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Many Windows users will have seen a system tray icon inviting them to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. I am not usually one to jump onto a “1.0” release of anything, but as the desktop mode on Windows 8.1 was so hard to use on a small 7″ screen, I decided to take the plunge and see if Windows 10 was any better.

image upgrading tablet to Windows 10

Upgrading the tablet from Windows 8.1 to 10

The first step was to uninstall “Classic shell”. I had been using this as a third party start button replacement, replacing the much-loathed Windows 8 excuse for a start button. I had read that one of the new features of Windows 10 is a new start button, so wanted no interference from third party products. Then, I have to free up 2.5GB space for the download and a bit more for the install.

I am looking at specific things of interest to me, which are tablet sutability for Windows, Skype, Email, web browsing, Music and Netflix.

Installation

All systems GO! I selected the download invitation and followed the various prompts to get the upgrade under way. I had read a few web sites complaining of the by-default settings for maximum privacy violation, I was ready to jump in immediately following the install to the recommended screens to reinstate some privacy settings.
However, true to their word, Microsoft have been refining the install based on feedback, so by the time the rollout got to me, the “customise” settings were there just like Windows 8, so it was no extra hassle to enable the main privacy settings.

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A few more prompts, and I am logged in. First impressions are quite good, I see that the “start” button contains a mini version of what used to be known as Metro, or Application view. So not bad for my fingers trying to find small screen buttons.

Being a bit paranoid, I decide anyway to check the security settings in Settings -> Privacy. Indeed there are 13 privacy pages. The main changes I made during install are applied, but anyway I go through all of these and set to taste.

The first problem I find that I will need to try and tackle, with a growing sense of dread, the screen is stuck in portrait mode, when I turn the tablet it’s not switching to landscape mode. So it’s either a soft setting to lock the screen, or I’m going to have to find a fix from the hardware supplier.

Display

image aspect lock portrait

Aspect is locked to portrait by default

To my relief, I select “settings”, and Display, and am immediately rewarded by finding a setting for Portrait/Landscape with a rotation lock set to ON. So not only was it a soft setting, but very easy to find, and intuitive to use. Well done Microsoft, I am already off to a good start.

Microsoft seem to have really missed a trick with not making larger finger-friendly buttons, for example, on the top bar of file explorer and other windows. Trying to close a window with the “X” in the top corner on many screens is an exercise in trying to touch the exact tiny few pixels on the screen, often resulting in bashing it over and over trying to hit the right spot. I’m not impressed that they have not been able to overcome the legacy application display, relying on primitive “magnification” manual adjustments.

I find the Settings – System – Display and enable the text / apps magnifier to 125%. It does help, a little, but I still wish I could get some of them bigger yet. In the end I manage to do a custom magnification, to 200%. It’s unfortunate they have not done better with this, the same manual size fiddling is needed as with Windows 8.1. (Screenshots in this article are at 100% for clarity.)

In fact the situation is more unfortunate, as there is no “Metro” mode any more, it’s all “desktop with apps”.

Skype

I decide to try and run Skype from the Windows 8 preserved apps, perhaps a mistake as it runs but hangs trying to connect. Then I see “Get Skype” so run that instead, which takes me to a web site, downloads and tries to update. Then I note that there is a Skype for tablet / Windows so abort the “Skype for Computers” install and try and get that.

Unfortunately, the original Win 8 skype is still trying to run in the background, and I can’t figure out how to kill it, so a reboot is in order at this point, and I make use of the new, easy to find power button. It’s all a bit messy.

To cut a long story short: Don’t try and run the legacy Skype desktop that is left from your upgrade, and don’t try and install the Skype Tablet version.

Email

I was surprised to find that Windows Live Mail still runs on Windows 10, I had heard it might be unsupported. I really want to see if the new default mail app is any good. WLM unfortunately is not pretty on a tablet, desktop mode is fiddly to use on a small screen. I did try the Windows 8 “app” version of mail, but as a hater of preview mode, it had forced preview mode, and with no unified inbox it was next to useless – for me.

image email client

Instead of full width email subjects, we get this giant hole

On my windows 10 tablet, I have now set up two IMAP accounts, and one MS account calendar. The calendar is a nice tool and interface. Unfortunately, the default email client is just as bad as Windows 8 was.

There is no unified inbox, and the preview mode cannot be turned off as such; ok it is slightly better, you can select an email sender/subject in the second column, and the preview on the right of the page will disappear, but leave a large blank, rather than expanding the Subject line to fill the screen. It’s just sloppy work.
One simple solution to this is to always read in portrait mode, but then when zoomed, we lose the leftmost column.

