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Windows 8 was released to manufacturing (RTM) on August 1, 2012 for a October 26, 2012 launch.
We are now testing all of our games with Windows 8. See the page for games we find incompatible.
Many games have now been identified as incompatible.
The updated Windows 8 upgrade assistant has limited game support. This tool can assess your rig drivers as well as the games installed. Expect this program to take a while as there is a huge range of hardware to consider. There are also many thousands of games published that work with Windows XP or 7.
The best way to envision Windows 8 is from a tablet perspective. The new desktop is designed for a blunt finger; the mouse is overkill.
New apps are already emerging that run on the new desktop as a native app rather than as a legacy program.
For this reason, its best to dual boot Windows 7 and Windows 8. This way existing software and system compatibility will be maximized.
Tablet users will be able to run apps natively and the Windows 8 desktop users can also use them.
The first free app we tested was for the popular USA Today newspaper. We expect many free apps given the widespread distribution of new tablets.
The store with Windows 8 now has over 20,000 apps and more will be published quickly. There are lots and lots of free apps too.
We found a free ebook that is a bit advanced but full of useful tips on using Windows 8.
In keeping with the mobile focus for Windows 8, the support for SSD storage is very good. SSD prices have fallen significantly in recent years making them much more attractive.
Right now most tablets ship with 32 or 64 GB of storage. SSD hard drive replacements are now available in 128 GB and 256 GB at reasonable prices for mobile users.
Even a 32 GB Windows tablet will be fine. All Windows tablets support a microSD slot that supports SDHC and SDXC given it a 2 TB capacity limit. Large capacity microSD cards are widely available.
Windows 8 has the same system requirements as Vista and 7. It will install on a machine with 512 MB of RAM and a 1 GHz processor. Realistically a much better outcome will be seen with 2 GB or more memory and a faster multi-core x64 CPU.
The Microsoft Surface RT tablet ships with 2 GB of RAM and a NVIDIA Tegra X4 CPU. The panel is 1366x768 which is the minimum for the Windows store, but Windows will install with 1024x768. The pad has WiFi had BlueTooth which are standard. It has mobile sensors but no GPS.
The Surface Pro has an i5 with 4 GB of memory. It adds USB3 for storage or a keyboard and mouse.
Windows 8 uses a new revision of the Windows Device Driver Model. This is similar to Vista and 7. Drivers are made with version checks so an updated driver is needed for each new version of Windows.
Many vendors are still not supporting 8 on their machines. If they are not supporting Windows 8 then its best to stick with you existing installation.
Desktop gaming machines for Windows 7 generally are able to run 8 as the chipset drivers are included with the Windows 8 DVD. AMD and NVIDIA have placed some older display adapters into legacy support. Check with them for drivers.
Keyboards and mice etc. are sometimes a nuisance. We recently upgraded to the Microsoft Wireless Desktop 2000 which works with XP up fine.
Windows 8 introduces a new metric that includes cumulative CPU time. This is a long term metric that can help better assess the power consumption of a processor towards greener computing.
After a year of updates, Windows 8 is now more stable. Testing it with some CPU overclocking is working much better.
We now have a separate page for CPU overclocking.
We ran the Windows Experience Index following the installation of the new RAM sticks we installed and the rating for the RAM increased higher than expected up to 7. Clearly the WEI for RAM is more quantity oriented rather than clock oriented.
Our Athlon64 X2 4200+ does not score nearly as well so we upgraded the CPU to a Phenom II X4 965 black edition which is more overclocking friendly.
Our DDR2 tray has stock ranging from 256 MB and up to 2048 MB but we are aware of 4096 MB sticks but they are rather expensive and are only available at DDR2-667 suggesting rather loose timing.
We have 2 sticks of G.Skill DDR3-2133 that we are using and the are faster than AMD processors support primarily due to the lack of support for XMP tables. Our M5A99FX does recognize the extended tables but the CPU controller is not able to implement them.
SSD prices have come down sharply in recent months so we are also considering one later on in the upgrade cycle. It seems that the SSD is the only way to get the primary disk performance up. When we bought the ST2000DM001 we notied that SSD prices were still 16x higher for the same capacity.
