Windows 10 & Microsoft Edge Review
The moment Windows 8.1 alerted me that I can now update to Windows 10, my heart leaped with joy. I didn’t necessarily hate Windows 8.1, but it surely had an identity crisis, which is very evident when I use Windows laptops without touchscreens for input.
But Windows 10 isn’t just an upgrade for Windows 8.1 – it’s also an update to Windows 7 – still one of the best operating systems of this time, as users of both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 can update to 10 for free! The big questions that leaves us with are – is Windows 10 any good? Does it improve upon the ideas of both Windows 7 and 8? Where is the future heading for Windows?
Design & Usability
In a nutshell, Windows 10 is Windows 7 armored with Windows 8.1 (not the other way around), as this feels more focused on desktop than touch. Take that, and paint everything with the colors of Metro and Flat Design – poof, here’s Windows 10.
So what’s new here? By default, you’ll see the new taskbar containing your pinned applications, the task view button, Cortana, the new Action Center, the new Start Menu and flat icons everywhere paired with the new wallpaper. You’re also no longer, by default, inside the Start Menu unlike Windows 8. Metro apps no longer go fullscreen, so in effect, there’s basically no use for some of the gestures and options found in Windows 8, including the Charms Bar. Thank God, I can finally use my laptop as a laptop with no hybrid crap going on.
But what if you’re not using the laptop? What if you’re running Windows 10 on convertibles or 2-in-1s? That’s where Tablet Mode comes in, and everything turns more Windows 8.1 than Windows 7 when you toggle it on.
Apart from the obvious visual changes everywhere, working with windows also received a few incremental updates. Aside from snapping them into left and right sides, you can also now snap them to the four corners. When doing so, the OS also shows your other windows open and suggest you to snap them on as well – a very useful addition for us multitaskers.
A new task switcher is also found as a shortcut pinned on your taskbar, and it’s interesting because it doesn’t only show you all your open applications, it also shows you the option to have another desktop filled with another set of open applications. Everything feels a lot cleaner and more comprehensive, and these features aren’t really things that I asked for back in Windows 8, but Microsoft added them in well-polished ways that even non-power users will understand them easily. Windows 10 just works.
By now, everybody probably knows what this is, but for those who still don’t have an idea – it’s basically Microsoft’s version of Google Now or Apple’s Siri.
When they added Cortana into Windows 10, I was skeptical. “Do I really wanna talk to my computer?” was my first thought, and the most obvious answer to that is usually no. Who wants to talk to their computer when typing is a lot easier and more accurate? So, when Windows 10 booted up for the first time, I immediately fired up Cortana.
And I was blown away.
Cortana is more than just a voice assistant – it’s universal search that actually works really well. Aside from being able to converse with it (singing me a song, tells me jokes), it allows me to set reminders & alarms with near realtime voice recognition. It’s also like Google Now in a way as it suggests me content to look into, but most of all, it knows my computer inside out, and anything I want to search for, it brings it up.
“Spreadsheets. Open Facebook. I love you.”
I can customize Cortana for a lot of things, but I can’t change its default search engine; Cortana is powered by Bing, but I don’t really care. I can still keep it always listening for ‘Hey Cortana’s to activate, and I can even train it to listen only to my voice. All of these conveniences however come at a cost: Cortana takes up RAM and leads to less battery life, so if you’re running on the go with laptops, we’d rather have you turn these off and just rely on pressing the button itself.
Previously called “Spartan”, Microsoft Edge is the company’s new flagship browser – but let me get some things out of the way first: one, Internet Explorer wasn’t removed with my copy of Windows 10. It’s still there, and it’s still the more fully featured browser compared to Edge and it’s frustrating. Two, Microsoft should really move on from Internet Explorer – the Edge’s icon still feels pretty icky like the old IE icon.
Now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s get to the Edge. The Edge is fast, apart from my gripes with the “E” icon, it feels new and modern. I actually uninstalled Google Chrome for a while as that went downhill for me through time and this feels really fresh to me, but there are still some things that need improvement.
