Windows 11 Pro Build 21996.1000 - Review
I am not one to typically offer reviews on Products and have rarely done so in my technical career. I am making an exception this time and I believe you will soon see why!
Since Windows 3.1 and DOS 6.2 hit the market I have been an avid and constant Beta Tester (Insider) for Microsoft's plethora of OS's and Builds. In all that time, I have never found a single OS (or Build) from Microsoft that I could not break or find bugs in during routine usage. Nor have I ever found an OS or Build that I would stay is Stable and Feature Rich and Speedy. While I have routinely gotten two of those three from Microsoft OS's or Builds I have never gotten all three simultaneously.....well not until Windows 11 anyway!
Yeah that is a bold claim, one which many tech reviewers and beta testers are starting to realize and share....so let me make one thing perfectly clear:
WINDOWS 11 IS THE MOST STABLE, FEATURE RICH and SPEEDY Operating System Microsoft HAS EVER RELEASED! PERIOD!
Now let me reiterate it is:
- Ridiculously Stable (with all types of software, games and hardware) so much so I have only been able to find one Glitch so far and that Glitch has appeared in every version of Windows with Multimonitor Support since the first builds of Windows 7. When you turn off a monitor (or disconnect it) then reenable said monitor it doesn't remember the placement of Open (non-minimized) Windows or Desktops and will move them around to secondary monitor(s)....especially when running monitors on different connections (my main monitors is DP and secondary is HDMI).
- Extremely Feature Rich with all of Windows 10's Features, as well as numerous new features that all seem to work perfectly (I have never said about anything that "all new features work perfectly" until now). Try as I may I can't seem to break or find bugs with any of the new features. Not with the Combined Terminal/Powershell/Azure Cloud Shell, or with the new Task View or the new Widgets, or the new Microsoft Store. I can't even break or find any bugs with the older features carried over from Windows 10 like the buggy af (on Windows 10) Snipping Tool.
- Terrifically Speedy - while I must confess I have an extremely high end ($5000+) computer that with Windows 10 was insanely fast I can tell you that on Windows 10 I tweaked and overclocked the hell out of my system and outside of benchmarks and discerned no speed increase while doing so; however just the act of installing Windows 11 I noticed a pretty substantial increase in speed across the board. No tweaks, no overclocking just installing Windows 11 resulted in a significant increase in speed in all of the following areas:
- Booting the PC - I have substantial hardware in and connected to my PC and with Windows 10 a cold boot averaged 35 seconds due to the amount of hardware (and software enabled on boot). That dropped to under 10 seconds (with all the same hardware and software) upon installing Windows 11. My sister's older laptop also saw the same results!
- Windows Animations - On Windows 10 the only real way to speed up the system that was even close to noticeable was to disable all of Windows Animations and even then it only resulted in about a 3-5% increase in performance. However, on Windows 11 with all the old Windows 10 animations enabled as well as all the new Windows 11 animations enabled there is NO REDUCTION IN SPEED and there doesn't appear to be any system resources in use when there are no animations active like Windows 10 suffered from. Furthermore, when animations are activated they are instant and smooth unlike Windows 10 which were visibly slow, shaky even on the absolute best hardware.
- Application Load Times - One of my biggest complaints with Windows 10 was how long some apps/games took to load. For example LibreOffice's Launcher would take almost 1 full minute to load on Windows 10 regardless of hardware or configuration. On stock Windows 11 it loads in under 10 seconds. This appears to be an "across the board" improvement as I can't find anything that hangs on load or takes more than 10 seconds to load. Not apps, utilities, games....NOTHING takes longer!
- UI Changes - Will I confess myself nor anyone I know like the new UI (Taskbar and Start Menu specifically) it is ridiculously stable and everything works exactly as intended every time. Furthermore, unlike all previous versions of Windows on Windows 11 there are some customizations of both the Taskbar and Start Menu. You can reposition the Taskbar from the default Center to either Left or Right when it is placed on Top or Bottom of the screen as well as from Center to Top or Bottom when it is placed on either side of the screen. Making it function (and look) more like Windows 10's Task Bar. My only real complaint is the Start Menu is more like Windows 8.1 meaning it takes two clicks to see all apps then they are in List Format instead of Grid View (icons) like Windows 95, NT, 2000, 2003, 7 and 10 were and currently there is no way to restore the Start Menu to a Single Menu like Windows 10 had.
