Windows 11 review – how does the beta perform so far?

Windows 11 review – Windows has been the heart of the PC industry for so many years that it is hard to imagine a world without Windows. Windows 10 has been stable despite its many lows and highs. With Windows 11 soon to follow, the stakes don’t seem too high. It’s crucial, considering how rare major Windows releases are.

We decided to give Windows 11 a try, with beta access now available. Although it is still in its early stages of development, I am able to give my initial impressions. Windows 11 will be available as an upgrade in the latter part of 2021. Let’s take a look at Android Authority’s Windows 11 beta Early-bird Review!

This Windows 11 review is about: I tested several Windows 11 beta versions, including 10.0.22000.100 and 10.0.22000.120 over a 28-day period. It was installed on an Asus Gaming A17 laptop equipped with an AMD Ryzen5 4600H CPU. These builds were made using the Windows Insider Program.

Here’s what you need to know regarding Windows 11 beta

Windows 11 beta windows insider program

Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

Windows 11 will be the next major version of Microsoft Windows. It is currently available in beta through the Windows Insider Program. Since June 28, Microsoft has been publishing beta builds to the dev channel and the beta channel since July 29, respectively. Although it has indicated a release window for this final upgrade in late 2021, the exact date is still unknown.

Microsoft offers Windows 11 as a free upgrade. However, the eligibility criteria for Windows 11 are higher than those for Windows 10. TPM 2.0 is one of the requirements. Windows 11 will bring many changes to the system, both functional and visual, but it won’t be a complete overhaul.

What is the new design like?

Windows 11 beta file explorer

Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

The design is the most important aspect of any changes that will affect users. Windows 11 isn’t a significant upgrade to Windows 10, but there are obvious design changes.

The taskbar is located in the middle. Although the taskbar has been consistent throughout the years, Windows 11 defaults to the center-aligned icons. With the latest betas, you can change to the left alignment. However, we don’t know if this will be possible in the final commercial version. Windows is withholding an important feature: the ability to move the entire taskbar to the left, right, or top of the desktop. The taskbar is now locked and cannot be adjusted in height.

Visual changes are visible from the taskbar to your start menu. Instead of live tiles, you will get pinned apps as well as recommended recent content. This makes the menu much simpler.

There are many other small changes, too. For example, transparency effects are now more prominent than in Windows Aero. Windows also have rounded corners. These default to being squared when they are aligned. The Windows 11 visuals can be considered an upgrade. This is despite some kinks.

How is the performance?

Windows 11 beta performance Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

Microsoft doesn’t make any explicit promises about Windows 11’s performance or other benefits. It has been as stable as Windows 10 for me, even in beta, during my use.

General performance was good. During my testing, Windows 11 beta felt just as smooth or better than Windows 10. I used the Windows 11 beta to do a lot of web browsing, photo editing, and Fortnite daily. This was much smoother than I expected.

Windows 11 should perform as well as Windows 10, if you have found Windows 10 to be a good operating system.

How is the functionality?

Windows 11 beta settings search and window layouts

Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

Windows 11 actually takes a half a step backward in terms of functionality. The right-click menu is now smaller. You get the cut, copy, paste, share and delete functions at the top in a grid format. This isn’t too bad, but it comes with a learning curve. The rest of the menu is compounded too, with a “Show more options” button that pops out the old right-click menu. Windows 11 seems to still be in two minds about the direction of this menu, but that could change before the final release.

A notable new feature in Windows 11 is the Widgets button, which unfurls a bunch of widgets, quite like those on the Edge welcome page feed. Unfortunately, widgets don’t respect your choice of the default browser.

See also: How to change the default browser in Windows 10

Additionally, Microsoft is making it harder to switch to a different browser from Microsoft Edge. The default browser option will now only show up at the first launch. If you don’t switch away from Edge right then, you will have to manually switch every single browser-relevant file type one by one, instead of the previously used one-switch-to-rule-them-all approach. Microsoft calls this “granular control”, but it seems unnecessary and anti-competitive.

Anything else in Windows 11 worth pointing out?

Windows 11 beta control panel

Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

  • Deeper Microsoft services integrations: Microsoft’s services are integrated better now, which may please or annoy you depending upon what you use.
  • New window group presets: Windows 11 remembers your window groups, letting you summon them with one click, and giving you options to snap windows in different layouts.
  • Old bits are still here: Microsoft is still keeping the familiar bits, like the old Control Panel, for those that may need it.
  • Compatibility issues unlikely: Windows 11 doesn’t seem to have any app compatibility issues as of yet, likely due to its similarities to Windows 10.
  • Native support for Android apps: While this doesn’t exist yet we will hopefully see Android app support reach the beta soon, unless Microsoft decides to keep this one off the table until the final Windows 11 release.

Windows 11 beta review: The verdict

Windows 11 beta dual apps

Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority

Windows 11 isn’t too big of a jump, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It stays familiar while changing enough to seem like an upgrade. Microsoft seems to tread lightly in regard to major changes following the Windows 8 debacle, which is great. Windows 11 feels stirred, not shaken, which leaves it with some inconsistencies, but also many familiarities. The beta has a few issues here and there, but we expect most of these little quirks to be fixed before the final release.

For example, a lot of the cosmetic bits that are inconsistent for now are very likely to be cleaned up before the final release. We’ll see more and more of the promised features make their way to Windows 11, including native Android app support via the Amazon App Store, and more gaming-centric features like Auto HDR and DirectStorage. The final release should be polished enough, although I don’t expect Microsoft to get rid of the legacy bits like Control Panel just yet. So it’s likely to be in with the new, without the out with the old.

Windows 11 as a free upgrade may become a cautionary tale as Microsoft tries to push its services more aggressively, making you the product.

Microsoft needs to slow down on the services integration a bit. OneDrive isn’t exactly everybody’s preferred cloud storage. Teams may be big but not everybody wants to use it. Also, people aren’t going to use Microsoft Edge only because Microsoft makes it hard to switch. If anything, it’s bound to leave a bitter taste, especially if Microsoft tries to use this approach to push its services across Windows 11.

So that’s our first look at the Windows 11 Beta. We’ll be sure to update this post as new iterations arrive.

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