine as my previous review, my Alienware M14x. Let’s get down to business.
I have never had an install of Windows go so smoothly as this one. Now granted it was an upgrade and not a fresh install, but nevertheless, incredibly well done. This Alienware sits on a cooling pad under the glass portion of my file cabinet and is connected to a Dell 30″ display via DisplayPort, along with a few USB connections, ethernet, and power of course. It doesn’t move much and that’s because moving it is a gigantic pain in the butt, so the fact that Windows 10 naturally picked up and used my graphics card in the same manner as Windows 7 had been previously was very nice indeed.
Windows 10 is by far and away the fastest OS this particular machine has ever run. I had it running Windows 7 on SSD for some time before moving it to 10 and immediately noticed a definite increase in the zippiness factor. It takes a little longer to boot than Windows 7 which is somewhat odd, but not long enough for me to think there’s a problem to address.
Being still on Windows 7 this machine had a number of productivity apps installed for various functions, including a particularly weird one called ShareMouse. I use ShareMouse to operate the iMac next to the Alienware’s display with the same keyboard and mouse. I highly recommend this app by the way, it’s very well done and incredibly simple to use. And even better, Windows 10 not only started it by default, it worked without a single solitary hiccup.
Rufus USB also works perfectly for creating bootable Linux media, which is a nice treat too. I may even try virtualization on this bad boy.
Cortana is Fun and Helpful
Despite being an Apple developer and lauding them regularly over the things they do, I’m not a fan of Siri. I find her capabilities severely restricted, and in general just don’t find much use for her other than a quick way to Shazam a song on the radio.
Cortana, in contrast, is quite intelligent. After setup she looked through my email and found a few things I had ordered over the previous week, and setup tracking for them right from the desktop, no browser window required. She can do all the usual tricks; open apps, restart the machine, do searches (unfortunately with Bing, but no one’s perfect) and in general you can pretty much just ask her to do something and she’ll figure it out.
It Feels Like Windows
Windows 8 felt nothing like Windows. It felt like driving an iPad with a mouse and keyboard. It made me, the user, feel as if I was doing something wrong when I would use desktop apps. “Oh you want those apps? Why not use these apps?”
Windows 10 feels like a return to sanity. Start menu where it belongs, native multi-display functionality, it gets a little weird if you try and use it vertical but that’s nothing new honestly. Apps launch fast and the new Task View is incredibly nice to use, I don’t find myself using Alt-Tab at all anymore.
It’s Ugly as Sin
I hated Windows 8’s Explorer, I really did. The bland, flat, square Windows look boring. I get that some thought Aero in Vista/7 was a little over the top, but I for one enjoyed it so the stark SLAM back into what seems to be a Desktop-centric take on Google’s Material Design is just ugly. There’s no blur effect to the taskbar so it’s just a translucent black square.
That I can forgive (eventually) but the real one that grinds my gears is how your custom colors are applied. In Windows 8 it was largely confined to the start screen and Metro apps, or whatever the hell Microsoft is calling them these days. Now, look at this.
They take your preferred color of choice and apply it to Start Menu items (nice) selected buttons (good) the icon there (neat!) and the Window border (what.). Why is there now a 1px border around my active Window? I know which one is active because of the fade effect applied to the others. This rides a difficult groove in design; it’s too subtle to be useful and too loud to be ignored. I ended up changing my color to Gray to offset this effect. Unusually sloppy considering the rest of the work done here.
Fortunately the gross folder icon I complained about way back is only present in the Taskbar. For now.
Man do they push the Microsoft Account
Every time you login to email, One Drive, Office apps, etc. you are constantly asked if you want to convert your user account on the local machine to use your Microsoft account instead. Eventually I just decided to roll with it but I can already see this being a problem: I have accounts on about 4 machines in the house, and they all do different things. This is geared to people with a few machines on which they do all the same shit, which, ok, great for them, but if my machines suddenly start swapping wallpapers or Windows Settings I’m going to get irritated, and I can tell right now that it’s going to happen.
Bing is everywhere and it’s unchangable.
Desktop search (Cortana search really but I digress) is all routed through Bing, and you can’t change it. There are some hacky ways to make it go to google but seriously MS, I get that you’re trying to steer more traffic to your search engine, but you’re only making your own product worse by not allowing us to change it.
All of that said, the bing integration is smooth with Cortana and she doesn’t often need to open a browser to accomplish the thing you want, once you have your phrasing down for your commands. So at least there’s that.
Let’s see, what else?
Edge is thoroughly underwhelming, though it’s also still waiting on the content blocker ability so ads may be slowing the experience, I’m reserving final judgement until I can get an ad-blocker in there and see what it can actually do.
I really wish Microsoft would make smooth scrolling a priority for their desktop OS, it’s one of my favorite elements in OS X and it seems like a nothing thing to complain about but come on, it’s 2015, this is a very powerful computer, it cannot be that hard. And yes, Edge does it but EVERY scrollable content pane in this OS should do it, because why the hell not? Isn’t that simpler than implementing it at the Application level anyway?
It could use more animations, I get that people were complaining about the heavy RAM load but RAM is cheap as hell and those people need to get better computers. Microsoft should look into OS X’s animations, they’re very simple in most cases and they do a wonderful job of communicating what’s going on with the user’s data.
That’s about all I have for now peeps, check ya later!