Windows 8: A Review From A Linux User’s Perspective

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windows 8 reviewIt has been a few months since Windows 8 came out, so a lot of enthusiasts have messed around with it and found out what it’s all about. Many people have feared that Windows 8 would be an entirely new experience, and that our traditional workflow would be disrupted. Some people have even claimed that Windows 8 may cause them to abandon the operating system family and switch to Linux so that they can run up to date code without upgrading Windows. However, is any of this really the case?

I bought a copy of Windows 8 Pro to try for myself to reach some answers on my own. With answers in hand, I give you a review of the new operating system from a Linux user’s perspective.

Interface

windows 8 review
One of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 is the new interface, or specifically the Start Screen. It scares a lot of people, but it’s easy to figure out after a bit of fiddling. Windows 8 introduces two different kinds of applications — your legacy programs that you’ve always used, and the new Windows 8 apps, which run full screen. This split allows you to use your computer in two different ways, or mix the two for a custom experience. If you want to remain on the traditional desktop, just avoid the Windows Store and install your applications as usual. You can find all of your applications in the Start Screen, which you can arrange however you want. In my opinion, the functionality of the Start Button is still there. You’ll just need to use the Windows key on your keyboard more often rather than gravitating to where the Start Button used to be. Worst case scenario, you can always get the Start Button back.

The new interface seems pretty different compared to traditional conventions, but I do think that people will grow to like it. People simply need to adjust to the slight changes when it comes to the Start Screen — everything else is essentially the same. It was a similar story for the Unity desktop interface on Ubuntu. After it was improved and bugs were fixed, more and more people started to like it.

Besides the interface and performance changes, there isn’t too much to tout about that immediately affects everyone. Windows 8 packs new multi-monitor support, a new task manager, and some Windows Explorer improvements. These improvements are fine (even if you don’t like those applied to Windows Explorer), but they don’t add any extra value compared to Linux. Multi-monitor support has already been decent (excluding the poorer quality of the graphics drivers), the task manager has always been informative, powerful, and visually appealing, and Nautilus/Dolphin have continuous refinements added to them.

Performance

review of windows 8
Performance is another important aspect of the new operating system. It has definitely improved when compared to Windows 7, and the quicker startup times from the hibernated kernel. However, I believe Linux operating systems are still faster. They take the same time or less to boot from an unhibernated kernel, and runtime performance is also noticeably smoother. The only measurable improvements that Windows brings comes from the better graphics drivers while playing games. Linux is still more resource efficient as well, using quite a bit less RAM even with the full, relatively memory-hogging Ubuntu experience.

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Storage

windows 8 review
Some people may enjoy Windows 8’s new Storage Spaces feature. It allows people to combine multiple hard drives into one drive that appears in My Computer. Windows then uses all of the space that you configured across all hard drives, and you just continue using your system without worries. Linux has been doing this successfully for quite a while with LVM, and the imminent stable release of Btrfs will provide a modern replacement for the technology at a file-system level. Both LVM and Btrfs are easily configurable during installation or via utilities inside the operating system.

Battery Life

Another important factor is battery life. Windows continues to provide strong battery life, but Linux has always been touted as excellent in this category because of its high efficiency. Despite what people have said, my old computer always had a slightly better battery life under Windows, but with my new laptop, the tables have turned. I’ve noticed that Windows 8 keeps my laptop rather busy, so that the fan repeatedly turns on for a few moments to get rid of some hot air, something that doesn’t happen under Linux. I hate trying to give out statistics for something like battery life because it always changes, and depends on the software that you install.

Security

Security is the final issue where Windows 8 has made some strides. It has implemented Windows Defender deep into the operating system, as well as some anti-virus precautions. However, it is still extremely vulnerable and an anti-virus solution is highly advisable. Under Linux, this isn’t the case — there isn’t any threat of viruses, and a tight firewall will keep out any potential hackers.

Conclusion

Overall, I don’t really see a lot of issues with Windows 8. There are improvements all across the board, and the only major complaint, the new interface, is something that only takes an hour of getting used to. Once I played around with it for a while, I felt comfortable using it. Yes, it was new, and people don’t like change, but there really isn’t much of a difference. Just take a deep breath and think logically. When compared to Linux, Windows 8 is showing a lot of similar struggles in the interface department, but otherwise they both have pros and cons. I still prefer Linux over Windows, but for people who wouldn’t dare switch away from Windows or who rely on Windows-only software, I have no problem recommending Windows 8. As for those still considering Linux, here’s some help on making Linux a Windows replacement.

