FEATURE REVIEW – Microsoft Windows 10 Part II

Windows Live is Dead, Long Live, uh… Windows Built in Apps

The Windows Live series of apps and branding was one of the things that really helped make Windows 7 a success.  While these all changed to ModernUI apps in Windows 8 (and the transition killed what was and could have continued to be a really nice suite of apps), Microsoft has worked hard save some or all of them.  Windows Live is dead.

Long live Windows Apps…!  Uh… yeah.

Windows 10 has some really nice replacement apps that it rescued from ModernUI. While some of them, like Food and Travel will both die as Microsoft discontinues them, others like Video, Music, Photos and Mail and Calendar have been revised and reintroduced in Windows 10.

27 - Windows Apps

Mail and Calendar are two of the apps that help make up the touch version of Microsoft Office (see below) and are really nice Universal and touch implementations of these two (now) system level apps.  All of these apps are available as part of the default Windows 10 installation and are available for use out of the box.  (Whereas with Windows Live apps, you had to go and download a different installer to get them.)

28 - Windows Apps

As a brief aside, the above download will work on Windows 10, as I previously reported, but will require the installation of .NET 3.5 or greater runtime to your Window 10 PC. It’s also the only way to get Windows Live Writer, which, by the way, works very well under Windows 10.

Office Gets Touchy

The touch version of Microsoft Office was first released for iPad in 2014 and then was followed shortly after that with the Android version.  The Windows version is now available for download in the Windows Store, and is free… though, there are a few catches to this.

First, if you want to do anything really and truly productive with it, you’re going to need an Office 365 subscription. Period.  It doesn’t have to be an expensive subscription.  Any one will do; but you’re going to need one.  If you have a Windows computing device that came with an Office 365 subscription, like the WinBook TW700, then you already have the rights to the fully functional bits.

24 - Office

If you have a low-end tablet something with a screen 10.1 inches or smaller, then you can get the apps with basic functionality for free, and won’t need a subscription…unless you need premium features. Here’s the specifics from Microsoft:

“Currently, we are also using screen size to delineate between professional and personal use. Based on our research, we are classifying anything with a screen size of 10.1 inches or less as a true mobile device: You’re probably using it on the go, when it’s not practical to use a larger computing device such as a PC or a Mac. You probably aren’t using a mouse or a keyboard, instead navigating via touch interface. It’s probably not a “pro” category tablet that is used for design or presentations. On these devices, the core editing and viewing experience is free, until you get to those premium, subscription features.”

25 - Office

Any way you look at it, getting these apps is a great idea and something that you will want to have at your beck and call for quick editing tasks or when you simply don’t want to run the full version of either Word, Excel or PowerPoint to make a few quick, light edits.  These are also perfect for school aged children when they need to write a report or to create a presentation for school or some other extra-curricular activity.

26 - Word

Windows 10 is Free

There’s been a lot of talk on this and a lot of it has been confusing, especially when it comes to, “which version and I gonna get?”.  Here’s the skinny on the whole deal.

Windows 10 is a free upgrade, for a period of one (1) year from its release. If you have a PC running a legitimate, activated version of Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, you have a period of one year to get your free upgrade.  After that, it’s thought that you’ll have to pay for your upgrade, but Microsoft hasn’t clarified that.  You may be able to get it free after 2016-07-29; or you might have to pay for the upgrade.  Users who do upgrade to Windows 10 will get a corresponding version of Windows 10 for free.  You must already have a Genuine version of Windows running, however, and there are a few caveats where versions are concerned.

Users of Windows 7 Starter Edition, Home Basic or Home Premium will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Home.  Users of Windows 8 Home will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Home.  Users of Windows 8.1 Home will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Home.

Users of Windows 7 Pro or Windows 7 Ultimate will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.  Users of Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8.1 Pro will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Users wishing to upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro can do so, but can expect to pay $99USD.  This can be purchased online, or in stores, at any time, after the upgrade completes.

As always… clear as mud.

Once you upgrade, Microsoft is planning on supporting Windows 10 for a period of 10 years (so until roughly 2025-07-29).

Performance

I’ve been looking at Windows 10 on a couple different machines since the inception of the Windows Insider Program. I think I’ve got enough information as well as enough experience with the new OS to give everyone a decent take on how the OS will perform on new as well as legacy hardware.  However, as with everything in this world, you mileage may vary – meaning that your experience on the same hardware that I’m using and referencing may be different than what I have depicted here.

