Back in the day, a new version of Windows would launch about as often as the US elected presidents. It was exciting to see updates because of how infrequent and dramatic they’d be. However, when Windows 10 was unveiled to the public in September 2014, that all changed. And, now that Windows 10 has reached almost 700 million users, it’s safe to say it changed for the better.
After its initial launch, Windows 10 would not only take over as Microsoft’s only operating system, but as an ongoing project that would receive four major overhauls in the following years. Microsoft is even harnessing the power of AI to deliver these updates more quickly and efficiently. These updates include the celebratory Anniversary Update in 2016, the creative-focused Creators Update of April 2017, the Fall Creators Update of October 2017, and, of course the Windows 10 April 2018 Update (which has had some problems).
Back at Microsoft Build 2018, we got a glimpse at some of the features coming to Windows 10 Redstone 5, the next major update to Windows 10. These include the exciting new Sets feature – which will change the way you multitask on your PC. It will also bring a robust ‘Your Phone’ app, which will let you use your phone from your PC. There will also be some long awaited updates to Windows Mixed Reality, Game Bar and Touch Keyboard.
Windows 10 devices are also more versatile than ever before, thanks to the new Windows 10 S Mode. And, we’ve seen evidence that Microsoft is going to make 10 S Mode even more user friendly by including a switch in the Settings app. If you want an even more secure mode, you may be in luck – there has been some speculation that we may soon see a Windows 10 Lean mode.
It’s tools like these that makes Windows 10 evolve over time, with features and platform support that extend far beyond the traditional PC. Just look at Windows 10 on ARM – it’s making waves with devices like the HP Envy x2. In the future, we could see more modes like Lean and S Mode that adapt Windows 10 based on the hardware being used.
Unfortunately, the days of the free Windows 10 upgrade are over, and if you’re using an old version of Windows, Windows 10 Home will set you back $119 (£119, AU$199), while Windows 10 Pro will set you back $199 (£219, AU$339).
After first diving deeper into the major beats of the Windows 10 April Update Update, let’s determine for ourselves if it’s worth the price.
What's new in the April Update?
The most major update you stand to gain from updating to the Windows 10 April Update is the new Timeline feature. This allows you to go back up to 30 days on your computer to locate missing files, documents or projects. This will also work on other platforms, as long as you’re using the Edge browser or Office 365.
Microsoft has also included Focus Assist, which will let you silence all notifications so you can get work done. And, when you’re done with whatever you need to do, it will give you a detailed summary of everything you missed while you were, well, focusing.
And, in the Windows 10 April Update, Microsoft has upped the game on dictation tools, allowing you to enter dictation mode in any text field with by simply pressing Win-key + H.
These major updates exist on top of more iterative updates to the Edge browser and small aesthetic updates to Windows 10’s Fluent Design.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the Windows 10 April Update is facing some problems, but we’ve come up with a guide on how to troubleshoot them.
What’s new in the Fall Creators Update?
To be frank, anyone with fear of missing out should have already updated to the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.
Yet, in spite of that belief, Intel might suggest otherwise, at least for the time being. With the Meltdown and Spectre processor vulnerabilities overtaking much of the conversation in consumer technology, the Santa Clara chipmaker has warned against opting into automatic Windows 10 updates because of the risk it currently poses to everyday users.
What you stand to gain from the latest major version update of Windows 10 starts with ‘Quiet Hours,’ a do-not-disturb feature that was recently revamped to allow for more in-depth personalization of when notifications should be turned off. The feature also turns on automatically for users sporting build 17074 or newer playing full-screen games or duplicating their displays.
Also highlighted in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update are a slew of enhancements for tablet and 2-in-1 laptop users wielding styluses. You can now, for instance, doodle from directly within PDF files or Word docs themselves, complemented by a new ‘Find My Pen’ feature that tracks where your stylus last touched the screen. That’s made better (looking) by visual improvements made possible by the Fluent Design system, which aims to modernize select facets of the UI.
However, more meaningful changes, like a more combative approach to ransomware, are appreciated as well. Specifically, the Fall Creators Update makes room for a ‘Controlled Folder Access’ toggle, letting you preclude unauthorized apps from getting their hands on your files.
Eye Control, too, has made its way into the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, as has a Mixed Reality Viewer. Without the necessity to purchase one of the company’s affordable Windows Mixed Reality headsets – also compatible with the OS – you can now integrate 3D objects virtually into your home or workspace using your webcam or USB camera.
And, iterating on the Paint 3D software introduced in the spring Creators Update, Fall Creators Update users can take the 3D models they’ve created and integrate them into outside applications, such as the suite of Office 365 programs. Thanks to AirDrop-inspired Near Share, you can also go as far as to share them with other PCs in your area.
On a less productive note, the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update hones in on the fact that, according to Redmond’s sources, more people now watch games than actually play them, though 200 million people are still playing them on Windows 10. In the Fall Creators Update, Mixer, Microsoft’s answer to Twitch and YouTube Gaming, will be even faster.
There are plenty of non-gamers that will certainly enjoy the new ‘Memories’ and ‘Stories’ portion of the Windows 10 Photos app. With these new features in tow, you can modify images like never before by adding to them 3D effects, transitions, Ink and even video.
So what’s next for Windows 10? Well, for starters, Windows 10 S – the lightweight alternative to Windows 10 Home and Pro announced last year alongside the student-focused Surface Laptop – may soon be getting a name change. That’s according to Microsoft watchdogs at Neowin and Thurrott whose sources claim that Windows 10 S will soon be known as Windows 10 S Mode.
In turn, being a ‘mode’ rather than a full and separate release, Windows 10 Home and Pro users will have to unlock access to the x86 and x64 programs excluded from Windows 10 S Mode. While it will allegedly cost nothing to unlock a Windows 10 Home license moving from Windows 10 S Mode, those looking to get the most out of Windows 10 Pro will have to shell out $49.
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 re-allocate 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. 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 by purchasing a streaming platform: Beam. In reality an acquisition made by the firm recently, Beam was 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. Microsoft has since renamed this streaming platform as Mixer.
Mixer’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 Mixer from Windows 10.
Like Game Mode, Mixer 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 Mixer viewers worldwide. That’s after creating a Mixer 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 Mixer, and broadcasters know how complex this can be, you can only broadcast to Mixer. 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 Mixer 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