Other notable things I have noticed about Windows 11 include:
- Everything I have thrown at it designed for Windows 7, 8, 8.1 or 10 has not only worked, but has been faster, more stable and required ZERO TWEAKS or CONFIGURATION CHANGES to get it function properly!
- Administrative Tools like Event Viewer, Device Manager, Disk Manager while looking basically untouched seem to be far more stable and faster in both loading and operations.
- Prior to installing Windows 11 I mounted the ISO in Windows 10 and it took nearly 3 minutes to mount and be usable. On Windows 11 that same ISO mounts and is usable (like a DVD) in less than 2 seconds. I don't know about you but that is an insane increase in speed. That is like going from Horse and Buggy to Warp Speed (your welcome Star Trek Nerds - like me). I have also noticed pretty substantial increases in speed when adding new hardware like External Drives as they install, configure and become available for use in seconds instead of minutes as was often the case on Windows 10.
- Windows Update - on Windows 10 it routinely took 3-5 minutes to "Check for Updates" but on Windows 11 it will perform that task typically in 10-30 seconds. The installation of Updates also seems to be drastically improved, at least in Speed and Reliability all though many of them still require a reboot (for little to no obvious reasoning).
Other new features, I am unable to test include:
- Massive new Touch Features - while primarily intended for tablets (like the Microsoft Surface) I have noticed (through research) that those features now work flawlessly on any device with a touch screen including All-in-One PC's, Laptops, Desktops with Touch Screen Monitors and even with 3rd party graphics pads work flawlessly with virtually no effort other than plugging them in.
- Azure Cloud Shell - While I have tested the new combined Terminal/Powershell I do not use (or even know how to use) Azure Cloud Shell so I haven't tested that part of the new combined Terminal. I can say that the Terminal and Powershell are much more responsive and stable than in any other build I have ever tested of Windows.
- Augmented Reality - while I have yet to see anyone else talk about the Augmented Reality features built into Windows 11 (or even Windows 10 for that matter) I know there have been improvements and possibly new features built into Windows 11's AR.
- Windows Hello - I never used Windows Hello on any device I own as I keep the area my PC is in extremely Dim so as to reduce eye-strain but I have no doubt there have been speed improvements that I just haven't tested or seen.
Other Observations about Windows 11 include:
- If you attempt to do a clean install of Windows 11 (not advised for reasons that will soon become obvious) it will require you to have a motherboard with the hardware feature TPM 2.0. I do not currently know of the existence of any hardware with that feature. Additionally TPM 2.0 must be enabled to do a clean install. However if you Upgrade Windows 10 to Windows 11 (from inside Windows 10) it doesn't seem to care what version of TPM you have as long as it is enabled in the BIOS. To the best of my knowledge the Asrock X570 Taichi motherboard I am running is TPM 1.0. When I upgraded the first time it failed with an error stating TPM 2.0 is required. After a reboot to UEFI and enabling TPM (no version number listed in bios or manufacturer specifications) and then returning to Windows 10 the install of Windows 11 was flawless and fast (under 10 minutes). My sister's laptop already had TPM enabled but again I can't find any version number for it anywhere but Windows 11 upgraded with no issues and took only about 15 minutes (4 year old laptop).
- Login Screen - On Windows 10 the Login Screen would frequently get stuck on boot up and would glitch or require a reboot to actually get the wallpaper to go away so you could enter your username/pin. I noticed similar situations when trying to access the Network or Power options from the Login Screen. I also noticed that even with the Login Screen did perform properly it was often slow and buggy and some times wouldn't reveal the desktop after logging in. I have not been able to reproduce any of those bugs/glitches on Windows 11 and believe me I have tried.