Microsoft Edge is fast, touch-friendly and simple – but to me, it’s just that. For the most part, it feels like a powerful mobile browser scaled up to desktop size. It doesn’t have all the settings that I want to tinker with, no “open image in new tab” options on right click, buggy when copying and pasting, and a lot more small things that contribute to it being an incomplete browsing experience.
With Edge, you can also draw and add comments on the screen to share, which is actually very useful, but I still can’t really use it as my version is very buggy. The browser crashes when I finally press the share button.
At the end of the day, I reinstalled Google Chrome for my heavier work, but also, Edge didn’t really lose – I still use it as my go-to browser for leisure and social media purposes. Microsoft just has to smoothen out the edges soon. (heh)
Finally, Microsoft listened to everyone. Start is no longer that monstrous full screen mobile home wannabe for apps and files – it’s back to how it should be, and it’s more refined.
Start shows you your most used and most recent applications, your pinned live tiles and basic settings, and I love it because that’s mostly it. It doesn’t want to be anything else, and that’s okay. In fact, with Cortana just around the corner and a shortcut for the File Explorer, I found little to no use for the Start Menu – but I still like having it there.
Maybe Microsoft will find better use for it in the future, but for now, it feels like a resizable taskbar extension more than anything.
This is the part of my review where everything seems tricky for me to actually judge – because we’ve been waiting for years for Microsoft to be able to catch up with other app ecosystems and still, it hasn’t, and it feels far from happening.
With Windows 10 however, I feel like they have a better shot, but it’s still a shot too late. I can download even the flagship apps Facebook & Twitter, but I don’t really have any use for them because using the browser is still a lot more efficient. With a more unified platform, Windows Mobile might catch up, but I doubt that honestly – so…
Aside from games in the Microsoft Store, Metro apps are basically stale when you can have a better experience in the browser. The Metro Apps that do just fine however, are Microsoft’s own stock apps that now work in Desktop mode. Calendar, Settings & a lot more are actually useful, none of which are downloaded from their store. I still don’t use a lot of them like Xbox, but they’re really big improvements nonetheless from Windows 8.
Swipe in from the right and you’ll get to the new Action Center – a combination of quick settings, notifications and Cortana reminders.
But I’ll be honest, I don’t have use for notifications on the desktop, because like I’ve said, Microsoft Apps don’t make sense. I don’t wanna see Facebook, Twitter or email notifications there – and if I do, I just clear them all anyway. If I wanted to see them, I’d go to my browser and open them, not through the apps.
It is useful however, mainly for quick settings: WiFi, tablet mode and a lot more (and Cortana reminders if I have some), but basically that’s it. I didn’t even notice it for a few days because it was quite buggy that I needed to restart explorer.exe for it to work again.
And speaking of bugs, Microsoft has a lot more to polish aside from the ones I mentioned above: my trackpad became jumpy after the update, some apps won’t properly scale, and some apps still work more as a tablet app, meaning you still have to swipe from the top or bottom to get into further options. Some applications also slow down occasionally, but it’s nothing serious. Just some bugs Microsoft should iron out in a future update.
Other small things in Windows 10 include the ability to copy paste into the command prompt, but that’s basically it.
My feelings for Windows 10 are mostly positive, and even so, hopeful. Microsoft is on the right track with the new OS, and I feel like this is more of the future than Windows 8’s vision was. Microsoft probably rushed the release for this for the back-to-school season in other countries, so I understand the few bugs that aren’t dealbreakers at all. I just hope Microsoft sends the huge bug fix updates soon, but for the most part, I love Windows 10.
What we liked about it:
- Beautifully designed
- Cortana is useful
- Start is back
- Task Switcher & Snapping is polished & functional
- Microsoft Edge is promising
- Options for more desktops
- Stock Microsoft apps are great
- Tablet Mode is a separate experience
What we didn’t like about it:
- Third Party Apps don’t make sense
- Microsoft Edge needs to get more features
- Cortana takes up battery & RAM