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Windows 8.1 Mini-Review

windows 8.1 mini-review review start screen drivers installation customisation upgrade clean install

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#1 theyarecomingforyou

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  • OS: Windows 8.1
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Posted 02 July 2013 - 00:00

My Windows 8.1 Mini-Review

 

Install

After installing the prerequisite update I proceeded to install the Windows 8.1 update via the Store. This proceeded seemingly smoothly but upon booting into Windows for the first time I was greeted with a BSOD, at which point my Windows install was automatically rolled back to the previous version. For what it's worth, this process was all seamless and all my data remained intact so Microsoft deserves some credit for having a robust install procedure. After the release of the .ISO from Microsoft I tried again to update my existing Windows 8 install but encountered the exact same problem. The only solution was to opt for a clean install, at which point everything proceeded smoothly.

 

First Boot

Booting into Windows 8.1 I was greeted with the Windows betta fish, something that would be nice to see made a permanent inclusion. During setup I was given new options for customisation but I have to admit they were more limited than I was expecting and don't go far enough to providing users with customisation options.

 

Drivers

The first issue I encountered with the clean install was that there were no nVidia drivers available through official channels - only via Windows Update. Not being adverse to change I proceeded to update my drivers through Windows Update but encountered a major issue - they didn't include the nVidia Control Panel, meaning I couldn't enable SLI. In the end I had to wait for an installer to be released unofficially, after which everything appeared functional. I had a few issues with stability at the beginning—right-clicking the desktop would sometimes cause the desktop to hang—but that seems to have stopped now. Using an external soundcard I installed the latest drivers from the manufacturer's website and configured them as usual. However, during gaming—and occasionally on the desktop—I experienced dropouts that required me to restart the unit, something which wasn't an issue in Windows 8.

 

The Start Screen

The new Start Screen is a definite improvement, especially the auto-colouring of desktop tiles - it's such a small detail but it makes such a big difference. The customisation options for the Start Screen have been expanded to include setting a different highlight colour to the background, though in order to see the results of this you can to keep going back and forth between the Start Screen and Charm Bar options. The biggest addition is the ability to use your desktop wallpaper as your background, which provides a greater degree of consistency but is not something I'd want to use on a permanent basis.

 

Organising multiple tiles has been made through the multi-select functionality and the group naming feature has been brought to the forefront, meaning it is now more likely to be used by your average user. Unsurprisingly this new functionality is not without usability issues, in this case right-clicking a tile will enter edit mode but unselecting it (by either left-clicking or right-clicking the same time) or clicking the empty space won't exit it - an extra click is required. The ability to rearrange groups is still hidden behind the Ctrl-Mousewheel Down command or tiny little '-' sign in the bottom right corner, meaning that most users will end up selecting and dragging multiple apps instead. While these are obviously relatively trivial issues they sour the overall experience.

 

Below is a comparison between the Start Screen in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.

 

Windows 8:

desktopqc.png

 

Windows 8.1:

3e11.jpg

 

Just in case it isn't obvious there is a considerable difference in the size of the tiles. I've made a comparison to highlight the difference:

 

9o1v.jpg

 

I think this might be related to monitor scaling, as in Windows 8 it defaulted to 125% scale (which is larger than previous Windows versions) whereas in Windows 8.1 it shows as 'smaller' (it's not shown as a percentage as the scales have changed). If anyone could shed any light on this it would be appreciated.

 

The Store

The new Store now takes advantage of high resolution displays (in my case 2560x1600), making it a notable improvement over the Windows 8 Store. Previously about a third of the screen was unused, which not only looked terrible but impeded usability. The entire user experience has been redesigned and this is a definite success story. It may take a few moments for users to adjust to the changes but once they have they should find it a much more rewarding experience.

 

Store:

815g.jpg

 

Hot Corners And The Charm Bar

Minor tweaks have been made to the hot corners. As well as the ability to customise their functionality the Charm Bar icons now appear relative to the corner that you trigger it from, meaning that you don't have to move your mouse as far to get to the options. The boundary box has also been extending, meaning that on multi-monitor setups it is no longer as easy for the mouse to disappear onto another monitor. As someone who experienced this issue frequently with Windows 8 it is an improvement that I wholeheartedly welcome.

 

Hot Corner options:

kifs.jpg

 

Included is the option to boot directly to the desktop, another minor addition that makes a big difference.

