Most gamers will prioritize three things above all else when it comes to mandatory software: low operating overhead, compatibility, and stability. Of secondary importance is ease-of-use and familiarity; everything else is of little interest, usually being referred to as “bloat”. It’s no secret that we as gamers are an opinionated bunch, and the presence of bloat is often more of a deterrent than the absence of other wants. As it happens, though, everyday users are just as frustrated by junk cluttering things up as gamers are, and Microsoft seems to have finally taken notice.
For two decades now, Internet Explorer has been a punchline, and Microsoft has finally scrapped it in favour of a fresh start with the standards-compliant Edge. Without getting too wordy on the reasons why, make no mistake, once plugin-support is implemented, it will be the go-to browser for the next generation. Cortana—Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri—has been beautifully implemented into the OS, and integrates seamlessly with Edge and Bing; yes, Bing really is a thing you want now. Soon, the need for Google-fu will be behind us. Similarly, Microsoft’s new media apps, Film & TV and Groove Music are about as Spartan as they come, though still managing to integrate with the store, as well as sync with your other Windows devices. Currently, Groove Music is lacking an equalizer, and Film & TV is missing mouse-wheel control for volume, but the glory of the new rolling updates mentality means it won’t be long before those features get patched in.
See, with Windows 10, Microsoft has finally set upon their goal of creating a constantly-evolving, shared ecosystem across all of your Windows powered devices. It’s one OS for your desktop, tablet, and phone, and it knows where it is. Because of this, and in conjunction with your shared Microsoft account, the transition from one device to the next is fluid and intuitive. This is all fine and well, but what does this mean for gamers? After all, most gamers will replace the native software suite within minutes.
Well that’s simple; DirectX12 is why you want Win10. Look, it’s true that we’ll need games built on entirely new engines with DX12 in mind before we start to see the full benefits, but benchmarking software that’s been updated to take advantage of the new APIs are showing that there’s a face-melting amount of performance locked away in your hardware that’s just waiting to be properly utilized. The news is even better for AMD gamers, as DX12 no longer chokes out AMD chips the way all previous versions did. In draw call tests, DX12 is blitzing even Mantle, AMD’s low-level API designed to combat DirectX. The performance gains scale up radically with higher-end hardware, too, so everyone who’s currently running an underwhelming TitanX, 980Ti, or FuryX ought to be pretty excited for the DX12 performance gains on the horizon.
The new notification centre is excellent, the Cortana section of the taskbar is perfect for finding things locally or on the web, and her voice activation works surprisingly well if you have a North American accent. Sure, she learns how you speak over time, and even learns how to better filter to your needs based on your usage habits, but out-of-the-box, I already love the ability to ask for directions or to find me something in the city that’s going on right now; and I especially love that she calls me by my gaming handle.
I also love that the upgrade from 8.1 was seamless and I lost no settings at all, let alone software. I love that we’ll be getting native Android support before long, and I can play all my favourite .apks on my PC. I love that it seems to have finally remedied the “nVidia Installer Failed” error that’s been around for four years now. Most of all, though, I love that Microsoft is giving it away to owners of Windows 7, 8, and 8.1, whether their copy is legal or not; a step that’s suspiciously Big Brotherish of them, and I’m not even bothered because it’s such a great product. In fact, the only hiccup I’ve experienced after a whole week is that Corsair Link doesn’t run on Windows 10—sometimes; but it also wasn’t supposed to run on 8 or 8.1, so I can’t fault the OS one bit. Apart from that, compatibility and stability have been flawless.
The bottom line is that Windows 10 looks like an operating system you want to use. It is an operating system you want to use. It handles like the Windows of old, with the features of the new tucked inside for when you want them, but far enough out of sight that they’re not intrusive.
The Microsoft we used to joke about is gone. It finally feels like a modern company with a sense of humour about itself, and a real understanding of its user base. Put bluntly, Microsoft seems to have finally gotten their shit together. Try it; you’ll love it.