Microsoft’s vision for the future of personal computing has arrived with Windows 11. This is a softer, more rounded Windows, one that prioritises the Start menu while removing some of the clutter that plagued Windows 10.
While Windows 11 does provide some welcome enhancements, many of them are so little that you won’t see them unless you’re looking for them. Even the modifications that do catch your notice, such as the repositioned Start button, disappear into the background with astonishing quickness.
However, it’s possible that this is part of the strategy. Windows 11 is being marketed by Microsoft as a safer, more performant, and easy-to-use operating system with a welcoming interface that makes using your PC for work and play easier than ever. Upgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 10 was a step forward, but moving to Windows 11 is a step back.
And, because almost every Windows 10 user with a qualifying PC will be eligible for a free update, the majority of us will have to determine whether the redesigned design of Windows 11 is worth the effort of upgrading. Read on for our whole Windows 11 review to assist you in making that decision.
A Cheat Sheet For Windows 11
- With rounded corners and a new Start menu that’s front and centre, Windows 11 has a more appealing and streamlined appearance.
- You can use the New Desktops functionality to create additional desktops for work and leisure.
- Snap Assist and Layouts make it easy to run numerous programmes at once.
- For news, weather, and your calendar, Windows 11 widgets are adequate, but alternatives are restricted for the time being.
- If you have appropriate hardware, Auto HDR and DirectStorage are fantastic for gaming.
- Because to the high system requirements, most PCs made prior to 2018 are out of luck.
- Support for native Android apps, as well as other features, were not available at launch.
Review of Windows 11: Price and Availability
- Although Windows 11 will be released on October 5th, you may not be offered an upgrade until 2022.
- It should be free to upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11.
Windows 11 will be released on October 5, and you can follow our Windows 11 launch live blog to stay up to date on all the latest news, bugs, oddities, and other nuggets of information as they become available. If you’re buying a new copy, the upgrade, like Windows 10, will be available in Home and Pro versions on Microsoft’s website and at select third-party stores. It’s worth mentioning that, unlike Windows 11 Home, Windows 11 Pro does not require a Microsoft account or an Internet connection to activate.
Although public beta versions of Windows 11 have been available for some time, the official release date is October 5, and free upgrades will begin rolling out to qualifying Windows PCs via Windows Update.
If your PC meets the requirements, upgrading from Windows 10 to Windows 11 is free. You should be able to upgrade to the final version of Windows 11 on launch day if you’ve been beta-testing Windows 11 and your PC matches the minimal requirements.
If you haven’t been a beta tester, you may have to wait a while for the official upgrade offer through Windows Update: Microsoft has stated that it would begin rolling out Windows 11 to existing Windows 10 devices on October 5, but it is difficult to predict which PCs will receive the upgrade and when. So far, all we know is that Microsoft would prioritise PCs depending on variables including their age and compatibility with Windows 11. Given Microsoft’s objective of providing an upgrade to every eligible PC by mid-2022, most Windows users are unlikely to get the choice to upgrade until next year.
That said, if you’re ready to conduct a clean install of Windows 11 using an ISO file, you may do it right now on your PC, but you’ll have to download the.
Create an ISO file and mount it as a bootable drive.
Perhaps the most important thing to know about Windows 11’s arrival is that it will alter dramatically over the following few years. I’ve been testing beta versions of Windows 11 for a month in preparation for this review, and it feels like there’s a new feature or revamped app to try out every few days. We’ll probably see considerably fewer Windows updates after October 5, but even at launch, Windows 11 lacks promised features like Android app integration – Microsoft will instead beta-test Android support in the following months. It’s possible that we won’t see that functionality completely implemented in Windows until next year.
If you’re hesitant about upgrading, there’s no harm in waiting — while Windows 11 is a perfectly decent and useful version of Windows with a slick new appearance, it’s not feature-complete yet. Plus, most of us won’t have the opportunity to update for quite some time. And, because Microsoft has committed to supporting Windows 10 until 2025, there’s little risk in waiting.
Review of Windows 11: System Requirements
- Because to the high system requirements, most PCs made prior to 2018 are out of luck.
- For the time being, non-compliant PCs can still run Windows 11.