What do you think of Windows 8? How do you think it stacks up to Linux? Are you running it right now? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: Jackson Carson

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Comments (74)
  • Azarel

    I’ve been dual booting Win8 and Ubuntu (12.10 & 13.04 since it’s release) for six months now. And while I have to admit so far as gaming goes that windows wins (although I’m loving Steam on Linux :D ) I’ve spent 80%+ of my time on Ubuntu (running Unity, loved it since it appeared in 11.04) and this is doing UNI work. So a lot of my documents have been in the .doc format. One of the only things that’s bridged the gap for me (funnily enough another Microsoft technology) is Office 365. It’s a forward thinking smart move for the Office team cause it should ensure the survival of Office even if Windows dies out in the new mobile era. :P And for those saying LibreOffice is a decent replacement for Office then…… I challange you to try opening a document with something as simple as tables in it in LibreOffice and see how you go… :| (in a format compatable with Office for the record.) Even better edit the document, save, and open it in Office. :| Watch mayhem decend. Within the ODT standard and passing documents between other LibreOffice users it’s not an issue. :) But in the real world……

    Whilst decrying Windows death I must say that Windows 8 has got to be the most inovoative OS from Microsoft since XP or even 95. :P User backlash against the windows button is just ignorant. As a “power user” I found very little difference between Windows 8 and 7. (my keyboard hasn’t changed people) And if I had a touch screen I’d use the extra apps that are being provided by the Windows Store. :) That’s more got to do with being able to afford a new computer but…. as it is I still make regular trips to the mail and calander apps when I’m in windows. :) But speed really is the main issue. Even with the startup reduction in Ubuntu caused by a slow Nvidia driver load. Windows 8 is rediculously slow. At least 3 minutes to startup as opposed to around 1-2 (without Nvidia driver it’s about 30 seconds) and that’s including login time on Ubuntu, there’s another minute or so until the desktop is usable in Win8 on top of the times listed. (with antivirus installed)

    Anyway I’m one of the few IT “professionals” (and students for that matter) in my circles that likes Win8 everyone else goes “it’s to cartoonish”. ???? Seriously it’s called informative and dynamic you can’t do live tiles without the surface area to display information. :| Although my ultimate interface would involve micro apps that embed there interface into expanding (iOS folder type expanding) areas onto the home screen. I’ll have to do a mockup at some point and see how many people go “hey that’s cool”. :P Hard to explain any other way.

    Funny thing is this Windows 8 lover is moving to Ubuntu on a more permanent basis. :) Funny world we live in. :D But I can’t get the customizability of Linux in Windows (not a surprise really). :D And that right there is (interestingly) the reason I chose WP8 for my phone. Funny old world we live in. :D But there you go. Next phone however? Ubuntu Phone, fingers crossed! :D

    My one and only bug bear as a new Ubuntu USER as opposed to Visitor is CCSM can’t live with it, can’t live without it. :| WTH hell do I do. I need CCSM for window Placing but…. it crashes Unity and only some trickery at the commandline resetting Unity and CCSM can get it to start back again. Once you get it back though your fine. :P Done this on two seperate installs of Ubuntu within a week of each other. :| Ah well….. :)

  • Fredrik Hansson

    What grass have you smoked? Better startup, graphic drivers and battery life in Linux?? Mate, I installed Windows 8 on a Acer Aspire One netbook (Intel Atom 1,6GHz, 2 Gb RAM, GMA965, X-25 SSD) which I used to run Linux mint on and the perfomance was definately better in Windows 8. Startup (from start to desktop) dropped from 40s to 25s. Battery life increased 30 minutes with Windows 8 after som tweaking with settings. And to say graphics drivers are better in Linux is just a big joke. I could hardly play 360p videos in Linux when CPU ran up to 100% and sound started stuttering. In Windows 8 I can play 480p in fullscreen with CPU staying at 70%. The desktop of Linux Mint felt a bit sluggish but Windows 8 just fly without any staggering. It feels like a new computer after swithching to Windows 8.

  • Sueska

    Thanks Danny for another insightful article.
    Started out with a dual boot Win 7/ Win 8 desktop and found that I was not using it enough to learn Windows 8.
    Last week purchased a low dollar Win 8 laptop, watched a few tutorials, and in hours found Windows 8 to be easy. The key for me was to make Windows 8 my primary machine for a few days. Now sold on it and willing to teach others. (I’m a multi-OS user of Linux, Mac, and Windows systems)
    Cheers,

  • th

    re virus point-

    yes there are a lot more viruses for windows than linux, however this does not mean that an av has no place on a linux install. For a file/email server it certainly helps, also helps to run an av so you dont accidentally copy the (dormant) virus from a linux box onto someones windows install. A massive problem that I see is the masses believing that linux is somehow immune to viruses (encompassing worms, social engeneering, rootkits, malware, trialware etc etc), donwloading random .rpm’s and scripts from the web (when they should be using the repos…) and complaining why their system is bricked.

    So in short: Linux is (much) less prone to viruses because it doesn’t run windows .exe files without wine, files have to become executables to run/install and the low market share , meaning that the probability of a successfull linux virus moving from one machine to the other is unlikely.

  • Pete

    I simply use: email, Internet browser, password keeper, spreadsheept, word processing, and wine for a few things. So Linux for free is a great choice.

    I did try Windows 8 (it came on the machine) and felt positively insulted at pushing me to web mail and taking the start button away. As for metro, it stupidly listed every small command in a button of my programs with multiple options. God. What a mess.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.