Windows 10 retail is almost upon us and today we wanted to take another look at Windows 8.1 – as it stands this year. Based on our polls a substantial percentage of KitGuru readers didn’t move to Microsoft’s latest operating system … but is it time for a look now if you just bought a 4K screen? It is worth bearing in mind that Microsoft will offer a FREE UPGRADE to Windows 10 for qualified new or existing Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices that upgrade in the first year. So the question remains, should you install Windows 8.1 now and get the free upgrade to 10 when it becomes more stable later this year?
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When KitGuru reviewed the DinoPC Pegasus 17.3” GTX 765M laptop in March 2014 we went as far as to list Windows 8.1 as one of the problems with the system. Windows 8.1 (which is much better than Windows 8) is obviously intended for use on a touch screen device where you want big buttons for your apps. This is fine for a Windows phone or tablet but hopeless for a PC or laptop where you are navigating with a mouse or touchpad.
The other major annoyance in Windows 8/8.1 when you left click on the big Windows button at the bottom left of the screen is that the GUI changes from the conventional desktop to the foulness of Metro. Yuck.
Anyone, including your author, who uses Windows 7 simply has no reason to make the change to Windows 8. End of story. Or so it seemed.
Things changed when I made the switch from 1080p to 4K and bought a pair of Acer CB280HK monitors. I paid about £320 for each of the Acers from Scan and they are currently on sale at Amazon for £277 inc vat. Bargain innit.
4K gaming looks good on Windows 7 (provided you have a high end graphics card or two) however the Windows experience is pretty naff. The icons on your desktop will be tiny, the task bar is a nightmare and the menus in your applications are so small they are pretty much useless.
Windows 7 allows you to scale your displays to a maximum of 150 percent as a zoom function which tackles the worst of the problems but it still isn’t a pleasant experience. If you pair a 4K display with a 1080p secondary display and drag a document from one screen to the other it is an unusable mess as the scaling goes to pieces.
Windows 8.1 has clearly been built with 4K in mind and works as well as you might expect and icons, applications and menus all work correctly. Anyone who is using Windows 7 with 4K displays should make the move to Windows 8.1 pronto.
But what about the mainstream Windows 7 user who uses a 1080p display (or two)? Apart from the point that 4K is nowhere near as expensive as you might have imagined, the obvious thought is that Windows 10 is coming later this year, so surely Windows 8.1 is irrelevant. Visit this Microsoft page and you get all the upgrade info you need. Qualified users (a curiously vague term) of Windows 7, 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 will get a free upgrade to Windows 10. I remain to be convinced that means a free, perpetual, never-pay-a-penny upgrade but time will tell on that score. What I do know is that upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is bound to throw up some snags and surprises.
Take the time to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 and then to Windows 10 and I confidently predict that while it will take you longer you will have an easier time in the long run.
I made the move to Windows 8.1 fully expecting to have a grim experience and to then progress to windows 10 as soon as possible, however I have been pleasantly surprised.
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KitGuru says: As things stand the wretched Metro user interface has no part on a PC or laptop that doesn’t have a touch screen and the removal of the Start menu was a crass mistake but Windows 8.1 has finally found a place in the heart of 4K gamers.