To put it mildly, the minimum specs Microsoft claims your PC needs to install Windows 11 have sparked debate. According to the Windows 11 system requirements as of this writing, your PC must have the following:
- CPU: 1GHz or faster on a suitable 64-bit processor or system on a chip with two or more cores (SoC)
- 4 GB RAM
- 64GB or more of storage
- Secure Boot is supported by the system firmware, which is UEFI.
- Version 2.0 of the Trusted Platform Module (TPM).
- Graphics card: WDDM 2.0 driver compatible with DirectX 12 or later.
- Monitor: A high-definition (720p) display with a diagonal of at least 9 inches and 8 bits per colour channel is required.
- Internet: To complete device setup on the first usage, Windows 11 Home edition requires internet access and a Microsoft account. The Windows 11 Pro edition does not have this feature.
These requirements are so demanding that even semi-recent PCs will struggle to meet them. Microsoft’s list of suitable CPUs for Windows 11 is both incredibly long and far too short, as it only includes processors released after 2018. Even more aggravating is the requirement to have an active TPM 2.0, because most of us have no idea what a Trusted Platform Module is or how to tell whether we have one in our PC.
In comparison, Windows 10 supports a significantly wider range of CPUs and does not require you to have a TPM 2.0 enabled device. Microsoft claims that the stricter system requirements of Windows 11 are intended to make the ecosystem safer by ensuring that Windows 11 PCs are more hardened against cyberattacks, but it’s difficult to believe that claim when it appears that getting around the Windows 11 system requirements is relatively simple. During the Windows 11 beta phase, it was possible to install Windows 11 from an.ISO file rather than updating directly on PCs that didn’t satisfy the minimum system requirements.
Windows 11 will alert you if your computer isn’t up to par, but will generally let you get on with your life. Even after the official launch of Windows 11, you should be able to circumvent the system requirements in this (and other) ways, though Microsoft has repeatedly warned us that systems running Windows 11 without meeting the minimum system requirements may not receive updates via Windows Update, including critical security updates.
Review of Windows 11: Design
- Icons and menus have been redesigned to be more circular and inviting.
- Out of the box, Windows 11 looks better than Windows 10.
When you upgrade to Windows 11, the most noticeable difference is the new design. When you start Windows, you’ll still see a taskbar and a desktop, but the taskbar now has some new buttons that are all centred in the middle, rather than grouped in the left corner.
Throughout the build-up to the launch, I heard phrases like “calm,” “focused,” and “freedom” used to describe how Windows’ new appearance is supposed to make users feel. Microsoft appears to be well aware that most of us have been subjected to various types of COVID-19 lockdown for the past 18 months, and it’s pitching Windows 11 as an operating system that can enable you do more with your PC in a warmer, more appealing way, whether you’re using it for business or play.
It’s a wonderful notion, and after over a month of using Windows 11 (in various incarnations of beta), I can say that some of the new elements incorporated into its design function effectively. They provide me with more tools for managing what I pay attention to on my computer and when I pay attention to it.
Review of Windows 11 for Desktops
- Allows you to have more control over how you direct your attention.
- Like many Windows 11 enhancements, this one is optional and often overlooked.
A new Desktops feature, for example, makes it easier to set up and manage several iterations of your desktop. It may appear complicated, but it is actually rather simple. Along with the Start button, there’s a new Task View button that looks like two opposing windows overlaying one another. When you hover your pointer over it, you’ll see a brief preview of all the open desktops, as well as the ability to create a new one.
It’s really simply a cosmetic difference when you set up a fresh desktop. Each desktop can have a different name, but they all access the same data on your computer and use the same Microsoft account. In my testing, I discovered that desktop icons are shared across computers, so if you delete your Microsoft Edge shortcut from one desktop, it disappears from the others. Apps and windows active on one desktop are not duplicated on other desktops, and each desktop can have its own personalised cosmetics, such as wallpaper and theme.
In reality, this implies that you can use desktops to compartmentalise your work. If you, like many of us, use your Windows PC to work from home and work on personal projects, you may set up two desktops, one named “Work” with your work apps open and the other titled “Play” with Steam and the Xbox app ready to go.
