It has been a busy time in Redmond. Three hundred and two days ago, on September 30, 2014, Windows 10 was announced by Microsoft. The name, at the time, was a bit of a surprise, and Windows 10 was born out of the ashes of Windows 8.1. Over the last three hundred days, we have seen a pronounced change in how Microsoft develops software. Windows 8 was the crowning achievement of Steven Sinofsky, and his sudden departure from the Redmond company only weeks after Windows 8 shipped perhaps signaled that Microsoft knew out of the gate that Windows 8 would be controversial and difficult to adopt for their core user group. A new direction was necessary.

And so we have Windows 10. Separated from Windows 8 by more than just a number, it was also forged by a Microsoft who was more open about the development process than I can ever recall. The day after Windows 10 was announced, Microsoft opened up the Windows Insider program, to give anyone who wanted a look at the new take on Windows to give it a spin, and not only that, they could offer feedback and suggestions for apps and features. The changes made to Windows 10 over the last three hundred odd days, have been dramatic, which is a testament to how the new Microsoft takes and processes the huge amount of feedback it received.

Windows 10 Start Menu and Desktop in October 2014

The Windows Insider program was very successful. Very quickly the number of people who had signed up was over a million, and the last count that I saw was that there are over five million people in the Windows Insider program. The response has certainly been enthusiastic.

Windows 10 Start Menu and Desktop at release

Of course it helps that the software being tested showed that Microsoft was listening well before the Insider Program even began. Windows 8’s biggest pain points, such as the Start Screen, full screen apps, and the Charms bar, were not going to be tweaked in this release, but completely done away with. Back was the Start Menu, back was windowed apps, and back was what made Windows, well, Windows. Where Windows 8 was promoted as touch-first, Windows 10 was created as productivity first, with the OS trying to assist you with things like Snap Assist rather than get in your way.

There is a lot of changes and features to go over, and in typical AnandTech style, we are going to provide as much information about each as we can. I wanted to ensure that we did the review with the final code, to ensure any of our tests would be accurate and real-world results. Hopefully the full review is worth the wait.

With Windows 10 being the first ever free upgrade, here is a quick look at what to expect if you signed up to get the upgrade on day one.

Windows 10 gains a personal assistant in Cortana. What originally launched on Windows Phone has been brought to the PC, and it can now work across all of your Windows devices. One of the key benefits of Windows 10 over Windows 8 is that features like Cortana are easily discoverable. Cortana now lives in a search box right beside the start button, and it can keep track of your travel plans, set up reminders, and perform searches for you.

Microsoft is also adding a new browser to Windows 10, with Microsoft Edge. Although based on Internet Explorer under the hood, huge chunks of code have been taken out to improve security, and the rendering and scripting engines have been optimized to make Edge one of the fastest browsers around. It adds support for new features like being able to markup web pages and share them, and Cortana is built in to provide contextual search results right in the page. It is a big step up from Internet Explorer in standards compliance, and while it’s not quite finished yet, Microsoft has promised to update it often through the Windows Store.

With Windows 8, Microsoft basically built a tablet operating system, and stuck the desktop inside of it. I actually quite liked the design when using Windows 8 with touch, but using it on a large screen desktop could be frustrating. Windows 10 is still designed for both systems, but they have added Continuum to Windows 10 to automatically prompt to switch from one mode to the other. Optimizing Windows for what you are doing is a much better approach than optimizing for what you’re not doing, and Continuum finally bridges the gap between desktop and tablet on one device.

Gaming is getting a big boost on Windows 10, with support for DirectX 12 which is the biggest change to their gaming APIs since DirectX 10 launched with Windows Vista way back in 2006. DirectX 12’s most important feature is likely its low-level API, which can provide much better performance in a lot of scenarios where developers had been CPU bound before. Graphics Processing Units are massively parallel devices, but could be bottlenecked by the API being CPU bound. DirectX 12 makes some big changes to the API to give the developers the chance to get around these bottlenecks, and the upcoming DirectX 12 games can add a level of detail that was unattainable before.

Gaming doesn’t stop there though. Windows 10 brings some other cool things to gaming on the PC. The built in Xbox app will support Game DVR, allowing you to record game sessions, edit them, and share them, all within the Xbox app. One of the coolest features coming is game streaming from an Xbox One to any Windows 10 PC, allowing you to use any PC or tablet as the display for the Xbox, as long as it is on the LAN. This isn’t new tech, but it will be built into every Windows 10 PC. Windows 10 is also going to offer cross-device gameplay, allowing you to play against people on Xbox One or Windows 10. Some games will even support starting a game on one device and finishing on the other.

The built in apps have all gotten major overhauls with Windows 10, and now work a lot better on a desktop but equally well on a touch device. Photos has gone from an almost unusable application on Windows 8 to a very nicely executed app in Windows 10. Mail has seen a huge change, and has taken cues from their purchase of Acompli, which had one of the best email apps on iOS. Maps has also gotten a big facelift, and it can sync information among all of your Windows devices. Xbox Music has been rebranded to Groove Music, and the movies app is now a movie player with the Windows Store being unified to include all purchases including movies and TV.

