indows 11 review: Should you upgrade right now?
Windows 11 is officially here, bringing with it the most significant upgrade to Microsoft’s PC software in almost a decade.
It will offer your computer a new appearance, as well as new methods to multitask and communicate with friends, as well as some game speed improvements.
Is it, however, everything worth upgrading for?
We’ve spent about a week with the final version of Windows 11,
and there are a lot of things we appreciate about it, as well as a few things we’d want to see fixed.
If you’re debating whether to download Windows 11 or purchase a new computer, these are the most important benefits and drawbacks to consider.
How to get Windows 11
If you’re ready to upgrade right now, there are a couple of options for getting Windows 11 as it becomes available on October 5.
Most Windows 10 users are eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 11;
you can verify whether your machine is compatible and fulfils the system requirements by running a health check here.
We suggest that individuals who have custom-built desktops perform the health check since Windows 11 needs TPM 2.0, a particular security feature that custom-built PCs may lack.
However, there are several solutions available. Aside from that, anybody with a Windows laptop or desktop from the past several years should be OK.
Go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click “Check for Updates” to check whether Windows 11 is available for you.
You may also use the Taskbar to search for “Check for Updates.” Follow the instructions to download the updated software once you’ve arrived.
If your existing computer isn’t Windows 11 compatible, or you’re just due for an update,
there are plenty of Windows 11-ready PCs on the market right now.
The Dell XPS 13, our choice for the best Windows laptop, is among them,
as are all of Microsoft’s own machines that come preloaded with Windows 11,
such as the new Surface Laptop Studio, Surface Pro 8, and Surface Go 3. In the meanwhile, here are several Windows 11-compatible PCs that we’ve tried and suggest.
What we like about Windows 11
Although appearances aren’t everything, they are a major part of what makes Windows 11 seem like a significant upgrade. Microsoft’s new operating system has a brighter, cleaner,
and easier-to-use interface, all while staying familiar enough for Windows 10 veterans to hop right in without having to relearn anything.
The most obvious change is the much-discussed redesigned Taskbar,
which now occupies the middle and has a much more basic and appealing appearance that recalls Macs and Chromebooks.
However, the Taskbar’s appearance has been improved,
but its functionality has remained essentially the same.
The new Start menu, which puts big app icons front and centre and even makes app suggestions based on what you’ve recently downloaded, can be accessed by tapping the Windows key.
We’re not sure why the Taskbar has both the Start and Search icons since they both do the same thing when it comes to locating recent applications and files.
But, apart from that little redundancy,
Windows 11’s overall appearance and feel are just cleaner and more pleasant to use.
But it’s the stunning new themes that make Windows 11 so appealing to the eye. The programme comes with six pre-installed themes, each with a variety of bright colours,
stunning background images, and light and dark settings to let you customise your PC.
The Glow theme, which drowns our screen in a deep purple colour when dark mode is activated, is our favourite, but the blooming blues of the default Windows 11 theme are equally lovely.
If you don’t like the default themes, you can still change anything from your desktop wallpaper to your accent colours — and even combine bright and dark modes for various applications.
We also enjoy the fact that the default folders for things like Music, Videos,
and Pictures have various colours and aren’t simply a sea of boring-looking manilla symbols.
With little additions like an Apple-style control panel for rapidly changing things like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth,
you’ve got a design that doesn’t exactly revolutionise Windows but makes it a lot simpler to look at.
Multitasking is better — and borrows one of the Mac’s best features
We’ve long admired Windows 10’s multitasking features, and Windows 11 goes them much farther by borrowing heavily from macOS.
You may now establish several virtual desktops, each with its own set of open applications, much as on Apple Macs.
This is helpful if, for example, you want a dedicated desktop for business during the day, then switch to a gaming profile with Steam and Discord ready to go at night.
In our tests, creating and switching between several desktops was quick,
and we particularly appreciate that you can give each virtual desktop its own backdrop and name to differentiate it from the others.
The standard Windows multitasking features, such as snapping windows to various corners of the screen, are as simple as ever, but there are a few new techniques to try this time.
New Snap Layouts in the programme enable you to hover over a window and choose from a variety of layouts, such as dividing the screen between two applications or creating a four-way grid.
In our testing, creating Snap Layouts went rather well, but we did notice that certain third-party applications, such as Spotify and Discord,
didn’t exactly snap into place properly and overlapped other windows on smaller displays.
Developers seem to be able to optimise their applications for Snap Layouts, so maybe we’ll see fewer problems in the future.
It’s easier to Focus
Although focus assist has been a feature of Windows for a long time,
Windows 11 does an excellent job of bringing it to the forefront by allowing you to use it directly from the Taskbar.
This useful feature allows you to select between three alternative notification settings: Off (allow all notifications), Priority only (enable only notifications from your favourite applications),
or Alarms only (allow only alerts from your favourite apps) (mute everything but alarms).
We found ourselves utilising this function often,
particularly when it was time to sit down and write (who knew that muting Discord made you more productive?) We didn’t use it much in Windows 10 since it was hidden in menus,
but we’re glad to see it so readily accessible this time around.
It isn’t nearly as feature-rich as Apple’s configurable Focus settings, which were recently released in the newest macOS and iOS upgrades, but it seems to be an improvement for Windows 11.
The little things make a big difference
While Windows 11 boasts a fresh new design and a slew of new capabilities,
it’s the little details that have truly pleased us.
When your microphone is in use, for example,
you’ll now notice a little symbol at the bottom of the screen,
which is a useful privacy feature that helps bring Windows up to parity with Apple’s software.