I’ve been doing this with Windows 11 for a while now, and it feels like a natural progression of how I already divide my time between business and personal matters. When I’m utilising two monitors, one will be dedicated to business apps (Slack, email, our CMS), and the other to personal email, Twitter, and other social media. I maintain browser windows side-by-side in Windows 10 even when I’m using a single monitor so that I can focus on work while keeping an eye on my personal social media feeds.
If you work in a similar manner, I believe you’ll find Windows 11’s extended Desktop groups feature beneficial once you’ve become used to it. But if you don’t want to, that’s great, too; like many other new features in Windows 11, these desktop groups are completely optional. You can even remove the button from the taskbar entirely, while the Task View can still be accessed by pressing Windows + Tab.
Review of Windows 11: Teams
- Teams is now part of Windows, which is beneficial to Teams power users.
- You can safely disregard it if you don’t use Teams.
In addition, there’s a small purple Microsoft Teams symbol on the Windows 11 taskbar that’s easy to overlook. Teams witnessed a significant increase in users during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Microsoft has now made it a more essential component of Windows.
If you’ve never used Teams before, you don’t have to start now; you can simply remove the icon from your taskbar and uninstall Teams without losing any functionality.
Snap Assist, Layouts, and Groups in Windows 11
- Layouts allow you to have more precise control over screen space.
- Groups allow you to control a group of linked windows in a batch.
Snap Assist, which makes it easier to organise open programmes on your desktop into Layouts and Groups, is a more significant new feature of Windows 11. Like much of Windows 11, it’s a more detailed version of a Windows 10 feature—specifically, the ability to “snap” windows into pre-configured layouts.
Instead of dragging them into place (or remembering the keyboard commands), you can just hover your pointer over the minimize/maximize button in the top-right corner of any programme window in Windows 11. A little pop-up window will emerge, displaying pictographs of several layout options, such as splitting the screen 50/50 between two apps, 50/25/25 between three apps, or even giving one app two-thirds of the screen while a second app sits narrowly alongside it in the remaining third.
Once you’ve chosen a layout (by moving your pointer over it and indicating where you want the current app to go), Windows will assist you in filling in the gaps by displaying a choice of active apps and allowing you to assign them to different portions of the screen.
Windows 11 will also try to remember your layout as a group, so if you minimise everything, you can easily open all of the same programmes in the same order by hovering your mouse over the minimised app’s icon in the taskbar and selecting the Group option that appears. It works in a similar way to Spaces on macOS and accomplishes the same goal.
These are useful additions that enhance the existing screen real estate management options in Windows 10. During testing, I rarely used snap assist or groups, and the only layout I consistently used was the simple 50/50 side-by-side view I’ve had on Windows 10 for years. However, if you’re a power user like me, these new features should make Windows 11 feel a little more productive.
There are too many other minor changes in the design of Microsoft’s latest operating system to go over here, but all of them, in my opinion, are very easy to adjust to once you spend a few hours getting to know Windows 11. For example, there’s a new tiered notification menu that slides out from the right side of the screen, as well as more detailed controls for which notifications you see and when. Cortana is no longer available, yet it can be downloaded through the Microsoft Store.
Many areas of Windows now have updated, more streamlined context menus, so when you right-click a file in File Explorer, you now see a smaller menu with fewer options capped by icons for popular activities like Cut, Rename, or Share.
Simultaneously, if you scratch beneath the surface of Windows 11, you’ll discover the familiar face of old Windows waiting to greet you. If you hit the “Show additional options” button at the bottom of the new, shorter context menus, for example, you’ll see the lengthier, messier context menus we’re used to seeing in Windows 10. Mixing classic Windows components into Windows 11 in this way has the potential to be quite confusing for new users, but Windows veterans will appreciate that the old ways of doing things (for the most part) still work.
Review of Windows 11’s redesigned Start menu
- Yes, it’s now in the centre, and you may move it back to the left if you like.
- The new design is more functional and simpler.
Let’s look at one of the most contentious changes in Windows 11: the Start button, which has been pushed over the centre from its decades-long home in the bottom left corner of the taskbar. The row of pinned apps that used to be next to the Start button has also been moved to the centre of the taskbar. When you press the Start button, a small rectangular menu appears above them, similar to Android’s app drawer.
The redesigned Start Menu has rounded corners, centred text, and large, colourful icons, all of which are characteristics of Microsoft’s Fluent Design language. It also has a search bar at the top, which I think is wonderful because one of the quickest ways to get around Windows is to press the Start button and type the name of whatever programme, file, or menu you’re looking for.
