Review of Windows 8 Consumer Preview

You’ve already gotten a nice sneak-peek at Windows 8’s features from us, but nothing gives you the scoop on Windows 8 better than a review of its consumer preview! I have good news for you: We got our hands on Windows 8’s Consumer Preview and we’ll walk you through everything from the installation to the graphic interface. So far, it’s been a tough time setting up the virtualization environment, but we finally modified everything as it should be in preparation for Windows 8’s installation.

Please Note: If you would like to test out Windows 8, use VMWare 8 or above. Older versions will give you an HAL initialization failure.

The computer being tested on has the following specs:

  • Windows 7 Ultimate w/VMWare 8
  • 1 TB HDD, 7200 RPM
  • Intel Core i5 650 – 2 cores w/HT technology – 3.20 GHz
  • 8 GB DDR3 1600 MHz RAM
  • nVidia GeForce 550Ti display adapter
  • 750W PSU
  • Other stuff that’s not important

In VMWare, I allocated the following:

  • 4 GB RAM (System requirement: 2 GB)
  • The entire processor (System requirement: 1 GHz)
  • 30 GB HDD Space (System requirements officially recommend 20, but I slapped an extra 10 there).

After the power-on self test (POST) emulated by VMWare, the computer started a funky little initialization screen:

windows8-installation-initiation

I already had a question after seeing this: Why the fish? So, after the installation initiated (which took all of 1 minute), there’s a new screen welcoming you to Windows!

windows8cp-installation-welcome

After this, the installation is pretty much the same as it would be on Windows 7. I noticed one particular thing as the installation proceeds: This is much faster than my installation of Windows 7 on the same machine. It should be slower, considering it’s a new operating system, added to the fact that virtualizing something makes it run slower than it would in a native hardware environment. No, that’s not the case here. Windows 8 is flying very fast, almost like my CentOS installation.

Oops! What’s that?

windows8cp-dpc-error

The BSOD looks very cute, but it doesn’t give me more comfort. I got a DPC Watchdog Violation error when trying to install the x64 version of Windows 8 in VMWare. It’s a consumer preview, meaning it’s not free of bugs. Let’s try 32-bit, shall we?

Mission accomplished! Now, onto the good stuff!

After the installation, the computer takes a breather and restarts. When the operating system loads, I’m greeted by this screen:

windows8-installation-welcome

It looks kind of like a tablet-ish interface. It’s very simple, yet I love how the interface is animated smoothly. Windows 8 definitely looks like Windows 7 Phone with the Metro interface, which falls in line with the sneak peek published earlier (the link on the top of this article). The sneak peek also said that Windows 8 would perform better, and indeed it does. The installation was very fast. It took about 10 minutes, compared to the half an hour it took to install Windows 7 on the same machine.

The screen now turns into a “Settings” screen:

windows8cp-settings

The interface is basically like the “Welcome” interface seen in Windows XP, only with a different design.

Here’s something different! The Start menu has been turned into a Start “screen:”

windows8cp-start

On the lower left corner, you’ll notice the “Desktop” icon. Once you click it, you’ll notice something missing:

windows8cp-desktop

There’s no Start button. Instead, you must move the mouse pointer down to the bottom left corner of your screen and click on it. I’d say this is a bad move for Microsoft, since new Windows users will have no idea how to use Windows 8. That’s already a turn-off for me and many other heavy users of the Start button. Alternatively, you can press the Start button on your keyboard (next to the “Alt” keys) to get to the Start screen. There’s one more turn-off for me, though: There’s no Control Panel shortcut in the menu.

Alternatively, you can hover your mouse over the upper right-hand corner of the desktop for a menu showing you the control panel and a way to shut down the computer. It’s basically their version of the “Desktop Start menu”.

Remember how we said that Windows Explorer might include ribbons? Microsoft doesn’t seem to have included it in the consumer preview:

windows8cp-explorer

Here’s something interesting, though: If you hover your mouse over the upper right corner of the Start screen, you’ll end up with a menu for settings, search, and all that other fun stuff. When clicking on “More PC Settings” after clicking “Settings” in the bar, you’ll see a warped up version of settings that you would also otherwise find in the control panel. Still, it’s very elegant.

windows8cp-pcsettings

Now, onto the VMWare Tools installation to get networking capabilities. Unfortunately, after the install, the computer went haywire, mostly because the SVGA driver in VMWare 8 isn’t compatible with Windows 8’s GUI. If you try this stunt, install VMWare Tools without the driver.

We’re done. Now it’s time to check out Internet Explorer.

Just like in our sneak peek at Windows 8, the operating system includes Internet Explorer 10:

windows8cp-internet-explorer

The web browser runs a bit better than its previous versions, but I still wouldn’t use it. Let’s see how much RAM it uses by going into the task manager!

windows8cp-task-manager

As you might have noticed, the task manager completely changed. I love it! Back to the subject, though, Internet Explorer is already using 60 MB of RAM for one single tab. That’s not great, not even good. I’ll just bypass that and install Google Chrome on it. Let’s see if it’s compatible. It works!

windows8cp-google-chrome

You’ve already seen the Task Manager work in an earlier screenshot. The new Windows 8 task manager is nothing short of gorgeous and elegant. It’s very useful and is also one of the most readable versions I’ve ever seen. The network usage of each application is listed in nice big numbers so that you can track what exactly is taking up so much of your downstream bandwidth, whether it’s an application you forgot you had open, or an application that maliciously sucks up your network usage for its own gain. You can quickly detect what’s wrong with your computer with its new features. Let’s have a look at the task manager a little more closely below:

windows8cp-task-manager2

Newer options have been added, as well as the capability to modify startup applications, as opposed to the older method involving going to msconfig. The new task manager, just like in Windows 7, can be started via “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” or “Ctrl+Shift+Esc”.

Windows 8 has some really strong points that might actually make it more popular than Windows 7, yet it still has some design flaws that really turned me off – especially the removal of the Start button. Many of the things were uncalled for and there was no need to deviate from Windows 7’s original design, which preserves Microsoft’s GUI design since Windows 3.1. Most likely, we’re going to see consumers complain about these things, and we might end up with a version of Windows 8 that’s more satisfying.

Two things that really impressed me were the rapid install time/response for the operating system – totaling 10 minutes – and the task manager’s elegant interface. Everything else was either a normal upgrade, a total blunder, or some new features that don’t really catch my attentions (such as the addition of “Apps,” particularly for ARM-based tablets).

Be sure to leave a comment with your opinion about what you’ve seen so far. We might get more into detail in further articles.