New Windows 8 Laptop - Part III

So, after considering buying a Mac laptop, I decided to stick with Windows one more time, even though it meant switching to Windows 8. I tried out the Windows 8 pre-release on a virtual machine last summer. The forced tablet interface on the desktop was just too painful to deal with when my real machine was running a perfectly good Windows 7 install, so eventually I just ended up deleting the Windows 8 virtual machine.

There are a number of reviews and opinions of Windows 8 out there. There are two points of view in particular that I connected with. One is Philip Greenspun's blog posting and this article by Jakob Nielson. The second article sums up much of the experience by saying that "Windows" is now a misnomer and should be called "Microsoft Window". Indeed, many of the tasks I try to perform, like reviewing a PDF or looking at an image, will switch to a full-screen only view of the content. If I'm doing something else, say like editing a blog entry, and I want to reference content from a PDF, I cannot view them side-by-side on the screen. I have to switch back and forth between the PDF and editing the blog.

Probably the most frustrating thing is that the "old Windows" is still in there, and many programs (like Chrome) will flip you back to the familiar Windows Desktop mode. I say that it's frustrating because you can't have that as your default environment, and triggering simple tasks (once again, like viewing a PDF) will flip you back into the new tablet-style interface. You then have to use awkward gestures or keyboard shortcuts to get back to whatever it was you were doing on the traditional desktop.

One other application now under Microsoft's care is Skype. The Y580 actually included a Skype Premium account, which is nice. Unfortunately, the version of Skype for Windows 8 is far less usable than the version you find on virtually every other platform. As an example, you cannot edit the name of a contact in Skype for Windows 8. The solution? Use "Skype for Windows Desktop". I can do this incredibly simple task on my two-and-a-half year old Android phone, but somehow this wasn't viewed as important for Skype for Windows 8.

Not everything about Windows 8 is terrible. There are some great technical changes that do improve some aspects of Windows, particularly performance-wise. Start-up time with an SSD as the boot drive is incredible. I am not exaggerating when I say that Windows cold-boots faster than my Nexus 7 or 3rd-gen iPad. I was stunned. I know that in the long-term Windows has a habit of taking longer and longer to boot as new applications push their way into the startup process. I have already installed some applications that do that, but my total boot time from off to "desktop" is less than 15 seconds. If the laptop is just in sleep mode, it is virtually instant-on, just like my tablets. Sadly, these improvements are over-shadowed by the poor user interface experience.

Overall, I am trying to adapt to the new Windows. So far it hasn't interfered too much with what I do with my computer on a regular basis. I will also not fault the Lenovo Y580 for Windows' shortcomings. It is a great laptop that plays my games very well, manages virtual machines with ease, converts videos faster than my old desktop, and has a really nice display.

And if Windows 8 really gets to me, at least I have the option of looking at Linux, or maybe even trying to use the Y580 as a Hacintosh.

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