Ouch. Consumer Reports is currently telling the spending public that they're better off not upgrading to Windows 8 for now, and to purchase a desktop or laptop with Windows 7 still installed if shopping for a new rig. The group names numerous reasons as to why consumers should avoid the touchy new OS, including a lack of touchscreen-based systems, quirky performance and more.
"Windows 7 generally received favorable reviews when it was released," Consumer Reports states. "A few years after its 2009 launch, there still haven't been a lot of complaints. If you've been happy with Windows 7 and even Windows XP up until now, there's no compelling reason to switch to Windows 8."
Donna L. Tapellini of Consumer Reports points out that Windows 8 is all about touch, and because there's a lack of touchscreen-based systems on the market, users will be reduced to using their mouse or touchpad. Without a touchscreen, reasons for upgrading from an older version or purchasing a new Windows 8 computer become less compelling, she said.
"Windows 8 doesn't have the familiar Start button for launching programs and shutting the system down," Tapellini adds. "Of course, it's not difficult to launch your applications from the Start screen with the Windows 8 tile interface. But then again, it's also not the same as clicking your Start button and seeing a list of programs. So if you prefer the old way, go with Windows 7."
She goes on to claim that drivers still need updating, that some Windows 8 models are still not performing as well as expected. "The need for vendors to update their Windows 8 drivers could explain the less-than-optimal performance," she added, seemingly backing up a previous report that Microsoft shipped Windows 8 half-baked and that it would catch up via patches post-release.
"You might be better off getting a Windows 7 computer for now, waiting for the dust to settle, and upgrading to Windows 8 later. Although we haven't yet noticed prices dropping on older Windows 7 models yet, there are still some Best Buys in our Ratings," Tapellini said.
One reason why consumers should upgrade to Windows 8 now is the cost, as the OS will be discounted for current Windows customers until the end of February. There are also lots of "under the hood" improvements despite claims of shifty drivers. As Tapellini points out, we're only two months into the release of Windows 8, and there's a lot of dust that needs to settle before the new OS will really shine for most customers.
As we've stressed in previous reports, there's really nothing to fear with Windows 8. Granted Microsoft and CEO Steve Ballmer have done nothing but shove the new interface in the face of every paying customer, the fact is that it can be shoved aside so that users can get back to the desktop they've come to know and love for years. There are small desktop interface changes that may throw many customers off – a lack of a Start menu being the largest hurdle – but eventually the new Windows will be unavoidable.
"If you are getting a touch screen and like the idea of using your computer in some ways that are similar to a tablet, Windows 8 could be for you," Tapellini said. "If you like the notion of "live" tiles that change as new e-mails or social-network updates come in, you'll appreciate the tile interface on Windows 8."
Consumer Reports has more than a dozen recommended laptops and four desktops for those interested in purchasing a new Windows 8 machine, all of which are listed here.