 

Below you can see the new Charm Bar, in this case triggered from the bottom-right corner (the icons appear at the top when trigger from the top-right corner).

 

The modified Charm Bar:

cq81.jpg

 

Conclusion

This wasn't intended to be a comprehensive review, so there is a lot of functionality that I haven't mentioned. Overall Windows 8.1 is a step in the right direction but it certainly isn't a magical fix to the problems with Windows 8. It still annoys me that snapping a Metro app leaves the majority of the screen completely blank and that clicking it takes you back to the Start Screen. And now with the variable resizing of Metro apps there's the issue that expanding a Metro app on top of the desktop will resize desktop apps and won't restore them upon close - that is horrible functionality. Hopefully Microsoft will continue to improve functionality and features before the final release.

 

Overall Score: C+




#2 count0nz

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 00:08

Nice.. Loving my Windows 8.1 Install also..

I treed to update Via store but it was Broken at the time.

So i used a ISO.

 

1st. Try was to use the Setup from inside widows 8.

This worked OK.. but I noticed some things in IE Test-drive (encrypted Video) Was not working So i did a clean install.

 

Clean install Went smoothly and had no problems..

Installed my Radion 13.4 Beta drivers, My Sound drivers

And loaded Steam and all my Gaming goodness etc.

 

No issues at all on my System (in my Sig)

 

I Won't go back to 8 Loving 8.1 its Fine. (and it feels faster too)



#3 grayscale

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 15:29

Maybe it's just me, but I am slightly annoyed by the scrolling in the store (small screens). There's vertical scrolling on the featured apps and the screenshots and when you reach the last app/screenshot, you end up scrolling to the right. It's just me being picky, though and it's not really a deal breaker. Also, I think that the apps take too much space to the point that there are just 2 rows of applications shown on smaller screens.

 

 

And now with the variable resizing of Metro apps there's the issue that expanding a Metro app on top of the desktop will resize desktop apps and won't restore them upon close - that is horrible functionality.

I think that this is something that can be fix for the final. OneNote's (desktop) docking option can automatically re-size the other windows as you dock/un-dock it. It will be terrible if they don't fix this for RTM.



#4 OP theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 18:46

Maybe it's just me, but I am slightly annoyed by the scrolling in the store (small screens). There's vertical scrolling on the featured apps and the screenshots and when you reach the last app/screenshot, you end up scrolling to the right. It's just me being picky, though and it's not really a deal breaker. Also, I think that the apps take too much space to the point that there are just 2 rows of applications shown on smaller screens.

I agree. When I go to scroll horizontally it ends up scrolling down, then when it reaches the bottom it scrolls horizontally. It makes for very poor usability, especially as it is not obvious that that will happen. Another issue is the shameless capitalistic nature of the store, with paid apps receiving a large amount of tile space while free apps are stuck on the far right with small tiles. As I mentioned, there are lots of little annoyances that all diminish from the overall experience. For everything that Microsoft gets right it gets about five small things wrong.

 

Hopefully we'll see lots more additions made between now and the final release, as if it's simply a case of bug fixes and minor tweaks then I can't help but feel it's a missed opportunity. If people weren't a fan of Windows 8 before then this won't do anything to change that.

 

And as I didn't include a picture of the desktop in the original article I thought I'd add this:

m7dg.jpg

 

As you can see it's virtually identical to the desktop in Windows 8, only with the addition of the Start Button. The functionality is no different, so I really don't get what all the fuss is about.



#5 0sit0

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 18:56

I agree. When I go to scroll horizontally it ends up scrolling down, then when it reaches the bottom it scrolls horizontally. It makes for very poor usability, especially as it is not obvious that that will happen. Another issue is the shameless capitalistic nature of the store, with paid apps receiving a large amount of tile space while free apps are stuck on the far right with small tiles. As I mentioned, there are lots of little annoyances that all diminish from the overall experience. For everything that Microsoft gets right it gets about five small things wrong.

 

Hopefully we'll see lots more additions made between now and the final release, as if it's simply a case of bug fixes and minor tweaks then I can't help but feel it's a missed opportunity. If people weren't a fan of Windows 8 before then this won't do anything to change that.

 

And as I didn't include a picture of the desktop in the original article I thought I'd add this:

 

 

As you can see it's virtually identical to the desktop in Windows 8, only with the addition of the Start Button. The functionality is no different, so I really don't get what all the fuss is about.

 

 

When using remote desktop, those hot corners (including the hidden start button) are a pain to make them work. This will help I guess.



