Windows 10 has been with us for some time, nearly two years, and has no doubt steadily improved over that time. But, the Creators Update beginning to roll out April 11 is, if not the largest, the most exciting set of changes to hit the operating system (OS) yet.
We're a long way from Windows 8 now, and Microsoft seems to have got the hang of mixing the traditional keyboard-and-mouse driven desktop environment with touch features for the growing number of tablets and 2-in-1 PCs. The vast improvements to Windows Ink in this particular update are testament to that.
This release marks Microsoft continuously making good on its “Windows as a Service” approach to developing Windows 10 beyond that first release. The Anniversary Update of last summer refined the Start screen and Action Center interface and brought improvements to its Edge browser, and introduced the Ink Workspace, concentrating on the daily features you likely use the most.
The Creators Update, however, brings more new features and functions than you can keep up with, but focused on areas that revolve around creating or enjoying content. Whether that be books, gaming, drawing or even 3D modeling, Windows 10 now does those things way better.
Of course, some key tools, like the Edge browser and Cortana have received upgrades, too. And, Windows 10 now finally gets a night-time screen mode in Night Light. Microsoft has also brought about major improvements to security and privacy (or at least transparency) in Windows 10.
These changes continue to further Microsoft’s mission for Windows 10 to be the operating system for everything and everyone, though they’re not yet coming to Windows 10 Mobile.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the major beats of the Windows 10 Creators Update.
In an effort to make its business model more digestible, Microsoft is changing the way it sells Windows 10 and Office 365 to enterprise customers. Instead of selling the two products separately, the company is devising a combined product simply called Microsoft 365.
In the Windows 10 Mobile department, Microsoft is apparently working on a new “mobile-like” device that’s currently being passed around Redmond’s corporate offices. Interestingly enough, the project is being spearheaded by the Microsoft HoloLens team meaning some VR features could be in tow.
Lastly, Windows 10’s default search engine, Bing, is apparently catching up with Google in the US and UK, having captured 33% and 26% of the market, respectively. The search engine, according to MS Power User, is en route to pulling in $5 billion (around £3.9 billion, AU$6.6 billion) this fiscal year.
System Reqs and Versions
This review pertains to the Home and Pro versions of Windows 10. For detailed Windows 10 system requirements and the various versions, check out this website.
Getting the smallest – but perhaps most welcome – change out of the way, Microsoft’s answer to Night Shift on macOS Sierra is an effective and welcome feature for people that tend to use computers at all hours of the night.
What’s even better than competing solutions is how you can adjust the tone of the color change in addition to the standard setting of whether the mode kicks in at sunset local time or activates within set hours.
The coolest-sounding feature of the major Windows 10 changes in the Creators Update doesn’t disappoint. When seeing it firsthand, creating three dimensional pieces of art truly is as simple as Microsoft demonstrated it on stage at the update’s reveal event.
Then again, it’s clear that this app has the capacity to allow for quite a bit of complexity in what can be created, too. Most of that simplicity comes down to how intuitively the app communicates three dimensions in a two-dimensional space. Clever, minimalist use of sliders and other toggles allow you to shift your creation’s position(s) on either axis.
Of course, a wide selection of pre-loaded creation templates – like goldfish – will help newcomers out immensely. Naturally, it wouldn’t be Paint without the ability to freehand in 3D, and thus comes the desire to share those custom creations. That’s where Remix.com, Microsoft’s online portal for sharing these Paint 3D projects, comes into play.
The way in which Paint 3D communicates how to create in a new dimension so easily for the average user, yet offers the depth to please them as they increase in skill, could do a lot of good for the 3D printing scene, as well as VR and so many other fields further down the road.
Granted, this is by no means a professional-grade 3D modeling app – this is purely meant for the vast majority of Windows 10 users. (Though, you can export anything created in Paint 3D as 3D-ready FBX or 3MF files for 3D printers.)
Regardless, we’re already impressed with what Paint 3D can do, and only hope it grows from here. Oh, and don’t worry, the old Paint remains untouched.
Microsoft has been beating the drum of the PC gaming renaissance since the debut of Windows 10, but has ramped up the tempo with the past few major updates. In keeping with the crescendo, the Creators Update will likely have the biggest impact on gamers of any gaming-focused Windows 10 improvements to date.
The most exciting, but least proven, feature to come in this update is Game Mode, a new toggle that’s now part of the Windows 10 Game Bar (which too has seen some upgrades, but more on that in a moment). Game Mode tells your system to reallocate CPU and GPU hardware resources to prioritize the gaming application at hand when it’s the active, full-screen application in use.
The results, as Microsoft claims, are steadier frame rates than before, notably with games that particularly tax a given system’s resources.
We’ve already covered how Windows 10 Game Mode works in great detail, and will test the extent of its impact on gaming once the software is final starting April 11. Though, Microsoft already warns that Game Mode brings the most benefit to systems that aren’t absolutely optimized for gaming.
Microsoft is also looking to seriously up the reach of, and community around, games played on Windows 10 with a new feature called Beam. In reality an acquisition made by the firm recently, Beam is a PC game streaming and broadcasting platform similar to that of Twitch, replete with its own streaming network via web browser, converted into a baked-in Game Bar feature.
Beam’s major claim to fame here, though, is that it maintains sub-second latency from the broadcaster’s executions in-game to those moments being displayed to your PC screen via stream. In other words, for broadcasters, this reduction in the time between what you’re doing in-game and your viewers seeing it makes interacting either way that much more interesting.
And that’s not to mention how dead simple Microsoft has made it to stream to Beam (teehee) from Windows 10.
Like Game Mode, Beam is, again, a function of the Game Bar. Upon pressing that dedicated broadcasting button on the Game Bar, and then just a few clicks and toggles after that, you’re broadcasting to Beam viewers worldwide. That’s after creating a Beam account, as well as an Xbox Live account if you haven’t already, of course.
However, there’s an issue with this. While we’ve seen firsthand how simple it is to get streaming using Beam, and broadcasters know how complex this can be, you can only broadcast to Beam. Of course, this makes sense, but aren’t the type of people that would benefit most from super-simple streaming more interested in broadcasting to Facebook or somewhere else their friends are more likely to be?
A Microsoft engineer seemed to think this was a good point when we made it to him just after demonstrating Beam for us recently – so, hey, maybe that dream will come true.
Ultimately, Microsoft has just made gaming a much bigger consideration of the Windows 10 environment. It even has its own section in the Windows 10 Settings pane: “Gaming”.
The new set of, well, settings allows you to tweak how the Game Bar is summoned or whether it’s on at all, as well as customize keyboard shortcuts to activate its various functions. There are also toggles for Game DVR, like changing save location, enabling background recording, and setting frame rate and video quality among others.
Rounding out the Gaming settings are broadcasting controls like audio quality, volumes, which camera to use and more – the Game Mode setting is just an activation toggle.
First reviewed: July 2015
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this review