On the security side, Windows 10 brings a lot of features here as well. One I am very much looking forward to is Windows Hello, which will allow you to log in with supported facial recognition hardware, or fingerprint readers. Once logged in, Passport will be available as a service to allow authentication to external services, if they add support. This will leverage public-private key technology, so if a third party was able to obtain the database of passwords from a web service, they would just have your public key which is useless to them. I’ve said it before, and will say it again. Passwords have outlived their usefulness and any work to move this technology forward should be a huge benefit to everyone.

And these features are really just the tip of the iceberg, with far more available including virtual desktops, drop shadows, a new dark theme, and more. Windows 10 is a big step up from Windows 8, but also from those that hung back on Windows 7. With the free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 being offered for a year, adoption should be strong, but time will tell. I have been running Windows 10 since October, and as my daily computer since January. It has been worth the wait.



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  • jimbo2779 - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    I can't disagree with you being susceptible to nausea and what not but you cannot possibly percept a 14% delay in a single frame when your eyes are bombarded with 140 per second Reply
  • Xenonite - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Thank you for your reply, however its not simply that I am so "behind the times" that I don't invest my hard earned money in newer tech. I also do not have such a low end machine that the OS completely uses up all the resources, and while I will accept that it is not a very high-end rig, I do not believe that it should be limited by the OS (I have a Intel 5960X @ 4.5Ghz, with a single Nvidia Titan X (no SLI) and a few Samsung 850 PRO SSDs in RAID 0 (don't really care about data loss)) due to features that I will never use.

    One thing I cannot currently change, however, is the stupid country I was born into. I realise that this does not have anything to do with my question (or even Windows 10 for that matter), but I would like to give a bit of perspective on why I am so concerned with these internet services.
    For me to ping the nearest Microsoft (or Bing for that matter) server takes about 300ms, so that any app that is programmed to wait for a server response in the main thread (due to an assumed sub-100ms latency) gets very laggy indeed.
    I also do not live in a rural area, but the absolute fastest internet connection I can get is a 10 megabit per second 'uncapped' package which costs the equivalent of about US$150. Unfortunately, our service providers are allowed to throttle our 'uncapped' packages after around 10-50GB (quite variable actually) of montly usage down to a speed of 256kbits/s (32kB/s).
    Also, since we do not have such stringent advertising laws, (and have to live with a single government-invested telecoms company) my 10megabit line does not actually have to give me that speed either. The most I have ever gotten out of it was 8.5mbits/s on speedtest (torrents, downloads and ftp are always throttled to less than 2mbits/s regardless of data useage).

    I simply have no choice, I can upgrade my PC but I cannot get better internet access than I already have (so in effect I would LOVE to ditch my g.dmt modem (all of our ADSL service still uses g.dmt. It is the most advanced, and the only, modulation technique available) but if I do, I would not be able to connect to anything). That is why I wanted to know about the integrated services.
  • royalcrown - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    The "impact" is negligible. It seems to run as good or better than 8.1.

    I am running it on 3770k, 32 gigs ram SSD and 780ti. It's not bogging anything down.
  • tabascosauz - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    What are you "gaming" on? AM1 with a HDD from 2006?

    Windows 10 is a relief, since I can actually stay on the internet while playing a game that's demanding on RAM (such as Far Cry 4), with the advent of Edge. Edge takes up about 15MB with 3 tabs open. Chrome takes about 300MB.

    Do you have a "high-performance gaming pc"? How about you try 10 for yourself before spreading this speculation?
  • royalcrown - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    To be fair to them, I like some of the older machines myself, but IMO if you can run 7 then 10 will run fine. They added stuff, but also seemed to have removed a lot of junk, it seems to at least even out so far, subjectively anyhow. Reply
  • Xenonite - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    I was not trying to "spread" anything, I was merely asking if anyone has noticed any performance differences and, if so, what they did to overcome them (such as if any of these disabled services might still be polling data in the background).
    I obviously do configure the OS as best as I can to my liking (and yes I have tried various builds of Windows 10 before), I just wanted to know what (if anything) the community considers to be valuable performace enhanceing tweaks.

    I am truely sorry if I have offended you or even the community at large, it was definitely not my intention.

    Also, thank you very much for all of your replies.
  • royalcrown - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Well, I for one am not offended and I really don't think you'll be disappointed with windows 10 performance. So far it's really not downloading anything in the background and so far it's utilizing between 0 and 1 percent cpu while I type this (with all that stuff enabled such as Cortana and updates). Reply
  • KPOM - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    I just installed Windows 10 on my 2015 MacBook within Parallels 10. Other than the workaround for the display driver issue (on Parallels, not Microsoft), it's been fine. For the record, I couldn't use the update icon on the taskbar, but I was able to download the update manually from Microsoft's website.

    Windows 10 is much better suited for the MacBook than Windows 8.1 ever was, particularly since the MacBook doesn't have a touch screen. It does seem to take a tad longer to open up than Windows 8.1 did, but I didn't take precise measurements before or after.
  • daemonios - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    I used the last few builds of the Insider Programme builds, and while I quite liked it overall, there was one thing that bugged me. The Metro apps language were tied to the location you chose, even if your system and input languages are different. I wonder if they fixed this for the launch build? Reply
  • royalcrown - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    IDK about that, but there is an option in some menus so far to pick your language preferences in some programs if you have more than 1 installed. IDK about metro because I haven't enabled "tablet mode" on my desktop. Reply

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