#6 grayscale

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 20:29


As you can see it's virtually identical to the desktop in Windows 8, only with the addition of the Start Button. The functionality is no different, so I really don't get what all the fuss is about.

 

I agree. The changes were little in terms of the functionality of the desktop but some may be swayed with:
- Search: It no longer takes up the whole screen so if some can get used to the shortcut/s (Win+S, or the old Files, Settings, Everything) and more of a keyboard user, maybe they will be able to appreciate it. Also, search already includes na "Everything" setting, just like in Windows 7.

 

- Boot to Desktop. I personally don't get the point of this unless you're already using a Start Screen replacement but maybe can convince some.

- Start Button. The return of the start button mean that mouse users who are used to placing their taskbar on other locations no longer have to get used to the single location of the Start tooltip. I noticed, though that you can still click Start from the lower left even if you already placed the taskbar somewhere else.

 

- All Apps. i don't know but for some people who don't really have the time to set up their Start Screen, it maybe easier for them to just dig through the All Apps and the addition of new sorting options and the ability to go straight there may sway them.

I don't really think that there are major changes in the Desktop. While this may convince those who already has spent time in using Win8 but just can't stand some of the changes, these will not convince those who has "OWGAHD METRO" mentality all over them.

 

 

On another note, are they moving away from context-sensitive search? I hope they don't. I think it's a good idea but needs better implementation.



#7 OP theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 03:27

- Boot to Desktop. I personally don't get the point of this unless you're already using a Start Screen replacement but maybe can convince some.

I much prefer booting to the desktop, as the first thing I always did with Windows 8 was launch the desktop. It's a relatively trivial change but it will be appreciated by a lot of users.

 

- Start Button. The return of the start button mean that mouse users who are used to placing their taskbar on other locations no longer have to get used to the single location of the Start tooltip. I noticed, though that you can still click Start from the lower left even if you already placed the taskbar somewhere else.

Ha, that's an interesting find! I suppose in that respect the addition of the Start Button will help those who prefer to have their taskbar in a different location.

 

- All Apps. i don't know but for some people who don't really have the time to set up their Start Screen, it maybe easier for them to just dig through the All Apps and the addition of new sorting options and the ability to go straight there may sway them.

I find the All Apps screen to be usable for launching apps that you rarely use but not much beyond that. In fact I've had to use it a lot more with Windows 8.1 as newly installed apps are no longer automatically added to the Start Screen - that's great for the average user who doesn't have the time or inclination to properly organise their Start Screen (every time I see my Dad's Windows 8 computer I'm astonished by the amount of clutter he has) but less so for people like me who do. I find it easier to remove the apps I don't want than use the All Apps screen to find the apps I do want.



#8 daniel_rh

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  • OS: Windows 8.1
  • Phone: Samsung Galaxy SIV i9500

Posted 03 July 2013 - 03:51

I loved Windows 8.1 but I had to roll back to Windows 8 because I didn't find the way to make Bluetooth work after the update.

 

Installed on an Acer Aspire S7, Atheros Bluetooth



#9 siah1214

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Posted 03 July 2013 - 03:54

I'll join the fun here with a few things I've fallen in love with.

 

First off, multi monitor support is a godsend.  I have 4 monitors at work, and Windows 8 was a pain in the ass, since I'd accidentally move around my snapped view onenote onto other screens, and stuff like that.  Being able to put metro apps on ALL the monitors is great, I have 3 or 4 snapped view apps running at any given time, a work order IE window taking up 50% of my biggest monitor, and outlook taking up the other 50%, and of course one monitor that's reserved for whatever I'm currently working on. 

 

Also, being able to open multiple IE11 "Windows" is great. Pulling up 2 web pages at once on my RT is a revelation for a tablet.  Definitely greatly increased the value of the RT right there (as did the inclusion of Outlook)

 

IE11 kicks IE10's ass, and I liked IE10.  The new tab/favorites bar is a great addition, and the customization options for the pinned tiles is a plus as well.

 

Resizing tiles really makes my start screen more personal, and the fact that it syncs between my desktop and my RT is cool. It also doesn't sync stuff that's not on the RT (so I'm not getting erroneous desktop tiles).

 

I need to write something on the Bing apps because they don't get nearly enough credit.   New bing apps are very high quality, the recipes app is very cool. Looking forward to more like this. 

