Windows 11 review: What’s New?

Microsoft’s vision for the future of personal computing has arrived with Windows 11. This is a softer, more rounded version of Windows, one that places the Start menu front and center while removing some of the clutter from Windows 10.

While Windows 11 does provide some welcome enhancements, many of them are so small that you won’t see them unless you’re looking for them. Even the modifications that do catch your eye, such as the relocated Start button, tend to disappear into the background with amazing speed.

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 an improvement, but upgrading to Windows 11 is a step forward.

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.

Windows 11 Review: Price and Availability

Anyone who meets Microsoft’s system requirements can get Windows 11 for free. There are two versions of the upgrade: Home and Pro. The Pro version primarily focuses on business users, although home users may appreciate the ability to encrypt their hard drives with a higher encryption level for added security.

Most regular users, on the other hand, will not be losing out if they stick with the Home version: every exclusive feature in Windows 11 Pro is designed for businesses, not homes, so if you use your PC for creative work, gaming, or just leisure use, the Pro version is unneeded.

While the free upgrade is great, the information surrounding the system requirements in the run-up to the release of Windows 11 has been appalling. TPM used to be a specialist topic, but it’s now a hot topic, with many people still unsure if their PC is compatible.

A Microsoft account and an internet connection will be required for anybody to use Windows 11. You’ll be stuck at the setup page if you don’t have these. While this is understandable from one viewpoint, it may irritate those who simply want to use a computer on occasion without having to create an account or have regular internet access.

There’s also the issue of data collection to consider. There is currently no way to turn this off because the upgrade was accessible for use in the Insider Build program to test Windows 11, which raises questions about why there isn’t an option here.

Microsoft has previously faced outrage over the data it collects from users, and as a result of the outcry, the company has made it easier for users to control what data is shared in Windows 10.

It’s a pity, too, that with Windows 11, Microsoft looks to have taken a step back in this area. In the future, it should be more clear about the data it collects and provides tools to enable users to manage what is and isn’t shared. 

Windows 11 Review: System Requirements

The following are the minimum system requirements for Windows 11 installation on a PC: If your equipment does not meet these requirements, you may be unable to install Windows 11 and should consider acquiring a new computer.

  • CPU: 1GHz or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or system on a chip (SoC)
  • RAM: 4 gigabytes (GB)
  • Storage: 64 GB or larger 
  • System firmware: UEFI, Secure Boot capable.
  • TPM: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0
  • Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver.
  • Display: High definition (720p) display that is greater than 9 inches diagonally, 8 bits per color channel
  • Internet: Windows 11 Home edition requires internet connectivity and a Microsoft account.

Windows 11 Review: New Design

Windows 11 review
Windows 11 review

Microsoft made it clear in its June 24 introduction of Windows 11 that the user interface has undergone a major redesign, called “fluent design” by the firm as the successor to the Metro design language that debuted in Windows 8.

At first sight, it appears to be excellent—everything appears to be current and refined, and File Explorer, along with the context menus, has finally been updated, no longer looking like Windows XP version 4.

However, the similarities to Windows 10 are only apparent when you delve deeper. For example, if you right-click in a folder and select “Properties,” you’ll see the same options as before, but with rounded buttons and a new icon.

After a while, you realize you’re looking at a reskin of Windows 10. While this is a significant step forward, more work remains to be done. Removing the Ribbon interface from File Explorer and other built-in apps is a good place to start, as you now have ten icons on the toolbar instead of the four tabs and countless settings found in Windows 10 and previous versions that used the Ribbon interface.

It’s an example of a Windows 11 feature that’s a great first step, but there needs to be a giant leap for more.

Gadgets have been brought back for Windows 11, but are now referred to as “widgets.” These are located in their own section, similar to Mac OS, and cannot be freely placed on your desktop. Swiping from the left side of the screen brings them up, and they serve their purpose of quick access to bite-sized information.

The only odd addition is the search bar in the widget window, which feels more like a shortcut to the Bing search engine than a widget.

Users also discovered that adding work accounts to a calendar widget does not work, but Microsoft says it is aware of the issue and that a fix is on the way.  

Windows 11 Review: The New Start Menu 

Let’s get right to the point: Windows 11’s new Start menu needs improvement. It appears to be a stopgap between Windows 10 and a touch interface designed for the new Surface tablets.

