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.

16 comments

  1. There are Ribbon in Windows Explorer. Anyway that Start Screen is completely out of usage with a  non touch devices.

    • I was using that Start Screen on my computer, a non-touch device. Windows Explorer did not have ribbons, as you can see, during my test. Perhaps there’s an option I missed that enables this?

    • OK. I have to correct myself. It does have ribbons. Michael was kind enough to tell me how to get ’em.

  2. The ribbon is accessible thru a little down arrow under the “x” in the upper right corner of Windows Explorer!

  3. There’s quite a few improvements to the OS that I really like, such as the more detailed task manager and file transfer dialogs. I don’t like the new full-screen start menu, which is the biggest change to the OS. If you press the Windows key + F, you’ll be taken to the Metro UI to the search for files/apps section. This screen most resembles the Windows Vista/7 start menu and is more likely to be of use to non tablet devices. 
    It’s also awkward to close Metro applications. As far as I can gather, the fastest way to close Metro apps is to press Windows + tab, then either right click the thumbnailed app and close it, or drag it to the bottom of the screen. As far as I can see there’s no option to show more than two applications at a time either, or use more than one monitor in Metro. One other gripe; on a setup with multiple monitors, bringing up the charms bar is very difficult unless you use the keyboard shortcut Windows + C. On a single monitor you simply hover your mouse in the top or bottom right corners, but on any setup with more monitors it requires almost pixel perfect precision to get the cursor in just the right spot. 

  4. I will not be upgrading to Windows 8. I have been experimenting with an IMAC and am very impressed. Will probably be going solely with an Apple. I DO NOT LIKE WINDOWS 8 AT ALL.

    • They really dropped the bomb with that Metro UI. But… You know what? I actually like their fullscreen apps, among other things. The interface grew on me after a few days. It’s actually a pretty nice deal.

      But, by all means, if you want to shell out the extra couple grand for an iMac, that’s not a bad purchase either! An iMac can run Windows also, so you’re not really missing out on much.

      Honestly, I think I’m going to miss Windows 7.

      • “Honestly, I think I’m going to miss Windows 7.”

        I smell another XP/Vista situation. I don’t see the point of upgrading Win 7 unless the successor is truly groundbreaking. No need to miss Win 7.

  5. Thanks; couldn’t get the release preview x64 to install in VMWare 8 either.  Got the same watchdog error.  Trying x86…

  6. No one likes change . . . we get comfortable with what we know. I remember not wanting to switch from DOS to Windows — LOL! Of course, there will be a learning curve to using Windows 8, but it’s not rocket science, people! Those who adapt to change move forward; those who don’t, get left behind. I enjoy learning new things — looking forward to learning all about Windows 8 and all of the benefits that come with it!

    • Sometimes changes really aren’t good. Look at the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. Anyway, I agree. Windows 8 isn’t entirely different from Windows 7, and its application interface is very forward-looking. It’s not like people are being coerced into upgrading… Yet…

Comments are closed.

Sponsored Stories