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Windows 8 review

Our definitive look at the latest version of Windows

Our Verdict

For

  • On the right hardware, it's sleek, fast and fun
  • Huge security improvements
  • Better battery life, faster boot
  • Great for touch

Against

  • Start menu gone
  • Can't boot to the desktop
  • You'll want a touchscreen/trackpad gestures/Touch Mouse
  • Modern UI will annoy some
  • Some older CPUs won't run it

Like Windows 7, Windows 8 will run faster on existing PCs. Thanks to changes under the hood like making background processes wake the processor up at the same time rather than one after another and using GPU acceleration for a lot more tasks, plus changing the way shutdown works to make it more like hibernation, Windows 8 boots more quickly, runs some tasks – especially multimedia, transcoding and anything using DirectX – faster and delivers longer battery life.

Booting and shutting down Windows 8 is faster than Windows 7; twice as fast in some of our tests on a mid-range second generation Core i5 notebook (upgraded to a fast SSD, but we saw even bigger improvements on a hard drive system). Hibernating and resuming speeds improved as well, but not by as much.

The real difference is that shutting down actually hibernates an image of the core Windows system and booting reloads that (checking that device drivers are working correctly in case that's why you restarted).

Startup and shutdown speeds

Startup

Windows 7
45s

Windows 8
21s

Shutdown

Windows 7
13s

Windows 8
7s

Resume

Windows 7
25s

Windows 8
16s

Hibernate

Windows 7
16s

Windows 8
7s

Browser speeds

Canvas speed

Windows 7
50fps

Windows 8
60fps

Webvizbench

Windows 7
4180

Windows 8
5190

Webvizbench fps

Windows 7
17fps

Windows 8
27fps

Speedreading

Windows 7
12s

Windows 8
7s

Speedreading fps

Windows 7
55fps

Windows 8
60fps

The hardware-accelerated Chakra engine in IE10 continues to get faster and not just for JavaScript; it accelerates everything from rendering text to SVG to Canvas drawing to the multimedia tests that make up Webvizbench to the mix of tasks in the IE9 Speedreading benchmark. When IE10 comes out for Windows 7 we'll be able to see how much of the speed is underlying Windows 8 performance and how much is the browser, but whichever it is, it's faster.

PCMark 7

Windows 7
2478

Windows 8
2915

This is a definite improvement in the mix of 'real world' tasks in PCMark like multimedia, browsing, and other common activities. Much of the speedup is in multimedia and DirectX but this reflects an overall speedup. One of the things might be the faster file handling, which beats Windows 7 file copy speeds. Copying a random selection of files (documents, images, videos, MP3s, ZIP and EXE files) sped up much more than we expected in Windows 8.

Copy 2.5GB of files over USB 2

Windows 7
3.05

Windows 8
2.48

Often the first graphics drivers for a new OS deliver low frame rates for games and then improve to match the previous OS and then beat it. Even on a notebook with unimpressive integrated Intel graphics, the frame rates for DirectX 11 games are slightly better than Windows 7 already.

Gaming speeds

Heaven DX9

Windows 7
109

Windows 8
111

Heaven DX9 fps

Windows 7
4.3fps

Windows 8
4.6fps

Give an old PC a new lease of life

We also ran some of our benchmarks on an older notebook, the HP EliteBook 2730p Centrino 2 model from 2008 which has a 5400prm 1.8-inch HDD rather than an SSD. While some things remain slow and the Intel integrated graphics still struggle, we saw huge improvements in startup times and some browser tests.

Startup and shutdown speeds

Startup

Windows 7
1m 19s

Windows 8
38s

Shutdown

Windows 7
41s

Windows 8
19s

Resume

Windows 7
26s

Windows 8
26s

Hibernate

Windows 7
33s

Windows 8
13s

Hate how long you're waiting for your PC to start? Windows 8 will speed it up. The only test where we didn't see significant improvement was resuming from hibernation; the 5400rpm hard drive is probably maxed out loading files.

Browser speeds

V8

Windows 7
1594

Windows 8
2581

Canvas speed

Windows 7
22fps

Windows 8
52

Webvizbench

Windows 7
3030

Windows 8
4230

Webvizbench fps

Windows 7
5.89fps

Windows 8
13.64fps

Again, bigger is better in all these tests; JavaScript speed, canvas rendering and the multimedia tasks in Webvizbench are all significantly faster. You'll notice the difference when browsing complex websites.

PCMark 7

Windows 7
1038

Windows 8
1091

The improvements here are in the 'creativity' section of the benchmark, which looks at multimedia and DirectX tasks. You might not notice a difference in Word but processing photos will be faster.

Gaming speeds

Heaven DX9

Windows 7
46

Windows 8
47

Heaven DX9 fps

Windows 7
1.8fps

Windows 8
1.9fps

This old system and the integrated Intel graphics struggle with anything more than casual games and we saw rendering issues galore but DirectX 9 was definitely faster with Windows 8 and the benchmark ran visibly more smoothly.

Tech Specs

Product TypeOperating System
Brand NameMicrosoft
Software Sub TypeClient
Distribution Media/MethodDVD-ROM
Licence TypeComplete Product
Platform SupportedPC
Features

Windows 7, only better:

  • Windows 8 is built on the rock-solid foundation of Windows 7, but it's been improved on all fronts.
  • You can install Windows 8 on the same hardware that powers Windows Vista and Windows 7, and you'll love how it works on new devices, too.
  • Windows 8 was designed with Windows 7 apps in mind, because you probably have older apps you need to use.
  • In addition to the new look of the Start Screen, Windows 8 incorporates the desktop that you're familiar with.
  • Think of the desktop as one of the many apps you can run in Windows 8.
  • In the desktop, you'll see all the settings, devices and features you used in Windows 7-and you can run the desktop apps you ran in Windows 7, too.

Cloud-connected with your Microsoft account:

  • Sign in to your Windows 8 device with your Microsoft account and you're immediately connected to the people, files and settings you care about.
  • Your PC comes to life with all the things that make Windows yours, including your Start page, themes, language preferences, browsing history and browser favourites.
  • You can connect your favourite services to your Microsoft account, too, like Hotmail, Messenger, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more.
  • And you can immediately get to your photos, docs and other files, whether they're on SkyDrive, Facebook, Flickr or other services.

It's all about the apps:

  • In the Windows Store, you can search for or browse great apps, all grouped in easy-to-find categories.
  • We highlight great apps for you and provide quick access to frequently downloaded apps.
  • You can also see how other people have rated apps.
  • You'll always know what's interesting, new and popular.
  • You won't have to worry about buying something you don't want because you can try before you buy, if the app supports it.
  • If you try an app and like it, you can buy it and continue using the full app with no interruption.
  • You won't waste time or lose your place.
Language SupportedEnglish
Licence Quantity1 User
ManufacturerMicrosoft Corporation
Product NameWindows 8 Pro 64-bit
Software NameWindows 8 Pro 64-bit
Licence PricingOEM
Manufacturer Part NumberFQC-05955
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.microsoft.co.uk
Marketing Information

Windows has been reimagined to focus on your life. The beautiful, fast, and fluid design is perfect for a range of hardware: from compact, touch-enabled tablets and lightweight laptops, to PCs and large, powerful all-in-ones with high-definition screens.