It has been on most of our computers for years. So much so that many of us take it for granted, and even assume that it comes free with all computers. We are talking of Windows, the operating system that drives most computers around the world. It has just moved to a new avatar. One unlike anything we have ever seen before, as we discovered when we got a chance to use the OS before its launch.
Touch and tiles
Windows 8 is being touted as the most radical overhaul of the world’s most popular computer OS for a while. That’s true. Applications and shortcuts are presented to you on a scrollable display and you just need to tap on a tile to open it. Shades of Windows Phone 7? Yes indeed. And just like on that OS, you can also get live updates on your tiles — so you can see new updates on your Facebook page or on the news app that you gave pinned to the homescreen. Swiping inwards from the right side of the device reveals a panel with access to Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings, while swiping from the left side will let you switch between open apps.
Say hello to full-blown multitasking. There’s more — swiping upwards from the lower part will give you a link to access all the apps on your device, and swiping from top to bottom will shut down the app that’s running — just remember to move your finger all the way from the top to the bottom. There is an app market for you to download and purchase apps from, just as in other tablets and devices. And the Internet Explorer 10 browser is a full-fledged one — you can play online games within it, browse sites and view videos in all their glory. “You don’t need apps with something like this,” a Microsoft executive pointed out, showing us Contre Jour playing impeccably within the browser itself — no need to download an app, as you would on an iPad. While we would debate that point, there is no doubting the fact that in terms of features, Internet Explorer 10 is one of the best browsers we have seen.
There are hardly any menus and drop down lists — it’s all touch and gestures in this new look and feel. If you have a touchscreen, you can swipe your fingers across it and even if you have a conventional notebook, the trackpad and mouse will help you do the same.
For old times sake
If all this tends to overwhelm you, all you need to do is head into Desktop mode and you will be back in your old familiar world of Windows 7, complete with the old icons and navigation. After all, Windows is still the best option for keyboard addicts (many of us are).
The best part is that all this works incredibly smoothly and importantly, without needing high-end specs. If your computer is running Windows 7, it is a fair chance that it will run Windows 8 just fine. No need to upgrade hardware, as we needed to do when Vista had descended on us a few years ago. Though, of course, if you want a touchscreen experience, then you will have to either invest in a compatible tablet or any other device (convertible or notebook). There are lots of those, including Microsoft’s own Surface.
Do you need it?
We think it is the best Windows ever in terms of touch and type compatibility and interface. And we love that we can switch between the new look and hark back to the older one when nostalgia, or good old-fashioned work, beckons. The problem is that we are not really too sure where Windows 8 fits. It is neither a pure tablet OS — it does not yet have the apps or the ease of use that iOS or Android have (not yet anyway — swiping down all the way across the screen to close an app can at times be tedious, and orientation can sometimes take ages to change from portrait to landscape) — nor a strictly keyboard one (using the touchpad or mouse to navigate through tiles is not always pleasant). And unlike Windows on the desktop and notebook, which has had a relatively unchallenged reign, Windows 8 on touchscreens will draw comparisons with Android and iOS. And while it works brilliantly, we do not really think it topples those two yet — not all apps are optimised for landscape and portrait, and those spoilt by apps will not be impressed by the browser, simply because they have stopped using it on their iPads or Galaxy Tablets.
All of which makes Windows 8 perhaps the perfect OS for those who have never used a computer. Its primary interface is fast and easy to understand. Veterans, however, might find themselves returning to the Desktop mode again and again, while those who have used other tablets will whine at some stage about the quality and quantity of apps (hey, no Flipboard or Instagram yet). We actually would have loved Windows 8 as a pure tablet OS — it’s the desktop baggage that we find a tad unwieldy. So do you really need to invest in it? It depends. Those content with Windows 7 and using a tablet or smartphone for mobile computing might not feel that inclined to do so. But if you have been largely anchored to your PC and are looking for the best blend of touch and type with all your “regular” software without any compromise on performance, then Windows 8 is pretty much a must-have. A final word of advice — use it with a touchscreen. And give it time. It will grow on you. It is not as good as Android or iOS in the touch interface/apps department and not as keyboard-friendly as its own predecessor, but it brings the best of both worlds to a single device as no one else has.
Desire with the X-factor!
HTC’s Desire range has seen some awesome devices, and the HTC Desire X packs in enough to join its illustrious predecessors like the HTC Desire HD. It comes with a 4.0-inch LCD display, a dual core 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, a 5.0-megapixel camera with HDR mode, and exclusive Beats Audio.
Users will also get 25 GB of online storage via Dropbox. The Desire X runs on Android Ice Cream Sandwich, with HTC’s Sense interface running on top of it. And in best HTC Desire tradition, it looks rather good.
For: Rs 19,799
No fingerprints please, we’re iPads!
One product which has become a rage with all tablet owners is the screen protector which claims to keep smudges, scratches and fingerprints off the display.
But screen protectors themselves often need as much cleaning as the screens they protect do. Which is why we love the NaturalView Fingerprint Fading Screen Protector from 3M — yes, fingerprints left on the screen protector actually fade away within minutes of using it. It also claims to be scratch-proof, although we did see the odd nick coming on to it. And it works with all iPads. It is a tad pricey, though, and not exactly the easiest to place on an iPad — get it placed the moment you purchase it is our advice.
For: Rs 1,800
iBall Slide gets better
iBall’s seven-inch Slide was acknowledged to be a decent value for money product by most reviewers, and now the company has given it a filip with the Slide i9702. It comes with a larger, 9.7-inch touchscreen display, a 1.5 GHz dual core processor, dual cameras and 1GB RAM.
It runs on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and while it does not come with 3G support inbuilt, allows users to connect a 3G dongle to it, and also has Wi-Fi. There are some handy apps preinstalled and best of all, the boost in specs and screen size does not come with a hefty price increase.
For: Rs 14,999