Windows 11 review - What's New?
Windows 11 review

Visually, everything appears to be in order, but when you dig deeper, problems begin to emerge. Everything is in the center, with your apps displayed first, followed by a “Recommended” section. This is an odd placement that displays your most recently used files and apps but does not allow you to clear the list. When you click “More,” you will see an expanded list with the date and location of the files.

Furthermore, when you try to search for something, it launches the Search app, which is jarring when it switches between this and the Start menu. It lacks the unification of the Windows 10 Start menu, where you could search for something and the results would appear instantly. It appears to be half-baked and slower than before.

Another point is the Taskbar, where the new default location for the Start menu and icons is in the center. Again, it makes sense from a usability standpoint if you’re using Windows 11 on a tablet device, but it doesn’t make sense with a mouse, and you’ll most likely want to switch this back to the left (which, thankfully, can be easily done through the Settings app).

While there is promise here, it needs to be refined. Hopefully, once Windows 11 is available to everyone, feedback will persuade Microsoft that the new Start menu requires a redesign. Perhaps this design can be used as a starting point for tablet mode, and when using devices without a touch display, the icons and start menu can revert to their original placement in a way that makes them more accessible.

Microsoft has stated that they are aware of the Feedback Hub, an app that displays user recommendations for Windows 11. More changes to the Taskbar and Start menu are possible in the coming months. 

Windows 11 Review: Built-in Windows 11 Apps

One recurring theme in Windows releases has been the neglect of built-in apps such as Paint, Snipping Tool, and others. However, in Windows 11, they have all been refreshed and updated, which will no doubt please many users.

For the most part, this goal appears to be a design that accommodates both mouse and touch input, and for the most part, it succeeds. Paint is once again enjoyable to use, and Snipping Tool is now the only app that allows you to control how you crop apps and save them as images.

The Clock is another unexpected app to be redesigned here. It’s now where you can manage your time to do work thanks to “Focus,” a feature similar to one of Apple’s iOS 15 updates, where Focus allows you to create profiles that can be automated based on your calendar, location, and other factors.

Each of these apps now appears to be unified with Windows 11—there is no mix of Fluent Design and Metro design, which was a flaw in Windows 10. Everything appears to be refined, which is fantastic to see from Microsoft.

Windows 11 Review: Microsoft Store

The redesigned Microsoft Store is another major feature of Windows 11. It’s no secret that it has recently felt a little neglected in Windows 10. However, the new Microsoft Store appears to be a secure and malware-free environment where apps and even third-party stores can be accessed.

Windows 11 review - What's New?
Windows 11 review

The design is straightforward, with a search bar at the top that returns instant results and three categories to choose from on the sidebar to the left.

It’s a great storefront for new and novice users to easily find apps, and it’s a credit to Windows 11 because it’ll be a huge timesaver for many people, especially those who have a new PC and want to quickly and easily download essential apps.

As it was announced that Android apps from the Amazon Store would be available at some point, it appears that we’ll have to wait until a future update in 2022 to be able to install apps like TikTok, Instagram, and others. 

Windows 11 Review: Gaming

Gaming on Windows has had its ups and downs in the past, from Games on Windows Live to the barebones Xbox app in Windows 10.

Windows 11 review - What's New?
Windows 11 review

However, Microsoft has made gaming a focal point of Windows 11, with the Xbox app now integrated and more tightly integrated.

Improved HDR support for games, as well as Auto HDR for making non-HDR games look better in terms of contrast, has also been added, which is very welcome. 

Final verdict

This is the first of many Windows 11 updates, and based on what it offers, it’s a great start. Fluent Design is a fantastic replacement for the Metro appearance, which has been popular since Windows 8, and it updates Windows’ style and color scheme.

Despite changes to buttons in Explorer, Paint, Snipping Tool, and other products, the redesign often feels like a reskin of Windows 10 at the moment. When you dig a little further, you’ll see the same functionality as before, but with softened corners and a new icon.

Meanwhile, Windows requires an updated Microsoft Store, and it’s highly user-friendly. It’ll be a terrific starting place for casual users who wish to find their apps more readily, especially with Amazon’s Android apps coming soon. 

While this is an excellent start for Windows 11, it’s time for Microsoft to go deeper and improve how other apps, such as disk management and even Notepad, perform with Windows 11. If you only use your PC on occasion, you’ll appreciate Windows 11, but if you use it for business or gaming for more than eight hours a day, you could discover it’s merely an incremental update, which isn’t always a negative thing.

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