I suppose it’s time for an update. Early last week, our new computer arrived, a Dell XPS One 27 Touch. It’s our first all-in-one, runs Windows 8, and has a 27” touch-screen monitor.
To get the hardware out of the way, it’s pretty impressive in that way new things are when compared to what they replaced. Our old screen was a perfectly acceptable 21” 1680x1050 model. The new one, besides being a touch screen, is 27” and 2560x1440, meaning it has a higher resolution than our big-screen TV. It’s not perfect … the glare is pretty significant … but pictures look beautiful on it, and while I worried that it would be too big, I’m already used to the larger size. The audio is actually a bit of a drop from what we had previously, since it has 2.1 sound while the old computer was 5.1. The vast majority of what is played on the computer is plain stereo, though, so the extra 3 speakers aren’t really missed.
Windows 8? Despite what you have heard, it is very easy to get used to, if you accept that some things have changed. The idea of running two different UIs at the same time is disconcerting when you hear about it, but the truth is, I got accustomed to it quite quickly. Legacy programs run in desktop mode, which Windows users will recognize … Windows 8 in desktop mode is like Windows 7, only improved. Other software is matched with Windows 8’s “metro” mode (they call it something else now, but I’m sticking with Metro). This is what you’ve seen in the advertisements. It looks like a giant tablet or smart phone screen, which is purposeful, since Microsoft’s idea is to create an OS that runs on computers and mobile hardware. It’s fun to use the touch screen, although I have a feeling there’ll be a new version of carpal tunnel syndrome down the road, when enough people get sore forearms from reaching out to the screen.
What needs to be emphasized, though, is how easily you can control even the Metro apps using just a keyboard and mouse. It’s seems counterintuitive to say this, since what makes Windows 8 so new is the use of touch, but if you are a keyboard-mouse person, you’ll be fine right from the start. In other words, when I write this blog post, I’m not touching my screen, I’m using my keyboard within Windows Live Writer, just as I’ve done in the past with other OS.
So there is the essential paradox: Windows 8 is the most different Windows ever, yet users of previous versions of Windows will be able to get along just fine.
I’d mention one other thing Windows 8 offers that is terrific. I had a problem with the touch screen not swiping properly, and I couldn’t find any help online. So I did a “refresh”, which basically re-installed Windows while leaving my files and programs intact. It’s not perfect … the only programs it keeps around are the “Metro” apps. But a helpful html file shows up on the desktop, explaining what software didn’t get re-installed, in many cases including a link to the download site for the program. And it took maybe 20 minutes, tops.
What’s the verdict? Too soon to tell. But it’s fun, and I’m already up to speed on productivity and gaming and video chatting and everything else a computer is good for. When you are ready for a new Windows machine, don’t believe the anti-hype. Windows 8 is OK. If that seems like damning with faint praise, well, a lot of what I’ve read makes it sound like Windows 8 is a disaster. You need to know that is simply not true.