The RTM version of Windows 8 now shows DirectX 11 in DXDIAG. New graphics cards with DirectX 11 are readily available.
At the moment we have only a few games that are DirectX 11 capable. Most of our games are DirectX 9 and a few DirectX10. Over time more and more games are finally dropping XP support.
Over time as we accumulate more games that the average support for DirectX 11 will expand. Most games are still designed around older hardware mainly as publishers went to sell morec opies. Gaming grade video cards are very expensive.
PCI Express has been in use now for many years and so far 2 major backwards and forwards upgrades have been released. A new graphics card can perk up game performance rather nicely. Gaming grade video cards are expensive so game developers have to contend with a wide range of video cards.
PCI Express 2.0 is the most widely used slot with gamers. New PCI Express 3 boards are still expensive and may not be competitive until 2014.
Microsoft phone, tablets and desktop are being consolidated in a sense. The goal is to have a seamless experience with the new console as the only entertainment platform needed.
New consoles will likely be offered for the 2013 holiday season. We will be tracking the new Xbox and PS4 specs to guide PC hardware requirements.
Our current GTX 260 exceeds the Xbox and PS3. The move to 4K displays will be additional pressure on the GPU to provide adequate playability.
At present a single GTX 260, while a few years old, should be viable for gaming for titles through 2012 and probably well into 2013. Gaming display adapters are expensive so publishers have to consider this when developing a new title.
In testing with the games we own there were no major issues with Valve's Steam or EA's Origin clients. Both operate independent of the Metro interface as desktop applications and in Origin's case created a shortcut tile in Metro that opened on the desktop.
We expect the publishers will update their programs to be more compatible with Windows 8 once it reaches general availability.
Its a good idea to use the desktop shortcuts so that games are easier to launch. Searching through the new UI is likely to be very frustrating when 50 or more games are installed.
If you look closely at the image of the games folder in Windows 8, you will notice that the games are not for the PC but rather the Xbox 360. This is unbelievable to a PC gamer who owns hundreds of titles.
The Xbox 360 uses a PowerPC processor which is not compatible with the x64 CPU found in a modern PC.
It seems that Windows 8 is now just a marketing tool for the console. Seems that Microsoft wants to turn its back on the PC gaming industry. Say it isn't so.
We do not own a console and have no desire for one. The PC has always been the best gaming platform as it can be upgraded as needed, the console cannot.
Gabe Newell who left Microsoft to start Valve has ranted against Windows 8. Newell does not like the Microsoft Store included with Windows mainly due to the 30% commission demanded on sales.
The Steam client is on the desktop system tray fine, it works without major problem. So we feel Newell's rant is completely unjustified. While some games seem to be at issue, recent releases seem to be fine. We have a limited number of games using Steam.
Steam recently changed their client and Metro 2033 needed to be converted based on the dialog presented. The other games we have were also updated widely.
Recent updates to the Steam client now have a Big Picture mode which is design like a Windows 8 app but it also works on Windows 7. Essentially the app give the Windows 8 look to Steam where players can launch games from the Start screen.
EA recently launched their new Origin store to counter the Steam's restrictive DRM policies. The Origin client is on the desktop system tray fine. Origin also creates a shortcut on the Metro desktop.
EA has released several updates to their client in addition to their games.
Download the new Live client package first before installing and Games for Windows Live titles on Windows 8.
So far there have been very few games released that support 64-bit natively. This is mainly due to the game using the video card to operate the game. As games become more demanding however the demand is for more GPU performance.
Using a 64-bit version of Windows does provide for better performance. All games that work with the 32-bit version work fine with the 64-bit version.
Many modern gaming video cards now are equipped with 2 GB or more VRAM. Such cards will not work with a 32-bit operating system at all. The trend for video cards is towards more VRAM so a 64-bit platform is obvious.
The AMD Radeon 7970 ships with 3 GB of VRAM which exceeds the address space of a 32-bit system.
The first big change with Windows 8 is the new desktop.
