Many Windows 7/ 8/ 8.1 users are wondering whether or not they should upgrade to Windows 10. After all, the upgrade is free until July 28th of 2016, so long as you’re using one of those versions. But is it worth it to upgrade now, or should you wait until later?

I wanted to write a Windows 10 review for two reasons. First, many of the existing reviews for Windows 10 read like advertisements, listing off all of the cool new features of Windows 10 without mentioning any of its faults. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I wanted to write this review for “regular users.” Most users aren’t interested in the fine details of the inner-workings of an OS. They want to know, point-blank, if they’ll like it or dislike it in typical everyday use. So that’s where the focus of this review is going to lie. With that out of the way, let’s get started!

The Machine

I’m basing this review off of my experiences upgrading from Windows 7 Home Premium, on a high-end gaming rig. Your own experiences using Windows 10 might be slightly different from mine performance-wise as a result. The average PC user’s machine obviously sits at 50% on a performance scale… mine is upwards of 90%, if that helps put it into perspective at all.

The Pros

Windows 10 has loads of new features, but how many of them are actually good? Surprisingly, quite a few.

Speed: Windows 10 is incredibly fast, compared to Windows 7. My cold boot time (the time it takes to power up the computer, from a state of being completely off to being able to access the desktop and do things) in Windows 7 was approximately 5 to 10 seconds. In Windows 10, I’ve clocked it repeatedly at 2 to 4 seconds… that’s really effing fast. This of course won’t apply to your machine (as every PC is different), but as a rule of thumb, you can expect Windows 10 to be roughly twice as fast as Windows 7, if not faster.

Windows 10 Screen Grab (Matt's Desktop)

Windows 10 Screen Grab (Matt’s Desktop)

Dynamic Start Menu: I didn’t upgrade to Windows 8 or 8.1 for two reasons: One, my PC is not a smart phone and shouldn’t be treated like one, and two, Microsoft ditched the Start menu in Windows 8. Windows 10 brings back this storied Windows tradition, and in a surprisingly fascinating way. The Start menu is now dynamic, replacing simple, listed text with resizable tiles, which can be arranged however you like. Make them big or small, assign them to groups, even animate some of these tiles with Live Tile, a feature which allows these tiles to contain various degrees of animation. Unfortunately, not everyone has made animated tiles yet, but it’s still a nice graphical upgrade to the archaic Start menu system of lists. It takes a little getting used to, but it’s worth it.

Edge Browser: Using the words “Microsoft” and “Browser” in the same sentence usually activates a person’s PTSD. Explorer has been the laughing stock of the browser world for at least a decade, despite the various improvements that did alleviate some of the more common complaints we heard about it. But Explorer is officially dead, and Edge, Microsoft’s new browser, rises out of the ashy remains of Explorer like a phoenix. Edge is faster, sleeker, simpler, and cleaner than any other browser on the market today, period. Microsoft truly outdid themselves with Edge. But there are some issues with it, too… we’ll get to those shortly.

Small Learning Curve: With 10, Microsoft was looking to combine the best features of 7 with the best features of 8.1, modernize them, and add some new stuff on top of it. The result is a very mild learning curve for anyone familiar with Windows operating systems. A person cryogenically frozen in the 1990’s and woken up today would be able to make the transition from Windows 95 to Windows 10 somewhat easily. After they got over the fact that we have smart phones, domestic robots, and a black President, of course.

Continuum: Like literally 90% of the rest of the human race, I don’t use a Windows Phone, so I can’t really safely talk about Continuum, but I hear great things. Continuum is a service that links up your Windows Phone and your PC, allowing you to work across both platforms and transition seamlessly. It sounds pretty cool, but because I can’t really discuss this in-depth, here’s a review of Continuum that can.

DirectX 12: I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo you probably won’t care about or understand. Instead, let’s sum it up like this: if you’re a gamer, DX12 is a good thing. It allows the various hardware components in your machine to work together cleaner and faster, and vastly improves your gaming performance in ways unseen in a DirectX update prior.

Before updating from 7 to 10, I wrote down my FPS ratings in Minecraft version 1.8.8 (no mods). I was averaging between 50 FPS and 90 FPS, usually in the 60-65 FPS range. In Windows 10, my FPS is averaging from 60 to 120 FPS, and almost always near 80 to 90. I’m not sure how much of that comes from DX12 and how much comes from Windows 10 in general, but the performance increase has been noticeable in multiple other games, including Grand Theft Auto V, Fallout: New Vegas, and Civilization: Beyond Earth. 10 is considerably better for gaming, without question!

Windows Store: One cool feature is the addition of Windows Store, which can be placed directly into your Start menu, and allows you to quickly and easily install any apps from Windows Store that you like. Of course, we’ll be revisiting this in the “cons” section, but it’s also worth noting here in the “pros” section, too.

Action Center: The last big “pro” we’ll mention is the Action Center, a new feature which summarizes everything happening on and with your PC in one easy location. It groups up your settings, provides quick and easy access to browser-free email, and will tell you when things on your PC aren’t working the way they’re supposed to. It’s all accessible in your task bar and very easy to use.