The difficulty is that there’s no obvious indication that you can do this on older Windows Start menus – you either have to read about it or happen upon it by mistake. Now that the Start menu has a clear Search bar at the top, hopefully more people will find it easier to navigate Windows.
A 3 x 18 scrollable grid of pinned apps takes up the most of the Start menu below the Search bar: this is where you place your most-used programmes, and by default it’s filled of Microsoft standbys like Edge, Excel, Notepad, Word, the Microsoft Store, and, of course, Solitaire. In the top right corner of the menu, there’s also a “All apps” button that opens an alphabetical list of all the programmes and programme folders you’ve installed.
A “Recommended” area appears below the scrollable grid of apps, and it displays a 2 × 3 grid of programmes, files, or folders that Windows believes you might wish to access. As far as I can tell, the algorithm that selects what appears in this lower portion of the Start menu is mostly concerned with what you’ve recently used, and this “Recommended” section, in my experience, mostly displays the most recent apps and files you’ve used or downloaded.
It’s a cleaner, more streamlined menu that’s essentially a modification of Windows 10’s existing Start menu. The Live Tiles that used to indiscriminately fill up the right-hand side of the Win 10 Start menu are no longer present. The quick links to Settings, Pictures, and Documents are also gone, though you can still get to them in Windows 11 by typing the correct term while the Start menu is open. With the same approach as Windows 10, you can get to the same “hidden” Start button context menu in Windows 11: right-click the Start button and you’ll get a simple list of handy shortcuts to things like the Task Manager, the Settings menu, your power preferences, and more.
As a side note, one of the best features of the new Start menu is that, after more than a month of use, I have yet to see a single “Suggested” ad from Microsoft that was put without my permission. This is a welcome difference from Windows 10, which will frequently install a link in the Start menu to market something to you (in my instance, the Bing Weekly News Quiz) unless you right-click it and tell Windows to turn off all suggestions.
Widgets are the focus of Windows 11’s review
- Widgets supplied at launch are uninspiring and ineffective.
- More control over which headlines appear in the Widgets menu is required.
Widgets are one of the major new features Microsoft advertises for Windows 11. These are auto-updating tiles that show things like news headlines, weather, and your calendar, and if you spend a lot of time staring at your phone, you’re probably familiar with the notion.
Widgets in Windows 11 are similar to the Desktop Gadgets we saw in Windows 8, but instead of sitting on your desktop, they live in a hidden tray that pulls out from the left side of the screen when you press the Widgets button. That button, by the way, is now on the taskbar alongside the Start button.
It’s a clever idea, and I’m sure I’ll start using Windows 11 Widgets in my regular routine in the future. Widgets in Windows 11 are, however, currently limited and easily forgotten. We saw samples of a Widgets panel that can be personalised, enlarged into full-screen mode, and reorganised when Microsoft initially announced they were coming to Windows 11.
However, in the run-up to Windows 11’s official launch, I’ve experimented with Widgets and found them to be incredibly rigid: there aren’t many presently, I can’t alter much of what they display me, and at the time of writing this article, I couldn’t resize the Widgets panel at all.
Of course, if Microsoft changes the way Widgets work by the time you read this, your experience may be completely different. However, when I press the Widget key on Windows 11, I’m welcomed by a pane that pulls out from the left. Widgets at the top of the pane display facts such as the current weather, current financial stock values, and my to-do list. By entering the Widgets menu in the top-right corner, I can move them around and adjust their size, remove them, or swap in new ones, but there are only 9 available right now.
Underneath the widgets is a Top Items module that lists six headlines from major media outlets that I had no apparent say in selecting, and I can choose to see more or fewer stories from those outlets using little 3-dot menus on each headline. Below the Top Stories module is an infinitely scrollable list of rectangular tiles, each of which displays a headline and image from a selected list of media companies that I had no part in choosing. Each of these stories has its own tiny “X” button in the corner that allows you to remove it, as well as its own small 3-dot menu button that allows you to see more or less stories from that outlet.
