I have been playing around with the Windows 8 Release Preview for some weeks now. During that time, I have also read other reviews from other websites. Most have been criticising of this new OS, but I think it is great. A new step up from the old.
Starting with the installation, it is fast and simple. Once it has loaded all the files necessary for installation, it will progress, taking roughly twenty minutes. Once it boots up again, it will ask for your colour and a PC name. Do this, and then it is to the next part of setting up an internet connection. Again, simple.
Then you have a choice to make a normal PC account, or use your Microsoft Account to sync all apps together and be able to access the Store and get easy access to other apps like SkyDrive. Once the account has been set up, you will see a black screen with "Your PC will be ready in a moment". Then you are taken to the new Start menu, the previously named Metro.
The Metro interface runs in conjunction with the normal desktop view. While other reviews have had a lot of negative things to say about this new interface, I think it is the best with what it does. Initially for the new Microsoft Surface tablets launching alongside the proper release (October 26, though the Surface Pro doesn't release until January), it is quick and simple to use.
Open up an app and it will load almost instantly, with the occasional longer time for the more complex apps. Then, when done, just bring the mouse cursor to the top of the page and drag it to the bottom. Or if not, place the cursor on the bottom left corner to bring the start menu icon up then move it up along the side of the screen to see all open apps. You can also see the last open app by doing the same thing but placing the cursor at the top left. Or you can just press the Windows button to get to the start menu.
The apps themselves work wonders, and work in great order. The Store, where you buy all the apps necessary for work and play, the Xbox Live Games app for the serious gaming, is very much like the Xbox 360 Dashboard, with its apps split into different areas like Entertainment and Social. Talking of the apps, some work in conjunction with others.
Load up the People app, and it will show you all contacts linked with your Microsoft account in alphabetical order. Just click on a name and it gives you their info and options. If they are online, and you want to send a message, the Messaging app will open for you to type. Send an email to them and the Mail app will open.
It can also work the other way around. Want to start a group message? Go to the Messaging app, right click and choose new, People app will open and you can then choose who to include in the message. Same goes for mail.
Working in the desktop, you can swap between any Metro app and the desktop at any time, as the entire desktop view is another app in Metro as well. Or that's what it treats it like, anyway. Gone is the usual messages when you insert a disk or memory stick. Instead you'll see a message in a box at the top right corner in the colour of your Start Screen asking you what you want to do instead.
The faults I can recognise are that, while fast, it has had to do away with some of the things that would slow it up. No booting to the desktop as soon as you start up. You will see the Start Screen first. No visible settings are available, including the option to turn the computer off. That is in a menu helpfully hidden at the right hand side of the screen, ready to appear when you put the cursor in a right hand side corner.
While I haven't had a test of all features, Gadgets return, but the Aero feature - which produced the glass bar effects in Windows 7 - has gone. There are still Aero themes, but you will have to select them from Personalize. Having more than one monitor is also included, but how that works, I have no idea. I suppose it would be easier than on Windows 7 anyway.
All of this - the move to a new interface, and the syncing with a Microsoft account - might seem useless to most, but Microsoft is working to get all services it produces together. Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 work with the same Metro interface. Both can connect with the Xbox 360 to search the new Internet Explorer on it, and can also be used as a second screen, as part of the new Xbox Smartglass feature.
In other words, it seems that Microsoft are doing the right thing, even if most people aren't inclined to think that due to the touchscreen friendly look that Microsoft have adopted for this new operating system, which most seem to think is a pain with a mouse and keyboard. Yes, it will get a bit of getting used to, but if you consider it, the Metro interface - with its Start Screen and hidden settings - aren't that different from Windows 7 and its Start Menu.
[Edit 26/October-2012] I now have upgraded to Windows 8 Pro through the upgrade assistant, and can report that - in the final version - the Gadgets and Sidebar have been removed. Unfortunate, I know. This was because all of the preview releases were using the Windows 7 desktop view with an edited taskbar. Hence why the Aero themes were still available. The new themes are alright, and have a good active/inactive scheme.