Its the end of the dark tunnel for Microsoft, the final stretch of a long road they took when deciding that Windows 8 just wasn’t working out the way they intended. By and large Windows 10 is an apology for anyone who had to suffer with the strange and annoying quirks of Windows 8, and I’m pretty happy with the way things have turned out so far. Windows 10 is shaping up to be a great replacement to Windows 7, if we’re following the Microsoft timeline, but its also a good upgrade to Windows 8.1. Some of you might not warm up to it initially, but while there are rough edges for sure, there’s a lot of potential here now that Microsoft has separated so much functionality from the OS to allow it to be updated and upgraded on a different schedule. This is the final look at Windows 10 in beta, so join me to check out what’s left.
Part 5: Edge browser, Settings, Another work in Progress
The other headline feature of Windows 10 is the Edge browser. Built from the ruins of Internet Explorer 11, Edge promises to be updated at a more rapid pace, and offers a huge array of options and abilities that would require a separate article to detail them properly. It is lighter on system resources than IE 11, but it doesn’t offer a lot of features that got left behind on IE 11 either, like pinning a website to the taskbar to launch it as a web app. Overall, Edge is a modern browser by modern standards, and it sizes up pretty well so far.
Edge is quite aggressive in the way in which it runs websites in tabs. If they’re idle for a long time, they get put into a “sleep” mode, where they consume much less memory. Switching to them will force a redraw of the site, but the saved state will be just as you left it minutes ago. This is similar to Firefox’s option to only load tabs when clicked after a restart, but better and less hard on your battery life. In the screenshot above, Edge is open in the background and minimised with six “active” tabs, while Internet Explorer, running only a single tab and minimised, consumes almost 100MB more system memory, and puts a ever-so-slightly increased load on the hard drive at the same time.
Edge is also fairly CPU-intensive, even though it makes use of GPU acceleration. Page loads on weaker hardware have a certain lag to them, and the browser waits until all elements are loaded before issuing a final redraw, which means that during this time the site is unresponsive in a similar manner to older builds of the Opera browser. I’m sure it works better on faster machines, or slightly faster machines with a SSD, but this isn’t a great experience on this netbook for now. Save for IE, every other browser available is more responsive while the page is loading.
You can use reading view on almost any site, which takes just the main body of the article along with al the embedded pictures, and displays just that in the current pane, taking away any flashy adverts. Pretty neat.
Reading view also has its own dark theme for night-time reading.
You can also use new annotation features built into Edge to draw on websites, add comments to things, and generally just screw around when you feel like it and share it with friends. It loses the novelty before long on a notebook or desktop, but on a tablet this will be amazing.
Finally, we end off our look at Windows 10 with the settings app. A lot of things have been moved from their various locations in Windows to here, but there are still moments when the new-look Modern UI clashes with the old Windows UI. As much as Settings tries to be a one-stop-shop for all your configuration needs, it is sorely lacking in quite a few places.
For example, opening up some advanced options in the display setup doesn’t actually open up any new advanced options inside Settings. Instead, these are just links to the old-UI versions of these properties menus, which aren’t finger-friendly. Gah!
Likewise, setting up a new PPPoE connection launches the old-style setup menu. Again, not finger-friendly. Quite frequently these opened windows also aren’t given priority over the display area they spawn in, so they actually appear below the Settings window, out of focus. Frustrating, to say the least.
One bone of contention for users on the Home and Professional SKUs is that you no longer have the ability to defer or block certain updates from being installed. Instead, this is done automatically, and only Professional users will be able to defer feature upgrades for up to eight months. However, you are able to save on bandwidth by setting up some computers in your network to download updates from other computers on the same local network.
At any time, you can also join the Windows Insider program in order to receive new features and updates before they’re sent out to users on the stable channels.
One tip that I do have for anyone buying or upgrading to Windows 10 is to change the default option allowing Windows to install device drivers to “Let me choose.” Quite frequently, Windows Update (at least the version in Windows 10) will download drivers that may be older or newer than the ones you have installed already, and if you’re particularly choosy about when you allow these to be updated, turning off the auto-update feature is a good idea. I’ve no idea why its so particularly aggressive about this particular part of system maintenance, but its worth noting to avoid any future headaches.
Another work in progress
Windows 10 is definitely a lot of firsts for both the company and the platform that almost everyone born in the last thirty years has had experience with, and its going to require some adjustment for users new to the OS and its thoughts on how computing should be done. A lot of your cheese has been moved, but its not as drastic a change as Vista was to Windows XP users. Even if you’re coming from XP, you should be at home with most of the new features because there’s some familiarity to them. It might not be exactly the same, but there’s enough to go on to figure things out quickly, just like many people did when they migrated to Windows 7.
As for the niggles and bug and odd behaviours, they’ll go away eventually. This is a brand new OS and just like Windows 8.1 improved immensely on Windows 8, so will this improve on every other version of Windows. There’s a lot more under the surface that I’m not going to be able to analyse for now and there are many new features that computer technicians fixing or building up Windows 10 machines will come to like.
Is that enough, though? Are the superficial features enough to make you comfortable with the switch? Do the other changes to Windows 10, like the lack of choosing which updates get installed, turn you off and keep you on older platforms? Let us know in the comments below. From this writer’s perspective, though, I’m definitely looking forward to the release of the OS, and I’m already working my way to backing up my stuff to be able to run this on a clean installation on my SSD.
We’ll have more coverage of Windows 10 in the future, but this is it for our final look as Microsoft gets prepped for the launch. Thanks for reading!