Built in search is good but flaky, I've had it stop working on 2 occasions, both occasions requiring me to restore my computer. Very frustrating there. 

When it does work, it's great. I can search for anything, and immediately get ALL relevant information. Good for looking up artists, actors, general web queries (Definitely beats bing.com in the way the results are laid out and informative)

Also,  being able to play music from the search charm is really cool. Pro tip, you can pin results from here to your start screen (at least for music)

 

One thing I HATE HATE HATE is that the search charm is useless now.  It was awesome before because I could just Win + Q and search the app, now it doesn't work in most of the built in apps. Third party apps that haven't been updated still work, but taking that functionality away from the built in apps is incredibly frustrating. That is something that had better be back in by release (and I've left that feedback in every app affected)

 

Finally, the music app is infinitely better.  I hated the one in Windows 8, so it's refreshing to get something that's starting to approach zune quality. Not there yet, but progress at least :-\

 

 

Anyway, a more than worthy successor.  In comparing Windows 8 CP (which is what this basically is for 8.1) and RTM, I can only begin to imagine how well refined it will be by the time it drops. 



#10 OP theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 04 July 2013 - 20:46

Resizing tiles really makes my start screen more personal, and the fact that it syncs between my desktop and my RT is cool. It also doesn't sync stuff that's not on the RT (so I'm not getting erroneous desktop tiles).

I'm intrigued by how the tile syncing works. Does it show empty / placeholder tiles or does it rearrange them automatically? And how does it account for different resolutions if the user enables the 'More Tiles' option? My concern is that because the Start Screen is so personalised if you have different apps installed then you'll either end up with lots of blank spaces (unappealing) or tiles being rearranged (confusing and inconsistent). If you could post some screenshots it would be appreciated.



#11 siah1214

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 03:54

My games column is probably the best example :)  Basically, if the app isn't available, then the tile isn't there and the other tiles move up.   So if I am syncing, I sometimes have to be mindful that it might create holes (for example, if the missing tile creates a hole too small for the next tile to fill it, it might leave gaps on the surface)

 

To me that's minor, and totally worth the convenience of only having to setup my start screen once. 

Attached Images

  • rtvs8.jpg


#12 ViperAFK

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 04:04

Looks like a decent improvement



#13 OP theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 15:38

My games column is probably the best example :)  Basically, if the app isn't available, then the tile isn't there and the other tiles move up.   So if I am syncing, I sometimes have to be mindful that it might create holes (for example, if the missing tile creates a hole too small for the next tile to fill it, it might leave gaps on the surface)

Thanks for taking the time to respond. :) At the end of the day I don't think there is an ideal way to do it, as every method has issues. This solution looks to be a step in the right direction, though until I've used it myself I'll hold off on judgement.

 

Personally I'm really looking forward to my Leap Motion arriving (hopefully early next month), as I'm very interested in being able to use the touch features of Windows 8.1 without having to actually touch my screen.

 

 

I doubt I'll use it for much more than novelty value and gaming (Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds, etc) but it will give me the opportunity to use the full touch feature set introduced in Windows 8.



#14 BajiRav

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 17:52

I think 8.1 is a step in the right direction except for the Search charm. I don't like it is now an unpredictable experience. It's the same hack job they did on Windows Phone Mango where search went from contextual to system wide bing button. :/

The desktop icon colorization can be a problem too if the background and icon colors are too close (at work now so don't recall which icon was blending in with the background).



#15 gate1975mlm

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 18:36

Thanks for taking the time to respond. :) At the end of the day I don't think there is an ideal way to do it, as every method has issues. This solution looks to be a step in the right direction, though until I've used it myself I'll hold off on judgement.

 

Personally I'm really looking forward to my Leap Motion arriving (hopefully early next month), as I'm very interested in being able to use the touch features of Windows 8.1 without having to actually touch my screen.

 

 

I doubt I'll use it for much more than novelty value and gaming (Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds, etc) but it will give me the opportunity to use the full touch feature set introduced in Windows 8.

First I am hearing about Leap Motion and it looks awesome. If it really works as good as it does in the video then wow this is going to be great! I have a great 22" LCD monitor but its not a touch screen. So the Leap Motion could be a fantastic device for example for people who already own a good non touch monitor and are using windows 8 and want to use the touch features.

 

I just pre ordered mine at Bestbuy and if it sucks I can always just return it.

 

But like I said if this turns out to be as good as they say the Leap Motion could become just as important as the Mouse and Keyboard!