With the recently announcement of Microsoft Windows 8.1 pre-release at build, I figured I’d try it out on my Surface Pro. I’m not what you would call a ‘Microsoft fan boy’ but I really do like this device. I won’t go into too many details, but I will say that being the only ‘mobile’ OS that runs steam doesn’t hurt. I also wasn’t overwhelmed by the initial 8.0 release, but I will say it’s really grown on me, especially when using a touch enabled device.
- Go to http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/preview-download and click download. Windows will ask you to install an update, so far so good.
- When the system comes back up, you’ll be prompted to upgrade. After about 30 minutes you’ll have windows 8.1.
First and foremost, the start button is back. It still only takes your to the start screen, whereas I was expecting a full return of the old school start menu. I did discover that right clicking on it gives you a powerusers menu that has options to open the most used control panel options like ‘Power Options’ and ‘Programs and Features’ as well as the ability to open Powershell and File Explorer. The most impressive however, is the ability to SHUTDOWN the system without going into ‘Settings’->’Power’ which never made much sense to me.
There is also a new categorized view off of the start menu. I’m not the ideal user of Windows 8 since I don’t use all that many ‘Windows Apps’. What sold me on the Surface Pro is that it’s really an Ultra-book that can be a tablet when you go into the bathroom or want to read in bed. Any feature that lets me organize my ‘real’ programs better is a +1 for me. You can also sort by ‘Most Used’, which will probably what I will end up defaulting to.
The Photo viewing app seems a lot better, offering the ability to press left and right arrow keys to move through photos, a feature that was strangely missing from the previous version.
I ran a few Chocolatey installs with no issue, so compatibility seems to be more or less the same. My start menu icons for non-store apps seem to be color coating their backgrounds a little better, before I remember them being mostly gray.
The Important Stuff
My favorite thing about the surface is that it’s great for entertainment. Being able to plug in an HDMI cable (requires micro display port adapter) and getting video and sound into a stereo receiver is great. Being that it’s the size of a small notebook you can take anywhere, it makes for a great multimedia experience.
Multi-monitor has been improved, you can now keep the start screen opened on one monitor and have your windows desktop on the other. You can also have a metro app on each screen. You can also have four apps across two screens.
Steam still works great, I enjoy using big picture mode hooked up to my TV. Driver compatibility seems to be the same as with Window 8.0. My PlayStation 3 controller still works, which makes for a great mobile gaming platform as long as you don’t require cutting edge graphics.
I’m in the process of downloading the Visual Studio Express 8.1 and trying out some of the features. I’ll do a separate post once I get familiar with the software.