Microsoft's latest update to its widely-used operating system, Windows 11, brings some visual enhancements as well as backend improvements. What's clear is that the OS now looks more modern, with features to make you more productive. It also tries to add in some lifestyle features such as widgets and Teams Chat, though these may not be as useful for some. This review was done on the latest Insider Preview release, which is the version likely to be released on its official Oct 5 launch.
- Visual upgrades including pastel colors and rounded edges
- Min requirements include 1GHz dual-core 64-bit processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage
- Free upgrade from Windows 10
- Native android apps support delayed, no release date set
If you're already using Windows 10, Windows 11 doesn't really feel all that different. Sure, the Start Bar is now centered (but you can change that back), but your Windows experience doesn't change. What's new is Snap Groups, which you can use to quickly set up how you want your windows to be laid out. You do this by hovering the mouse button over the Maximise button. Windows 11 will also remember the layout, and you can hover over the program icon on the Start Bar to show and select the Snap Group to quickly get it back. Some apps, including Teams, strangely doesn't show the Snap Group option. Another new feature is the ability to set up virtual desktops, so you can have one for work, one for gaming, and maybe one for just watching Netflix.
Another display-related feature: Windows 11 will now remember your layout for multiple monitors. So you can plug in your laptop to a monitor and the windows will be restored properly. Windows 11 also comes with Microsoft Teams built-in now. If you are upgrading from Windows 10, you may want to uninstall the older Teams installation. There's also a new Chat app, but if you don't use Outlook, you'll have to import your contacts using the Team apps on your phone. Teams doesn't have an import option. Widgets are now in a new app, and you can customise what you want in there. For example, I set up to get esports scores for Dota 2, as well as local news. I do like this, but I don't think I'll be using it much.
There are gaming improvements, too. Auto HDR will automatically add HDR brightness to games using DirectX 11 or 12. You will still need a monitor that supports HDR, though. DirectStorage will also load enabled games super fast, but you will need a NVMe SSD, and a DirectX 12-compatible GPU. There aren't any games (at time of writing) that support this yet, though. Android apps get native support, but we can't test this as it is also unavailable at launch. Another thing we couldn't test were battery improvements in laptops, but Microsoft says Windows 11 notebooks will manage display refresh rates and will resume from sleep faster.
As the first major version of Windows in six years, Windows 11 is more than a visual upgrade. It comes with tweaks to improve how you use it, and under-the-hood improvements that make sense. I love how it makes it easier to both work and play. You should be fine with Windows 11 Home — the Pro version comes with business enterprise features. It's a free upgrade if you're already using Windows 10. Get it when it launches on Oct 5 or check out the official site.
Editor's note: If you're using a CPU that's four years or older, you may not be able to upgrade. Do wait to see if Microsoft will be removing that requirement if your PC meets the specifications. Check using the PC Health Check app here.
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