Software Reviews

Microsoft Windows 11 Review

Windows 11 was released in October 2021 as the latest version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Coming over 6 years after the launch of Windows 10, Windows 11 brings some big changes to the look, feel and functionality of Windows.

In this review, I’ll take an in-depth look at Windows 11 to see how it compares to previous versions of Windows and whether it’s worth upgrading to.

Visual Design

Easily the most noticeable change in Windows 11 is the visual design. Microsoft has refreshed the user interface with a cleaner, more modern design language they call Fluent Design. Some of the most notable changes include:

• Rounded corners on windows and menus

• New centered taskbar with centered icons

• More padding, white space and less clutter

• Softer window shadows

• New colorful desktop wallpapers

• Updated icon designs with brighter colors

• More animations for things like opening apps/folders

Overall the changes give Windows a brighter, airier and more Mac-like appearance. It looks more refined while retaining the familiarity of Windows. The centered taskbar is probably the most controversial change, but you can revert it back to left-aligned if needed.

New Start Menu

Possibly the biggest functional change is an overhauled Start Menu. The Live Tiles of Windows 10 are gone, replaced with a cleaner design showing pinned and recommended apps, along with quick access menus to turn off your device or access settings.

The search bar is now front and center in the menu instead of tucked in the corner. Search has also been improved with quicker and more relevant results. Microsoft leverages the cloud more to show recent or suggested files alongside apps.

The new Start Menu takes inspiration from Windows 10X, a simplified version of Windows made for dual-screen devices. The simplified design is better suited for touch input on tablets and folding devices, although it may require some relearning if you’re used to how the old menu worked.

Widgets

Windows 11 introduces Widgets – a personalized feed powered by AI showing things like news, weather, sports scores, stocks and more. Widgets replace the News & Interests feed found on Windows 10 taskbars.

Widgets sit in a panel that slides in from the left. You can glance at them for info but they now allow more interaction such as liking stories or commenting on them. Widgets run on top of the desktop instead of being confined to the taskbar.

Microsoft Teams Integration

Microsoft Teams is deeply integrated into Windows 11, replacing Skype. You can access teams chats, upcoming meetings, notifications and calling capabilities directly from the taskbar. This makes Teams easy to access for personal or work use.

If you use Teams frequently, this integration removes extra steps needed to launch the app. But if not, the persistent Teams icon may feel annoying. Fortunately you can disable it.

Snap Layouts

Multitasking gets easier with Snap Layouts – a new way to arrange multiple app windows on screen. Hover over a window’s maximize button and you’ll see suggested layout previews for snapping two or more apps in different configurations.

Common layouts include side-by-side, 3×3 grid or having one app stacked on top of others. Snap Layouts make multi-window multitasking quicker with less dragging and resizing. You can also create your own layouts to reuse.

Snap Groups

Along with layouts, Windows 11 introduces Snap Groups to make managing multiple windows easier. Snap Groups let you minimize/maximize apps in a certain snapped configuration as a group instead of individually. This keeps their position and size arrangements intact for quicker access later.

For example, you may group a browser window alongside a note app and mail client for researching and writing. Snap Groups preserve that exact positioning which you can then minimize and recall anytime as a group.

New Microsoft Store

The Microsoft Store has a fresh coat of paint after a much needed overhaul. The layout has been redesigned for better navigation with apps, games, entertainment and deals promoted upfront. You can now browse by categories and collections.

Microsoft welcomed more third party storefronts into the store such as Amazon and Epic Games Store. Winget, an app installer, has been integrated so you can discover and install apps via the command line. Developers have an easier time bringing progressive web apps and Win32 programs to the new store.

The updates make the store feel more open, inviting and competitive with other platforms. It still lacks some apps you’ll find on other OSes but the experience is significantly improved.

Performance Improvements

Under the hood Windows 11 promises better performance thanks to deeper software integrations and virtualization improvements for multi-core systems. Apps should launch faster with reduced power consumption and memory usage due to kernel optimizations.

Microsoft brought DirectStorage technology from the Xbox Series X to allow video games to load assets faster by reducing CPU overhead. Auto HDR can also improve visuals in supported games automatically.