The lack of a unified inbox is lousy in this day and age when many people have more than one account (I have 10), but hardly a surprise as even full-fat Outlook 2013 as part of the Office suite does not. Ironic that the venerable Windows Live Mail DOES have one, as does Windows Phone.

I think, if I could see new mail has arrived somehow in a unified way – other than notify pop-ups – across multiple accounts, the tablet might yet get promoted to sofa-surfer. The Mail “Live Tab” might be good enough. For now, WLM in magnified mode might still be the only realistic choice for me.

Music

image music app screen shot

The new Groove Music app

It’s worth a passing look at the new “Groove Music” as I did use Windows Media Player sometimes. I started it up and immediately liked the interface. Simple and intuitive, I found it easy to navigate around, with the “now playing” behaving as it should. It has a nicely integrated feel, even adjusting the volume brings up a hover box with name, cover, and basic pause / next buttons for quick adjustments while you are doing something else.

It seems they have spent quite some time on it, making it look and work right. A shame they did not spend the same time on the email client.
I do sometimes stream music, but on a specific app, I am not one to buy online music in general, so here I am just looking at playback of local files.

Miscellaneous

There are too many features to mention in the scope of this post, but I did like the implementation of OneNote. It has the potential to be really useful if out and about with the tablet.
The third party Netflix app I found very nice.
I did have a quick look at the TV and Video app, it’s ok. The video playback client is a nice tool and integrated well, similar to the Music app.

On one reboot I got a message about OneDrive needing configuring, but it disappears before I can look closer. I find the status panel with Action Centre, which is nice, but in the end I have to find the OneDrive app and run it to do what the Action wanted, which was to check if I wanted to sync any folders to my tiny C:. I said no and assumed ot would be set o online-only mode, more on that later.
I would have thought that message would sit in the Action Centre but no, it’s cleared.

image task view

New “Task View”

Windows 10 has a card / task-view mode, allowing views of what’s running in a sort of deck, launched from a new taskbar button. Even though apps have an “X” in the corner, it doesn’t always work. I am really having trouble killing Skype. Long time Skype users might know that closing the window does not close skype, and File – Exit also leaves it running, to properly quit it you have to right-click the taskbar and choose Quit Skype. So killing from Win 10 “card” mode does not work.

There are many other things with Windows 10, e.g.virtual desktops, screen snapping, others might be into that but it’s not in scope for my tablet test.

Finally – I discover pressing and holding the bottom bar allows me an option to “make apps visible”, as with “old” windows. I do so, and am finally able to Quit Skype (and other apps) as normal from a right-click / press & hold menu.

And then – disaster

Before finishing the review, I decided to get the OneDrive sorted out to check if I can access a couple of standard apps. Then, I discover that the elegant online/offline file stubs, or “placeholders”, are gone, the OneDrive is an empty folder. After some web research, it turns out that Microsoft aim to merge the OneDrive consumer and OneDrive business products. In the meantime, you have to actually sync the files, on a per-folder basis to access them.

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This may not be meaningful to everyone, but for Windows 8 users, we’ve gotten used to a new installation being set to “online” mode, with all the file descriptors in place for viewing thumbnails, and the folder and file names themselves being visible as placeholders, the actual files are in the cloud.

When trying to access or open, they are downloaded as needed. Perfect for a small disk and a large OneDrive, in my case, a tablet with a precious 1GB of free space, attaching to a 200GB OneDrive. I don’t want to sync an entire folder to access one file, so this is not going to work out.

Windows 10 – goodbye. I can confirm the rollback to Windows 8.1 worked like a charm. I’ll also be removing the upgrade nag prompt on all my other PCs. (Hint: you might not want KB3035583).

Summary

In time I think Windows 10 will be something I can really make use of on a small tablet. In particular, the live tiles might become more than the “Metro” gimmick they started out as.
My ratings out of 10 are:

  • Upgrade process: 9/10
  • Display and interface: 6/10
  • Skype client: 6/10
  • Email client: 6/10
  • Music client (local music files): 9/10
  • Netflix client: 9/10
  • OneDrive client: 2/10
  • Overall: 7/10

I’ll be keeping an eye on the OneDrive situation and see if I like whatever solution they end up with, and will probably come back to Windows 10 for my tablet, one day.

Compared to Windows 8, OneDrive aside, Windows 10 is a bit better on a tablet, although I don’t think anyone will be quaking in fear in the office of the Apple iPad team just yet.

 
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