Surface Pro 3

Performance on my Surface Pro 3 (Intel Core i5-4300U, 2.0-2.5GHz, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD) has been acceptable to decent.  Based on what I’m seeing here, and having experienced on my current SP3 this as well as the entry level SP3 (Intel Core i3-4020V, 1.5GHz, 4GB RAM 64GB SSD), it’s clear to me that an Intel i5 processor is likely the bare minimum needed to run Windows 10 with any level of acceptable performance.

As with any version of Windows, it’s going to eat as much RAM as you can throw at it.  The more you have dedicated to a specific processor or processor core, the better the machine is going to perform.

On machines like any Surface Pro or other Windows compatible tablet, upgrading any core PC component, simply isn’t possible. You’re stuck with what you got when you purchased the device.  In situations like this the best thing you can do is buy as much as you can afford.  If you can tolerate it financially, make the purchase hurt just a bit.  While the purchase may be a bit of a stretch, in the end, when you try to make the device do more than it really can or should – and most users likely will – you’ll be glad that it’s there in the end.

The Surface Pro 3 that I have is the mid-range model. I got it when it was on sale and only $100 USD above the price of the low-end i3 model SP3. While this device technically CAN run Photoshop and Lightroom, this configuration isn’t one that I’d recommend doing that on, at least not long term. You’re going to want something with more punch and a lot more RAM than just 4GB.

Low End, Budget and Small Tablets

The biggest problem with Windows 10 on a low end or any kind of budget or small screen tablet, is that these devices don’t have any upgradable storage or RAM… well, and the performance just totally sucks.  Unfortunately, these are the kinds of machines that would likely benefit most from a RAM upgrade.

Budget equipment often uses low end components, like Intel’s Atom processor line.  While this processor can run Windows, performance levels on those machines are really only realized on units that have at least 4GB of RAM.  Unfortunately, devices in the low end or budget category often don’t have that much RAM.  Most of them have 1-2GB of RAM; and you’re going to be lucky to have one that has 2GB of RAM.  Yeah… I think you’ll find that that extra gigabyte of RAM, its strategically important.

The biggest problem with all of this – small tablets like the WinBook TW-700 – came with Windows 8.x Pro.  That means they’re supposed to get the Pro version of Windows 10 on 2015-07-29, when the new OS launches.  Tablets like this suffer from three huge issues

  1. They don’t have a powerful enough processor
    The Atom processor on my Dell Latitude 10 ST2 may be a few years old, but it technically still has some usable life in it. However, I’ve noticed that anything short of Intel’s CherryTrail Atom line – the processor in the Surface 3 – won’t have enough power to push Windows 10.  So, all of those awesome WinBook tablets like the TW-700 and the TW-800 line tablets, are going to have huge issues running the new OS, even though they should qualify for the upgrade.
  2. They don’t have enough RAM
    Tablets in the budget line often have just 1GB of RAM. While Windows 10 will live in that space, it’s like shoving your foot in a shoe that’s half a size too small. You can walk; man, it’s extremely painful.  It’s going to be the same way here.
  3. They don’t have enough storage
    Seven to eight inch tablets are usually 32bit machines.  I haven’t seen one yet house  64bit processor.  The Windows 10 install DVD for 32bit machines is about 3.5GB in size.  This is a problem because many of these smaller, budget oriented tablets only have 16GB of storage space.Decompressed, Windows 8.x requires about 7GB of space, on a virgin drive.  After you add in Windows Update History and an application or two, you’ve only got 2GB or so of space left over.  With Windows 10 requiring at least 4-8GB of space to install, you’ve got impossible space problems.  You aren’t going to be able to upgrade that tablet let Windows 10.  You might be able to do a clean install, provided you do a full hard drive wipe; but then you’ve got to install all of your apps again, and if your product/ registration codes were virtual – meaning they really did come preinstalled on the device – then getting them back is going to be nearly impossibleWindows 10 was supposed to ship with a method that would allow you to temporarily uninstall apps and/ or move them to an SD card in order to facilitate installation, but that feature got delayed, and will likely be part of Threshold 2 (TH2), or the next official big update of Windows 10, due out in October of 2015.  I don’t think Windows 10 will run on these small, budget tablets then, either.

