Windows 8 (for tablets and touchscreen devices) review
The basics are easy to grasp: a new user would instantly flick the Metro screen right and left, and when faced with the need to return to the main screen, a quick dab of the Windows key seems a logical resort. Rather like the Home button of Apple’s iPad, Windows 8 tablets will have a hardware Start button positioned in the display’s bezel, which makes it easy to get back to the Start screen.
The problem with Metro, and by definition many Metro apps, is that these critical controls aren’t easily discoverable. Want to reorder the apps on the Start screen? You need to drag them up or down before moving them around – we’d have thought a simple long press would be more intuitive. How about unpinning and uninstalling? Just drag the tile up or down a little bit to bring up the menu. You can bring up a list of currently running apps by quickly flicking a thumb in from the left edge and back again. Then there’s the gesture required to move apps into split-screen mode: drag from the top edge and swipe towards the left or right of the screen.
All the gestures feel intuitive once you get the hang of them, but with the absence of a comprehensive tutorial, not all the gestures are instantly obvious. It’s also rather too easy to activate gestures involuntarily – when the mere flick of a stray thumb or finger is capable of opening a menu or switching between applications, we occasionally found ourselves doing so by mistake. It’s a needless irritation.
Text input, copy and paste
The other critical plank of touch functionality, on a tablet at least, is text input and manipulation. This is an area where Android tablets have been weak in the past, with many cheaper devices suffering from laggy, unresponsive typing. We’re happy to say this is an area in which Windows 8 excels. On our test device – a Sandy Bridge Core i5-based Samsung 700T with an 11.6in 1,366 x 768 widescreen – the keyboard occupied almost half the screen, and we found the keys large and easy to hit accurately.
On this hardware it was highly responsive, too. When you hit a key, a letter appears on screen instantly, with no lag or delay. There are also alternative layouts available – a split layout for thumb typing and a full, five-row layout – but these are much more fiddly to use.
The other option is pen input, which takes advantage of Windows’ already excellent handwriting recognition. This works best with a digitiser stylus of the kind supplied with our Samsung tablet, but you can use your finger or a capacitive stylus as well. The great thing about this is that the entry field is extremely large, making it easy to write at speed.
Text selection, cutting and pasting, we’re happy to say, has also been implemented well. A simple, single or double tap on an area of text brings up a couple of small circular handles, which can then be dragged into position. Tapping the selected area of text then launches the Cut and Copy menu; a long press meanwhile pops up the Paste menu.
|Software subcategory||Operating system|
|Processor requirement||1GHz or higher|
Operating system support
|Other operating system support||N/A|