Actual speed improvements will vary depending on your hardware but these changes create a strong foundation for better performance, especially for systems with newer components.

Tablet Enhancements

Windows 11 streamlines the interface for touch input making tablets like the Microsoft Surface more viable computing devices rather than secondary devices. This matches Apple’s approach with iPadOS and MacOS.

Input areas have been updated to be more finger-friendly. The Start Menu, Notification Center and Widgets all work better via touch with larger buttons, spacing and swipe gestures. Handwriting with the pen has lower latency while haptics and ink effects have been enhanced. You can now take three finger screenshots as well.

If you primarily use Windows tablets, you’ll welcome the many touchscreen specific improvements in Windows 11. Using Surface and similar hybrid devices feels nicer thanks to the redesigns catering to that input method.

Gaming Features

On the gaming front, Windows 11 includes Auto HDR, DirectX12 Ultimate support and DirectStorage for faster load times. Xbox Game Pass is also integrated more so you can browse, install and play hundreds of Xbox games on your PC.

The new Xbox app provides access to your gaming friends, activity feed and Xbox Game Bar which can monitor performance metrics while gaming. Voice chat has been improved as well with noise suppression abilities powered by AI.

While Windows will never match all the features of a dedicated gaming console, Windows 11 narrows that gap with its stronger gaming-centric tools and integrations tailor made for PC gamers.

Security

Security has been enhanced in Windows 11 with new protections against phishing and exploits. Secure Boot, memory integrity and virtualization-based security lay a strong foundation preventing malware and viruses. Automatic encryption of sensitive data is now enabled for users as well.

The streamlined TPM 2.0 requirement effectively forces machines to use newer hardware typically less vulnerable to attacks. While this does make some older PCs incompatible, it ensures higher security standards overall for new installs.

With threats only growing worse year after year, the additional security capabilities in Windows 11 will provide more peace of mind particularly for enterprise customers but consumers too.

Accessibility Options

Users needing accessibility assistance will find multiple new tools in Windows 11. These include built in live captions and voice typing to transcribe speech to text automatically in real time. Text cursor customizations, automated mouse clicks and hover holds, assistive reach UI and other improvements aid users with motor limitations gain more control.

The accessibility features running on-device remove privacy concerns those dependent on third party software previously faced. Windows 11 takes cues from past internal options and refines them with AI backing leading to one of the most inclusive Windows yet.

Minimum Requirements

Windows 11 comes with steeper hardware requirements than past Windows releases:
CPU: 1 GHz or faster processor with 2 or more cores on 64-bit chip

RAM: 4 GB

Storage: 64 GB

System Firmware/UEFI: Secure Boot capability

TPM: 2.0

Graphics Card: DirectX 12 compatible

Display: 720p, 8-bit per color channel

• Internet + Microsoft Account

Many PCs that run Windows 10 will meet those requirements but some older devices will not. Windows 11 is dropping 32-bit x86 support as well. If your PC fails the Windows 11 compatibility scan, you unfortunately cannot install the new OS without workarounds.

The bright side is that systems which do meet the requirements should have a better experience thanks the above security and performance benefits. But budget users with older hardware may have to stick with Windows 10 through its retirement in October 2025.

Conclusion

Windows 11 delivers visual refinements, feature enhancements and under-the-hood upgrades bringing meaningful improvements over Windows 10. The OS feels modern, welcoming and refined with its redesigned interface focused on productivity and creativity. Touch support has progressed making hybrid devices shine as well.

However bugs and inconsistencies are still being ironed out being so new. The system requirements also block out a lot of functioning PCs from getting upgraded. But overall, Windows 11 stands as a promising update for Microsoft’s venerable operating system laying the foundation for even greater things ahead.

Upgrading from Windows 10 is not urgent but new PC owners or those with compatible hardware should consider the switch. As more apps add optimizations for Windows 11 and Microsoft addresses bugs, the experience stands to only get smoother over time.

So is Windows 11 right for you? If you just upgraded your PC or are still using Windows 7, Windows 11 merits serious consideration for its improved design, security and performance. But if you rely on older 32-bit apps or devices that don’t meet system requirements, sticking with Windows 10 for now may be best.

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