- Networking - while I haven't tested it extensively I just noticed that when I enabled Network Discovery it instantly found every single device (with network discovery enabled) on my Network which is a mixture of both Wired and Wireless devices. On Windows 10 it would take 5 minutes or longer once enabling Network Discovery and would never find all my devices due to the Mixed Network we employ.
- Initial Launch Speeds - So on Windows 10 the First-Run of many applications takes a bloody long time. Especially programs like Libre Office and Blender. I didn't have Blender installed (any longer) on Windows 10 because it was so damn slow. After installing Windows 11 I reinstalled Blender while testing another new Windows feature and just did a First-Run which took less than 5 seconds to be usable. On Windows 10 that would have taken a solid 2-3 minutes and likely crashed the first attempt as it often did. I also tested this on Adobe Photoshop Express which on Windows 10 took over 1 minute to open on First Run but on Windows 11 was so fast I couldn't even start counting (less than half a second).
- Defrag and Optimize Drives tool is insanely faster, more stable and works flawlessly even when doing multiple drives (of differing architecture) simultaneously. I just tested on my system and optimized all drives at the same time including the: NVME Gen4 boot drive, NVME Gen3 Data Drive, and three Mechanical HDD's. All other Windows Tools>Administrative Tools seem to work much better, load faster and be more stable as well. Including the new File Manager based Control Panel>All Control Panel Items>Windows Tools menu!
- Resource Allocation/Management - one of my biggest complaints with Windows has always been that it's resource allocation was absolute dog shit. All open applications utilized resources even when inactive or minimized. While that is still the case (to some extent) Windows 11 does a much much better job of assigning resources to the Active Applications and minimizing resources to inactive applications. I am a multitasking whore who usually has 10+ apps running, 10+ browser tabs open and usually one or more games open all simultaneously and it created constant bugs and slow downs with frequent crashes on Windows 10. That same behavior and usage is rock stable on Windows 11.
- Windows Store - while the Windows Store looks virtually identical to it's Windows 10 counterpart I can tell you it AINT. She be fast as hell now, rock stable and Downloading/Installing Updates via the Windows Store is insanely fast and stable now.
- You can now link your iPhone with Windows 11 (previously only available to Android Phones)
- Under Settings>Personalization there is now a section called "Device Usage" which lets you optimize windows (with a few clicks) for usage in Gaming, Family, Creativity, Schoolwork, Entertainment and Business. You can turn each optimization or or off with a single click.
- While Windows 10 supported HDR Video for local playback (downloaded or on Blu-Ray) it lacked proper support for Streaming HDR Video. Windows 11 now has built in support for Streaming HDR Video found under Settings>Apps>Video Playback
- Previous baked-in features of Windows like MAIL that couldn't be removed/uninstalled now can be!
- Sync - Found under Settings>Accounts>Sync your Settings can now sync (with your Microsoft Account) your saved passwords, language settings and virtually all Windows Settings/Personalization's so that if you ever have to do a clean install those will be restored during Setup when you login with your Microsoft Account (Xbox Account, Developer Account, etc.)
- WinGet Package Manager - finally Windows gets a Unix/Linux style command line (Powershell) Package Manager that works....for the most part. It is capable of finding and downloading/installing (or uninstalling) many software programs from the Windows Store as well as third parties. It can upgrade most programs installed as well. You can add sources to WinGet similar to Linux and can even access "settings" for many of the installed Apps through WinGet as well.
- Improved Xbox Integration - If you go to Settings>Gaming>Xbox Networking while your Xbox is turned on and on the same network Windows 11 will automatically find it, configure networking and enable Streaming of Content from your Xbox to your PC.
Bugs/Glitches that I have found:
- While Optimizing Drives you can close the Optimize Drives utility without interrupting the process, however all attempts to access Settings will fail until the optimizations are completed.
- WinGet has some issues with certain Applications Installs/Upgrades like flat refusing to even run the installer for LibreOffice even though it is in the repository and will download successfully as either an install or upgrade.
Overall this is hands down the best Operation System ever released by Microsoft and considering it is a very early LEAKED BETA I am overjoyed at the future possibilities of Windows 11.