The Cons

It isn’t all rainbow kisses and unicorn farts with Windows 10. This OS definitely suffers from its fair share of birthing pains, so let’s discuss those.

Cortana Is a Hot Mess: On paper, Cortana sounds like a pretty cool new feature, which provides you with a desktop personal assistant who can listen to you speak and get things done for you. The idea of sitting in front of my PC, telling Cortana to log into my work stuff for me, and then dictating an article sounds like a pretty awesome feature. There’s just one problem: she’s utterly worthless.

Cortana doesn’t seem to understand 90% of the things I try to tell her. She has an extremely over-sensitive auto-correct feature which, unlike the Google search function on my smart phone, doesn’t seem to understand native English all too well. For instance, asking Cortana to “open my email” results in Cortana assuming I mean “Filipino my e-bear,” and searching for that in Bing. I don’t know what the hell that means, and neither does Cortana, or anyone else for that matter.

I was going to try and dictate a sentence or two to Cortana and have her write it out for you, but after screwing around for nearly half an hour, I decided it was a pointless endeavor. Cortana sucks and needs a lot of work before it’ll become something worth considering a “feature.”

Microsoft Spies On You: Unless you go into Cortana’s settings and change them, she’ll listen to literally every little thing you say and do, all in an effort to try and serve you better, which she’s incapable of doing regardless. What’s worse, Microsoft openly admits that they’ll crawl your documents in Word and other programs/ apps in an effort to better cater future advertising your way. Most of us aren’t too concerned with privacy these days, but a significant number of Americans won’t be too keen on these elements of Windows 10.

Edge Has It’s Problems: Edge is a fantastic browser, and is already my new favorite, but it does have a few issues. For starters, it’s really light in the features department. Secondly, it’s extremely young, so some websites will encounter the occasional technical flub when visited with Edge. A long-term issue might be security, too, as more users upgrade to Windows 10 and it becomes the dominant browser, replacing Internet Explorer, which currently holds 26.83% of the browser market share. That problem is still quite a ways off of course, but it’s one we should hope Microsoft will stay vigilant of.

Random Crashes: Like any brand-new OS, 10 has its fair share of technical flubs, resulting in the occasional blue screen of death (which Microsoft has visually overhauled, with a frowny-face emoticon). 10 seems to have quite a few problems with being installed on one of my SSDs, and AMD’s nefarious video drivers have failed on me at least once or twice every other day. It might be several months before Microsoft irons out these technical issues.

Windows Store Looks Like Detroit: Windows Store is a barren wasteland where apps go when they die. If you’re looking for your favorite mobile games or apps from Google Play or Apple’s App Store, well, you’re plum out of luck kiddo. The only thing you’re going to get out of a visit to the Windows Store is an unhealthy dose of sadness, which will make you repeat the words “what the hell am I doing here,” like a frontiersman in the 1800’s obnoxiously repeating the phrase “I apologize” while slowing dying from smallpox. The Windows Store is in desperate need of some tender loving care.

Forced Updates: Gone are the days of stalling and dodging Windows Updates until you’re confident they’ll function properly. With 10, Microsoft is forcing you to download their updates whether you want them or not. So far this hasn’t been a bad thing, and most users install recommended updates without thinking twice regardless, but this might one day result in something terrible, so be sure to keep backups of anything you consider to be important, just to be safe (something you should be doing anyway).

Microsoft Claims 10 Will Be It’s Last OS… But It Won’t Be: Earlier this year, I was captivated by Microsoft’s promise that Windows 10 will be their forever-OS. The idea of having one OS for all time, and Microsoft improving on it and updating it the way Apple does with OSX, was a truly great idea in my opinion. But it turns out Microsoft is planning a 10-year lifecycle for Windows 10, the same as any other OS they make, with mainstream support ending in October of 2020, and extended support ending in October of 2025. Perhaps someone at Microsoft added those lifecycles in for safety’s sake, in case 10 is a bomb? Or maybe they’ll revisit that lifecycle idea later? Or maybe the government warned Microsoft that an asteroid is going to wipe out life as we know it on October 14th, 2025? Who knows, but as it stands, it seems as if they might have changed their mind on Windows 10 lasting forever.

The Verdict

All told, Windows 10 has some really great features and is a solid, mostly dependable operating system. It has its flaws, but none of them are real deal-breakers and it’s safe to assume Microsoft will try to fix all of these problems in due time. In my opinion, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

Should you upgrade today to Windows 10? If you’re a gamer, it’s a no-brainer… get Windows 10 installed as soon as possible. You’ll thank me for the suggestion later. If you’re not a gamer, however, you might want to wait a few months, let Microsoft fix some of 10’s issues, and download it in the Spring of 2016 when most of the kinks have been worked out. You have until July 2016 to upgrade, so if you’re PC isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

Photo by JeepersMedia