The classic desktop and other components are still available through the panel on the bottom left side. The new user interface is designed to be more touch screen friendly while retaining the classic components.
It will take some time to acclimate to the new desktop. The mouse can be used but it takes a bit to get used to clicking on the corners to moving around along with the wheel.
The classic Start button returns a desktop session back to the Metro main screen as above. Programs can be launched from desktop shortcuts.
The old Windows 7 desktop is present but the Start menu has been removed. Over time more programs that are designed for the new UI will be released.
Realistically most long time Windows users can use the desktop continually by simply pinning programs to the task-bar.
Desktop icons will also work fine. Most games place desktop shortcuts when they are installed however more recently options are now being presented.
If you repeatedly toggle the Start key Windows 8 will switch back and forth from the Start screen to the desktop and back.
Microsoft is also working to perk up boot times when using SSD. A recent tablet was booted in under 10 seconds using a fast SSD. We prefer hard disks primarily due to the far greater capacity. 3TB disks are fast and can hold vast numbers of games. Games continue to get bigger and bigger as time progresses.
System requirements will be nominally the same as Windows 7 and Vista. We suggest 2GB of RAM for a 32-bit system and 4GB+ for a 64-bit system.
DDR3 sticks are now so cheap that desktop machines can used 16 GB for under $100. Laptop, tablets and netbooks typically have lower RAM capacity than desktop machines. Our netbook can only use up to 2 GB of RAM which we felt was far too low.
Windows 8 boots up quite a bit faster than 7 on our gaming rig. Obviously if you have a lot of programs in the startup may be slowed down.
Users will be able to group programs, which is handy for gaming rigs that basically have Windows and several games and nothing else.
Moving around with the scroll wheel makes it quick to move around on the new desktop. The screen also will scroll when the mouse is moved to the edge of the screen.
The wheel can also move the main start screen which is a substitute for the swipe on a touch screen.
Windows 8 allows users to move icons around as desired on the main Start screen. You can also resize some of them as some apps can be large or small. This way the icons can be balanced more to a users liking.
Once you have the programs grouped as you want, you can zoom out to see all of the desktop.
Obviously we have a lot of games and the limited space for the new desktop will pose a problem. The old desktop can be used to place game desktop shortcuts which will probably be best solution for games that are not recognized and added to the Windows 8 games folder.
As software is installed, Windows 8 places the usual start menu shortcuts into the All Programs table, but it also clutters the start screen with all of the shortcuts instead of only the main program. Games are notorious for providing links to web sites etc. over and above the game shortcut.
Besides the dismal game compatibility, the start screen mess means Windows 8 is not suitable for a gaming rig. Look at the screen shot of our own machine as we installed game after game to see what would work.
We spend nearly 6 weeks testing every game we own. Then we tested productivity programs. As usual game DRM is a big problem.
Application compatibility is much better but the same Start screen mess means a lot of work to clean up. To clean up the screen you can click on each one to select it and then you can remove them from the start screen. You can also move icons around as desired to that games can be grouped together for easier access.
All of the old shortcuts are available via the Start screen and a right click somewhere away from the icons. This will reveal the all programs charm that will access the entire set of programs.
Windows 8 groups programs in blocks of 6 by 6 which is enough for a lot of games. The problem of no folders makes the use of 100+ games very tricky.
Microsoft has indicated that they are removing support for DVD playback. This is due mainly to the growing number of machines that lack an optical disk. The growth in netbooks and tablets is one of the main reasons and consumers do not want to pay for features they will never use. Microsoft has indicated that 3rd party software will be needed for DVD playback.
Microsoft was giving early adopters of Windows 8 Professional a free copy of media center until the end of January 2013.
Testing games showed a few problems. See the page for games we find incompatible. In light of the mess, we advocate dual booting Windows 8. Its even possible to triple boot XP, 7 and 8 if game compatibility is at issue.
Since Windows 8 went RTM On August 1, 2012 there has been close to 1 GB of updates over the last 6 months. This includes the updates found in the Windows store for the intrinsic apps. 3rd party apps are also updated via the store.