Windows 8.1 Review

  • Windows 8.1 vs Apple Mavericks review: we put Mac OS X 10.9 and Microsoft Windows 8.1 to the test.

  • Which is best: Apple Mavericks or Windows 8.1? Our review has all the information you need

  • Which operating system has the best new features... Windows 8.1 or Mavericks?

Both Apple and Microsoft fans have reason to cheer. Both have been given a substantial free update to their operating system. And both OSes offer a skillful feature upgrade; but which free update is best… Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks or Windows 8.1?

We’re going to take a look at the two main operating system, and give our recommendations. Both Microsoft and Apple seem to tempting customers in very different ways these days. The days of Apple creating “Redmond… Start your Photocopiers” banners to taunt its Microsoft rival are over: Microsoft Windows 8.1 is nothing if not original.

But is Windows 8 popular? The general consensus is that it’s not gone down well. Apple, conversely, is thriving at the moment, and Mac OS X just keeps getting better and more popular, as more people leave Windows and buy into Apple’s ecosystem. So is Windows 8.1 compelling enough to reverse that trend?

Let’s take a look at some of the key features of Mavericks vs Windows 8.1:

See also

Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks review

Mavericks missing features

Five reasons to upgrade to Mavericks

10 Hidden features in Mavericks

What is Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks?

Mavericks is Apple’s latest operating system. It is a refresh that aims to improve battery life on mobile devices, make working with multiple displays easier, and improve security with the new iCloud Keychain. Apple creates a wholly separate operating system for its mobile devices called iOS, and uses iCloud to sync data and documents between the two.

Mavericks is largely the same design as before, but Apple has removed some of the more heavy-handed skeuomorphic design (fake wood and leather effect apps) from Mac OS X, in particular the Calendar and Contacts apps have had a refresh that is more in line with the rest of the operating system.

See: Why flat design beats skeuomorphism

Mac OS X Mavericks

Mac OS X Mavericks: key features

Here are some of the key features in Mac OS X Mavericks:

  • Multi screen. Mavericks enables you to work on two monitors effectively at the same time. Clicking on a window in a second monitor moves the focus, and menu bar to that display. You can also run full screen apps on one display and windowed apps in another.

  • Battery life. Mavericks features powerful energy saving technology, such as App Nap, which makes it ideal for the new generation of laptops.

  • Books and Maps. Apps that are popular in iOS are now integrated into Mac OS X. Maps in particular offers location information that works throughout the operating system.

  • iCloud keychain. You can now store all your passwords (and even generate random passwords) in iCloud Keychain and access them across all devices. It should make online web passwords much safer.

  • New-look Calendar and Contacts. Say goodbye to the fake teak and leather effects that plagued some apps.

  • Tabbed Finder & Tags. You can now tab Finder windows and add tags to all kinds of files, folders and documents.

  • Safari Shared Links. Safari has a raft of new features including the new Shared Links that sources all of the links your friends are sharing in Twitter and allows you to browse them in Safari.

  • LinkedIn. The popular business social media site now integrates with your contacts app.

What is Windows 8.1

Windows 8 was a somewhat jarring update to Microsoft’s market-leading operating system. It aims to unify the operating system from both desktop computers, laptops, touch screen laptops, tablets and mobile phones.

Windows 8.1 scales back some of the more drastic changes introduced in Windows 8. In particular it brings back the Start button and enables users to boot into the Desktop instead of the Start Window. This hopefully makes the system a lot less confusing to use.

Windows 8.1: Key features

Here are some of the key features to look out for in Window 8.1:

  • The Start button. Removing this never struck anybody as a good idea, and Microsoft quickly saw the sense to bring it back.

  • Boot to desktop. The Start Window, which displays apps and other notifications as square panes is no longer the default view. Users can now choose to start in the old-fashioned desktop, which might not be as fancy but is a far more sensible way to work on a computer with a large monitor.

  • SkyDrive. SkyDrive is a bit like Dropbox only far cheaper and it’s completely integrated inside Windows. You get 7GTB for free and an extra 20GB for just £6 per year. In Windows 8.1 it’s integrated into the system so you don’t need a separate app and is fully searchable inside Smart Search (the Windows equivalent of Spotlight).