When you select the “Update and Shut Down” or “Update and Restart” choices on your computer, Windows 11 now offers you a brief ETA on how long a software update will take.
Because let’s face it, no one likes waiting for Windows updates to finish.
What we don’t like about Windows 11
The new Widgets app in Windows 11 is basically an improved version of Windows 10’s news feed,
allowing you to view the weather, sports scores, news articles, and stock prices at a glance.
However, in its present form, it seems a little clunky and rigid,
and we haven’t found ourselves utilising it very much.
When you click the Widgets icon on your Taskbar, a tray containing widgets for weather, pictures, entertainment, and sports appears on the left side of your screen.
You can resize and move these widgets around, but with just 11 widgets to select from and limited scaling choices,
this functionality doesn’t seem as comprehensive as what’s available on Apple and Android devices. More widgets are expected to arrive over time,
we’d love to see ones from third-party applications like Spotify — but the functionality now seems to be rather light.
You’ll also receive a news feed underneath your widgets that you can modify a little,
but we wish there was a simpler method to tailor the kinds of articles you get without having to go to a different website.
We’d also want to be able to add Widgets to our desktop backdrop.
It would be a lot simpler to check the weather or catch up on the news at a glance if it didn’t need an additional click.
Teams chat isn’t that great
Microsoft Teams conversation is integrated right into the taskbar in Windows 11,
allowing you to text and video call pals exactly as you would on a Mac with iMessage and FaceTime.
There are just two issues: the connection isn’t nearly as seamless as Apple’s version, and it’s Microsoft Teams, after all.
The new Chat from Microsoft Teams feature displays a fast list of your friends (it can draw in your current Skype and Outlook contacts, and you can add anybody else by sharing a link),
and you can click on any of them to start a text chat or video conference.
It’s a little fragmented since clicking on a contact opens a new Teams window.
But the larger problem is that, in order to communicate with friends and family,
you’ll need to get them on Teams.
We put this functionality to the test by sending an invite link to a few acquaintances,
one of whom noted that in order to speak to us, they had to go through a multi-step procedure of signing in with their Microsoft account.
One of my friends couldn’t even log in with their Microsoft account.
We also had to launch the entire Teams app to invite new friends – if there was a method to initiate short conversations and video calls directly from the Taskbar,
this functionality would be a lot more helpful.
As of now, Android users who want to make calls from their Windows PC should utilise the Your Phone software. Windows 11‘s Teams Chat feature seems a little narrow and unintuitive in its present form,
especially given that Windows users may join FaceTime conversations with their iPhone and Mac pals (although in a restricted, web-based capacity).
Other Windows 11 features to watch
While it won’t be accessible right away, Windows 11 will ultimately allow you to download native Android applications to your PC.
According to Microsoft, this would allow you to do things like record and upload a video to TikTok directly from your PC,
and it may be particularly helpful for accessing mobile-friendly games and applications on Windows tablets like the Surface Go 3. It will also bring Windows PCs up to speed with Chromebooks,
which have long had access to Android applications via the Google Play Store.
On Windows 11, downloading Android applications is a little different than on Chrome OS,
because you’ll utilise the Microsoft Store to explore a selection of Android apps gathered from the Amazon Appstore.
We’ll have to wait until later this year to see how well Android applications function on Windows 11 PCs, but Microsoft claims it’ll be available “later this year.”
Some neat updates for PC gaming
Windows 11 has a few new gaming features that are intended to improve the appearance and performance of your PC games.
Windows 11 now supports Auto HDR, which will automatically activate High Dynamic Range in compatible games to make them shine with greater brightness and colour,
much like on the new Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles.
DirectStorage, a technique intended to enable your system’s graphics card and CPU to operate more effectively so you spend less time gazing at loading displays, will also help your games load quicker,
according to Microsoft. Keep an eye out for the designation “DirectStorage Optimized” on laptops and desktops that support this function while shopping for your next gaming machine.
We’re excited to put both capabilities to the test on our favourite gaming PCs and laptops, although they both seem promising on paper.
So, should you upgrade?
We’ve had a lot of fun with Windows 11 so far, but we wouldn’t consider it a must-have update just yet – at least not for everyone.
The aesthetic makeover is fantastic, and due to some clever interface changes,
simple things like silence alerts and rapidly changing settings have become much easier.
When we go back to our old Windows 10 machine, though, we don’t feel like we’re losing out on anything.
You should update right now for one of two reasons: you’re a heavy multitasker, or you just want nicer-looking Windows.
The option to create numerous virtual desktops,
as well as the helpful changes Microsoft has made to snapping windows together, will certainly appeal to those who juggle several tasks and applications at once.
When you combine that with simpler access to features like Focus help,
Windows 11 has the potential to be a genuine game-changer for those who need to get serious work done.
In some respects, this is a good thing since Windows 11 is more of a refresh than a complete overhaul.
The majority of our muscle memory from years of using Windows still applies here;
everything is simply more neatly packaged.
This update is also recommended for any younger or less tech-savvy people in your life since there is just less clutter for them to cope with here.
If you have an older machine that can’t run Windows 11, you may want to consider purchasing a suitable PC soon, since Microsoft will stop supporting Windows 10 in a few years.
It’s worth noting that, like any new software release, Windows 11 will almost certainly have some initial problems and bugs, but with new features like Android app compatibility,
things should improve with time.
So, if you want more comprehensive multitasking capabilities and some really beautiful new backgrounds, update now; otherwise, wait for Windows 11 to get even better.
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