Now that we've installed a developer preview of Windows 8 on a laptop, we have one thing to say: we don't really miss touch input. Yes, swiping through Live Tiles on the Samsung Windows 8 preview tablet is a breeze, but in some ways Microsoft's OS is better on a trusty clamshell. Last night we downloaded a developer preview version of Windows 8 on a ThinkPad T410s. Here's our initial hands-on impressions.
Installation: We were fortunate enough to get a USB stick with Windows 8 on it that we dragged over to our desktop. All told, the installation process took about 40 minutes, and that included us having to free up some space on the notebook's hard drive (you need at least 20GB of free space). Ours was a clean install, which means all of our programs and files were wiped clean, so you'll want to back up anything you need to an external hard drive you want to keep.
Getting Around on a Laptop: Windows 8 lets you navigate the Start screen in a couple of different ways. You can either use the arrow keys to pan right and left or use a scroll bar at the bottom of the screen and drag that with your mouse. At any time you can return to the Start screen by pressing the Windows key on your keyboard.
If you want to switch between apps with your touchpad or mouse, just hover your cursor over the left side of the screen and you'll be able to grab a thumbnail of the app you want to put front and center. You can also snap that app to the right or left and then resize it using the cursor.
Boot Time and Overall Performance: In our initial review of the ThinkPad T410s (with SSD) we clocked a boot time of 30 seconds. With Windows 8, our notebook started in approximately 24 seconds. Lenovo and others will be optimizing their hardware for Windows 8 in time for launch (about a year from now) so those times will definitely improve. Overall performance was snappy, but we noticed that our touchpad became a lot more jumpy, inserting the cursor in odd places when we accidentally brushed up against the pad while typing. The palm rejection seems to have disappeared. (Stay tuned for more in-depth benchmark results).
Killer Shortcuts: What makes using Windows 8 even more compelling on a laptop than a touch-only system is the wealth of shortcuts available to you. For instance, when you're on the Start screen you can just start typing to search for apps, files, or anything else you need. Clicking Windows key + C will launch the five Charms in the bottom left side of the screen, so you can quickly get to Settings, Share, etc.
Other welcome shortcuts include Windows + Z for launching contextual menus, such as the tabs and address bar in IE 10. And you can easily switch between apps using Alt + Tab, whether they're full-screen Metro-style apps or old-school desktop apps.
We're still getting the hang of using Windows 8 on a laptop, but it feels a lot more natural and intuitive than we anticipated. Based on what we've experienced thus far, not having touch will not hamper the user experience.