Windows 11 - The best Windows version ever?

Simon Rascher
Man sits at his laptop and updates the operating system to Windows 11

"Everything used to be better in the past" - this statement is seen time and again, especially in IT. But is that also the case with Windows 11? In the current release cycle, we therefore tried out the new version for a fortnight - here are our impressions:


Installation

The installation of Windows 11 on our Windows 10 systems went off without a problem, with the help of the familiar "registry" adjustments. In addition, the Windows 11 ISO had to be downloaded from Microsoft.

Alternatively, the available Windows 11 ISO can simply be removed via Rufus TPM and Secure Boot requirements, which means that even a notebook with a 3rd generation Intel i5 can be equipped with Windows 11. The fact is, computers have to meet significantly higher system requirements in order to be updated to Windows 11. Microsoft offers a test tool to check whether one's own hardware works with Windows 11.

After extensive testing in everyday use, we found the following advantages and disadvantages:


Advantages

The biggest fear for switchers can be largely dispelled: The old software that last ran on Windows 10 also works under Windows 11. Rare exceptions confirm the rule here, but all industry apps and programmes that we tested could be started without any problems.

One fundamental advantage is that, provided the PC meets the minimum requirements, Windows 11 can simply be updated via Windows Update without having to buy a new licence. This keeps the upgrade costs low, as with Windows 10. The use of a Windows 7/10 key as an upgrade is still available.

More modern and contemporary design

One of the visually biggest innovations is the (subjectively) elegant style of the programmes in the new Fluent Design! Overall, the user interface of Windows 11 has been given a fresh coat of paint. The colour and menu palette ranges from light blue tones to a focused dark mode. This already existed in the predecessor but has been integrated even better system-wide. It helps during long working days and is easy on the eyes at the workstation. Windows 11 looks more modern overall, with new rounded shapes that appear more contemporary. A centered taskbar adds to this new feel, although aligning the taskbar to the left edge is still possible.

Snap Assist and settings even better and clearer

In the interface area, "Snap Assist" has proven to be very useful. Windows has long offered many ways of arranging and snapping windows, which have now been extended to include logical tiles. These are simply available when hovering over them via the "Maximise" element. They are no longer a hidden secret, previously only available to advanced users with PowerToys.

A big step forward is the new settings interface - gone is the era of endlessly fanning out submenus. Here, the centralised path á la MacOS has been taken. Unfortunately, some elements are still located in the classic "Control Panel", which has been the undisputed master of settings for three Windows releases (8,10,11).

Changing workstations with multiple monitors made easy

Many companies use laptops with docking stations. These extend the workplace to up to four monitors and more. Microsoft has developed an intelligent method for docking and undocking laptops precisely for this use, with which Windows 11 remembers the location of your applications. Gone are the days when you had to realign desktop icons and window positions when moving to another workstation.

Integrated apps with new features

Microsoft has also made improvements to the built-in apps in Windows 11. Most of the changes concern Teams, Paint, Clock and Photos, with Paint abandoning the ribbon in favour of a new command bar. MS Teams remains the same as usual for business use. For private Windows 11, a "chat" function is integrated directly in the taskbar, behind which the quite normal Teams is hidden. The Photos app has also been reworked and now offers a practical multi-view function with which you can compare several photos in a single window. The Clock app now includes "Focus Sessions": a new feature to increase productivity. By dividing work into smaller sections with short breaks, the app aims to help in everyday life. Focus Sessions includes Spotify integration and is useful for taking short digital detox sessions between meetings.


Disadvantages

The taskbar is the biggest area of deficiency in Windows 11, lacking basic features like the ability to adjust the size or position of the taskbar. Dragging and dropping on the taskbar is also not possible, and you cannot even display the time and date on the taskbar on multiple monitors. Worse still - the entire right-click menu of the taskbar has been robbed of all but the most worthless option: the "Taskbar Settings". Also removed was the option to make all icons of the overflow menu (right corner of the main taskbar) visible at once - currently only possible via manual selection.

Many features not implemented for the release

Microsoft had promised a universal mute and unmute feature that would allow you to quickly mute the microphone in all apps, but this feature is missing yet. Microsoft also announced that Android apps would be available for Windows 11, but these are also not ready yet. Even a dynamic refresh rate feature, which is supposed to improve scrolling and colouring on new Windows 11 devices at 120 Hz without affecting battery life, is missing at launch.

Edge and Bing in internal apps as standard

It also attracted negative attention that Microsoft imposes Edge when clicking on links in widgets instead of respecting the operating system's default browser. Here Microsoft has already promised a patch to stop the madness of individual link customisations.

The search interface in Windows 11, which remains largely unchanged, also still forces users into Edge and the Microsoft search engine Bing. However, one must positively note here that the search behaviour and search speed is by far better than the weak performance in Windows 10.

Microsoft has also "simplified" the power options, volume controls, network controls and notification centre in Windows 11, making it an Android-style widget menu with swappable options. We think Microsoft could further improve the audio controls in Windows 11.


Conclusion

Consumers as testers

At the end, we agree that Microsoft is letting the end users do their beta test here (for which the Insider programme actually exists, and which should also be officially over by now). Many elements feel unfinished, familiar functionalities from previous releases have been made worse, promised Day-One-features are completely missing and have no known patch dates. In retrospect, we definitely could have waited to switch to Windows 11 - especially since Windows 10 remains in full support until 2025. So: make your own decision, based on the available information, because it can cost you a lot of time. Status 09.12.2021


Simon Rascher
Simon Rascher
Teamlead Software Development

With his hands-on mentality, the organisational talent literally rolls up his sleeves and is there when he is needed. His team also appreciates this about the likeable Franconian. As team leader of software development in the web environment, his focus is on team building and further training within his department.


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