Download Windows 8.1 Preview: Start button returns, boot to desktop, better search and more
Microsoft launched today its first ever public release of Windows 8.1, confirming what we already thought we knew: the return of the Start button (although the Start menu remains absent), the ability to boot directly to the desktop, better search and lots of Metro / Modern UI enhancements throughout.
Bleeding-edge users can download Windows 8.1 Preview now, but it's only available via an .msu package which invokes the actual install from the Windows Store. Be prepared to wait a bit: at about 2.5GB, it's a hefty download. ISOs are expected to be released soon, but aren't yet available. We'll have the links posted as soon as they are, though.
Update: ISO files are now live. Download Windows 8.1 Preview here.
The preview includes a myriad of improvements and enhancements, namely a far more configurable Metro Start Screen, better system search, the inclusion of a Start button, IE11, Direct X 11.2, as well as numerous tweaks to Windows' core apps and various Modern UI elements.
Along for the ride are a number of lesser-known enhancements though, like deeper SkyDrive integration, an easily-personalized lock screen, the ability to answer Skype calls without unlocking your device and access to Control Panel's configuration options while in Metro. A lot of app improvements have been made too, including side-by-side app viewing, app updates finally becoming automatic and the lifting of Microsoft's "five device" installation limit.
As with any beta software, there are potential risks involved. Windows RT users, for example, won't be able to use System Restore while running the 8.1 preview. According to Microsoft though, Windows 8.1 Preview Release users will be able to upgrade to the final retail version when it arrives. Before you install it though, you may want to check out Microsoft's Windows 8.1 Preview FAQ and back up your personal files... just in case something goes awry.
The expected arrival date for the final, retail version remains unknown. However, the most recent rumor indicates it could arrive as early as August 1st, or more cleverly put: 8/1. Earlier rumors though suggested an October-ish launch.
The Microsoft Surface Pro offers the flexibility of a Windows 8-based tablet as well as an ultrabook-like computer. The Surface Pro is powered by a Core i5 with Intel HD Graphics 4000, 4GB of RAM, USB 3.0, and a miniDisplayPort. It also comes with a pressure-sensitive stylus with palm-rejection technology that magnetically clips to the charging port, and a Full HD (1920 x 1080) display instead of the 1366 x 768 variety on the ARM-based model.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 is powered by a dual-core Intel Atom Z2760 1.8GHz CPU with 2GB of RAM and 64GB of built-in storage. The ThinkPad 2 sports 10.1in touchscreen display with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. Last but not least, the ThinkPad 2 runs Windows 8 Pro.
The Yoga 13 features a third generation Intel Core i5-3317U processor clocked at 1.7GHz, 4GB of RAM, Intel HD Graphics 4000 and a 128GB solid state drive. True to its name, the Yoga 13 utilizes a 13.3-inch HD+ LED Multitouch display operating at 1,600 x 900 resolution.
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