  • Smart search. Search now combines results from the computer with SkyDrive from the content inside your apps and from the web.

  • Snap Views. We’ve always like Snap View (where you can snap windows to the left of right of a screen in Windows). You can now snap windows to a third, half, or two thirds of the screen. So it’s easier to arrange windows like tiles on the display.

  • Windows 8.1 SkyDrive

What is Windows 8.1 RT?

To complicate matters Microsoft makes two version of Windows. Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 RT. Windows 8.1 is the full version of Windows that runs on regular Intel or AMD CPUS (known as x86 or x64 hardware).

Windows RT is a lightweight version designed to run on ARM-powered tablets, such as the Microsoft Surface 2 (But not the Surface Pro 2, which runs Intel).

Windows RT is a stripped down version of Windows that only runs software from the Windows Store, so you can’t run key software on it (like Adobe Creative Suite). The exception is that Microsoft has created Microsoft Office 2013 which runs on both versions of Windows.

Mavericks vs Windows 8: Price

On the surface it’s pretty easy to look at the price structure between Mac OS X Mavericks and Windows:

  • Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks is free for all Macs dating back to 2007

  • Windows 8.1 is a free update for owners of Windows 8. Or a £99 purchase fee if you’re looking to buy a copy.

On the surface both operating systems are free upgrades. Although Mavericks is actually free for virtually all Mac owners, whereas Windows 8.1 is only free to people who’ve already paid to upgrade to Windows 8.

So Windows 8.1 is really a £99 upgrade. It helps to remember that Apple makes a healthy profit from its hardware lines, that you have to use, when considering pricing between the two operating system.

See: Mavericks now free: video report

Why Mavericks is better than Windows 8.1

Mac OS X Mavericks is still a lot less confusing that Windows. Even people familiar with Windows 7 and earlier will probably find it easier to use Mac OS X Mavericks than the new version of Windows itself.

Because Apple hasn’t spent time faffing around with the interface like Microsoft, it’s spent a lot of time lately making Mac OS X work better. This is paying off with an operating system that is more secure than Windows, easier to use, and much better optimised. Parts of Mavericks, such as the Safari web browser, are manifestly faster than Windows. And Apple is serious about battery life, meaning that MacBook laptops often run 10 hours or more on a single charge.

Mac OS X Mavericks

Why is Windows 8.1 is better than Mavericks

Say what you like about Microsoft and its commercial Surface tablets (and you can especially note how few they've sold) but Microsoft is serious about bringing desktop-level computing to portable handheld devices. Microsoft seems to genuinely want to bridge the gap between tablet and computer in a way that neither Apple or Google seem to care about.

Apple’s church-and-state approach to Mac OS X and iOS certainly seems to have the market behind it, but there are things you can do on a Windows RT tablet that you simply can’t on an iPad. You can run Microsoft Office for a start, and if you have an x86-based Surface 2 Pro tablet you can run Adobe Photoshop and other key software on a tablet.

Beyond that Microsoft’s SkyDrive with its file integration is a nice alternative to Apple’s Documents in the Cloud approach (which we’re still waiting to see if it makes any more sense as time progresses). and we are interested by the seamless combination of file, cloud file, and online Bing search. And there are the usual Microsoft vs Apple arguments: gaming, high-end video and 3D editing software availability, workplace compatibility, and so on.

Windows 8.1

Buying advice

Obviously you could just buy a Mac and copy of Parallels Desktop (or another virtualisation program) and just run both. But it’s interesting to see what Microsoft is up to with Windows, it has a plan for integrating the desktop computer, with tablets and the cloud that is markedly different to Apple’s plan.

At the moment that plan doesn’t seem to be paying off for Microsoft. Windows 8.1 is far less confusing than Windows 8, but still not as straight-forward as running Mavericks and a separate iOS device like an iPad. But as time marches on and tablets start to wholly replace laptops as the work tool of choice, Microsoft’s approach could increasingly start to make sense. For now we’ll stick with Mavericks though.