This news feed is linked to your Interests, which Microsoft introduced as part of Windows 10 earlier this year. When you initially install Windows 11, you’ll be asked to choose some Interests, and altering your interests in the My Interests part of Microsoft’s website appears to be the most effective means of managing what appears in the news feed of your Widgets menu.
Perhaps that is useful for some, but the widgets and news headlines provided in the Widgets menu are utterly unnecessary and difficult to configure in my experience. I’m hoping Microsoft rapidly makes some significant modifications to Windows 11 Widgets, because I don’t see why anyone would use them right now. The Widgets menu appears to be a difficult-to-customize way of keeping up with news, weather, and sports scores, which can all be done just as easily on a browser or on your phone.
Review of Windows 11’s gaming features
- If you have an HDR-capable display, auto HDR is fantastic.
- If you have a suitable NVMe SSD, DirectStorage is also useful.
Game enthusiasts will be interested in two new Windows 11 features: Auto HDR and DirectStorage. Simply put, the former can improve the lighting in games, and the latter can help games load faster. Both, however, require specific gear to function.
Auto HDR is a feature in DirectX 11/12 games that employs machine learning to simulate the effect of high dynamic range lighting in games that don’t have it. If you haven’t seen HDR, it’s difficult to understand the difference it creates, but in essence, lighting seems better due to an increase in the spectrum between the lightest and darkest regions of the image. It works nicely on Xbox One X/S consoles, but not so well on Windows 10.
It’s a nice feature to have in Windows 11, and it truly brings the lighting in games to life, but you’ll need one of the top monitors capable of displaying HDR content to take benefit of it. Because HDR-capable monitors are still uncommon, and HDR support in laptop panels is even rarer, the bulk of Windows users are unlikely to have displays that can take use of Auto HDR.
DirectStorage, on the other hand, is all about reducing loading times by using various methods to feed game data directly to the graphics card rather than through the CPU. That should help games load faster, but you’ll need to be playing a game that uses the DirectStorage API on a PC with an NVMe SSD and a GPU that supports DirectX12 Ultimate to take advantage of this feature.
Fortunately, those two components are very common in new PCs these days, so if your computer isn’t too old, you should witness better game load speeds on Windows 11. I’ve seen games like Forza Horizon 4, Control, and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind load rather quickly under Windows 11.
Review of Windows 11: No native Android apps yet
I hesitate to divide native Android support on Windows 11 into its own section because, frankly, there’s not much to say about it right now other that it’s barely working at launch.
During its June 2021 Windows 11 announcement, Microsoft demonstrated a version of TikTok available in the Microsoft Store for Windows, announcing that Windows 11 will run Android apps. Although the TikTok app is still available in the market and can be downloaded and operated on Windows 11, it is a native web app rather than an Android app. Microsoft has postponed the wider release of Android apps on Windows 11 until more testing is completed.
So don’t expect to see a large number of your favourite Android apps available for download when Windows 11 first launches. Microsoft has announced that it will work with Amazon to bring Android apps from the Amazon Appstore to Windows 11 users, and that the Amazon Appstore, as well as other third-party software stores such as the Epic Games Store, would be available in the Microsoft Store for Windows in the coming months.
After that, thanks to Intel’s Bridge Technology, which allows non-native programmes to run on x86 PCs, you should be able to download just about any Android app from the Amazon Appstore and run it on your Windows 11 PC. No, Intel has stated that it is not limited to Intel technology, so if you have an AMD-powered Windows 11 PC, you should be able to run your favourite Android apps once they appear in the Microsoft Store.
Will we eventually see a wider range of Android apps available in the Microsoft Store, or will we be confined to what’s available in the Amazon Appstore? Because if we just receive Amazon’s handpicked list, Windows 11 customers — like Amazon Fire tablet owners — would be unable to easily access a plethora of wonderful Android apps (including Google programmes like YouTube and Gmail) through stores like the Google Play Store.
Review of Windows 11: Known Issues
Apart from the lack of claimed features, Windows 11 has a number of known flaws at launch that you should be aware of before attempting to update.
VBS (virtualization-based security) is activated by default in Windows 11, which is bad news for gaming PCs (at least pre-built ones) because VBS consumes resources in a way that can degrade game performance.
Also, if you live in China and want to install Windows 11, you’re out of luck right now because TPM 2.0 is required, and foreign-made TPM chips are now prohibited in China.