So, what are you to do if you want to try to put Windows 10 on that kind of tablet?  Your best bet is to either find the ISO and burn a hard copy DVD or buy a copy with a dedicated product code and install Windows 10 that way.  Any method you use, however, won’t improve Windows 10 performance on this type of budget tablet.  It’s still going to be slow going and it’s never going to get better, because you can’t install additional RAM.

Conclusion

There’s a lot here, kids.  There really is.

It’s clear that Microsoft really screwed the pooch when it came to Windows 8.  They went all in with touch, but then didn’t embrace a mobile strategy that made any sense.  Windows 8 – and Windows RT too, if you really think about it – tanked because Microsoft didn’t (couldn’t or wouldn’t) give up the desktop.

Windows RT was supposed to be Microsoft’s answer to the iPad, and it would have worked (been better received/ accepted..?) if RT devices were MetroUI/ ModernUI ONLY…and without the Desktop.  Unfortunately, they just couldn’t make that happen, and nearly everyone choked on a touch interface on a non-touch enabled PC.

But that’s in the past.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has tried to learn from its mistakes and has introduced an operating system that tries to embrace touch but gives up enough to allow it to work on the desktop without causing most of the world’s workforce – who does business on a Windows powered PC – to get work done. In this regard, Windows 10 will succeed and do very well.

From a mobile perspective, Microsoft is trying.  They really are… yeah, they’re trying…as in trying my patience.  Windows 10 Mobile still isn’t out yet, and still isn’t available in preview form on the Windows Phones I have access to.

Microsoft is trying to create one “version” of Windows that has enough UI common elements that you’ll feel comfortable and familiarized with it, regardless of what kind of device – whether that’s a smartphone, tablet (regardless of size) or PC – that you’re holding.

What Do *I* Really Think?

Windows 10 is designed to be FAMILIAR… and it is, in many ways. Users of Windows 7 will feel comfortable with the redesigned Start Menu (though they’ll likely remove ALL of the Live Tiles…); but it will at least look and feel familiar enough for them to use and work with.  Those that did move to Windows 8 and are stuck on that paradigm, will find Live Tiles in the Start Menu and can even make it go full screen, if they wish.  Again, familiar.

But again, what do I think..?  That’s pretty easy.

Windows 10 is a decent operating system. I think there are going to be issues with updates and new builds that will likely either break the internet or try your patience as you try to download updates that are likely to come at a pace that’s a LOT more frequent than you’re used to.  I have a feeling you’re going to see a bit more bundling of fixes and such into service packs than we have in the past few years… that will at least make it easier to update your PC after you have to blow it and rebuild it because you got a nasty virus or adware infection.

Using Windows 10 is fairly straight forward and the new UI elements are easy to get used to.  As I said, its familiar; and you’re going to like it coming from either Windows 7 OR Window 8.x.

Should You Upgrade?

If you’re using Windows 7, you can stay there for another year or two if you really have to. There’s nothing wrong with it, but when the Windows 10 upgrade is free, and it’s still fairly familiar to what you’re using now, upgrading makes a lot of sense.  If you’re on Windows 8.x and you don’t like it, and you really need to get off of it or switch to something else, again… the upgrade to Windows 10 is free and at least worth a shot before you go off and buy a Mac or switch to some Linux distribution that will also likely be a bit of a stretch for you.

So, if you fall in any of those spots, yes, upgrade.

Unless…

If you’re on a budget tablet – anything with say an Atom processor and DEFINITELY anything with 1GB of RAM – stop.  Don’t accept the upgrade and stay with Windows 8.x. Period.  I’ve had nothing but trouble with my Dell Latitude 10 ST2 tablet on Windows 10, and it has 2GB of RAM. I can’t imagine what 1GB of RAM would be like.

One the desktop side, it’s going to be pretty much the same thing.  Any older processor types – Core Duo’s, Core 2 Duo’s, Celerons (regardless of how new the PC is) – won’t fare well under Windows 10 with anything under 4-8GB of RAM, and even then, you may not want to upgrade.  And going back to your previous OS may or may not be possible, depending on the amount of storage you have and whether or not you have the original restore DVD’s.

So, in the end, Windows 10 yes. Two thumbs up.

Windows 10 on older machines (say, 4-5 years old)…? Your mileage may vary; but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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