At midnight last night, Windows 8 became available to the general public. The operating system can now be purchased on its own, as an upgrade to Windows 7, and on a plethora of machines both new and old.
Windows 8's new "Modern UI" user interface has its proponents and detractors. However, as we've found after some hands-on time with Windows RT—the slightly trimmed-down, ARM-compatible version of the OS—the new UI is extremely well-suited to touch operation. It has a visual style and personality quite different from that of Android and iOS, but it's fast, smooth, and surprisingly intuitive to use on a tablet or touch-screen PC.
Windows 8 also has a new version of the classic Windows desktop. Microsoft has made plenty of improvements that should please power users, like beefing up the Task Manager, serving up multiple taskbars on multiple monitors, and enhancing the Windows Explorer with a ribbon-style toolbar and more powerful file management. I've been using it on my main desktop since last night, and I'm pleased with the upgrade so far—though having to bob back to the Modern UI Start screen to open new apps will take some getting used to.
Microsoft offers a downloadable upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $40 from its website, but it's upgrade-only and doesn't include physical media. If you'd prefer a physical copy, Newegg has a selection of Windows 8 DVDs available:
Unlike the upgrade editions, the OEM versions don't require an older version of Windows to install. Oh, and for what it's worth, Newegg throws in a free copy of CyberLink PowerDVD 12 (worth $49.99 on its own) with OEM versions of Win8.
Update: Newegg tells us the OEM versions of Windows 8 linked above come with a $20 Newegg gift card. The card has no expiration date, but you won't get it until 30 days after your purchase, once the window for returning the product has closed. Orders placed between October 26 at midnight and October 28 at 11:59 PM should all qualify for the gift card.
The e-tailer also has Windows 8 PCs and tablets for sale.
The ARM-powered Asus Vivo Tab RT, which we wrote about earlier this week, is in stock and available for $599 with free shipping. Newegg doesn't mention the keyboard dock in the product listing, but Asus tells us the $599 price tag should cover both the tablet and the detachable keyboard dock. The device has a Tegra 3 processor, 32GB of storage, a 10.1" multi-touch display with a 1366x768 resolution, and Windows RT with Office RT Home & Student pre-installed.
Also, Newegg carries a touch-enabled ultrabook, Sony's Vaio T Series SVT13124CXS, for $799.99 shipped. That's the cheapest machine of its kind we see in stock right now. It's got a 13.3" touch screen, a Core i5-3217U processor, 4GB of memory, and a hybrid storage solution with a 32GB SSD and a 500GB mechanical drive. The laptop weighs 3.77 lbs and is only 0.75" thick, which is pretty portable. Given the Modern UI's propensity for touch input, I'd say it's worth getting a Win8 machine with a touch screen if you can.
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