Chapter 18: Do I need a new computer to run Windows 8?

Not unless it is very old. Windows 8 will run just fine on notebooks and desktops that have been purchased over the last couple of years. However, there are a few things that you need to be aware of. Windows 8's interface has a minimum screen resolution requirement of 1024x768 for running new-style apps (formerly called Metro apps), and 1366x768 in order for the Snap feature to be able to function — this is the feature that allows you to arrange two new-style apps on the screen at the same time.

Windows 8 has been optimised to run on touch-enabled devices, which means that computers with touchscreens will allow you to get the most out of the new operating system. In particular, new all-in-one touchscreen computers and tablet-convertible (or hybrid) notebooks are available that allow for up to 10-finger input to be registered on their screens, which is required for typing.

Notebook manufacturers have taken to creating a slew of new touchscreen-enabled Ultrabooks that run Windows 8. While there are still Ultrabooks that use the traditional clamshell design, many new models offer designs that employ flipping screens, sliding keyboards and removable screens that can be used as tablets independently of the keyboard base. Some of these designs are shown below.

Dell's Latitude 10 tablet, which runs Windows 8 Pro and has an Intel Atom SoC processor. It's designed for business users.
Dell's Latitude 10 tablet, which runs Windows 8 Pro and has an Intel Atom SoC processor. It's designed for business users.

Dell's XPS Duo 12 hybrid device has a screen that flips, which turns the Ultrabook into a tablet.
Dell's XPS Duo 12 hybrid device has a screen that flips, which turns the Ultrabook into a tablet.

Samsung's tablet device will have a keyboard dock.
Samsung's tablet device will have a keyboard dock.

The touchscreen interfaces on these computers can be used not only for performing gestures and navigating around the system, but also for using Windows 8's on-screen keyboard, giving you the ability to type on the screen rather than through a physical keyboard. The on-screen keyboard design has also been optimised: you can either use a conventional Qwerty layout, or you can use a split-screen keyboard that can be operated with your thumbs.

Basically, if you are in the market for a new computer now, consider purchasing one with a touchscreen, as this will enable you to get the absolute most out of Windows 8's new interface.

The good news is that Windows 8 will also work perfectly well on computers that don't have a touchscreen. You can use the touchpad or a mouse to navigate the system and execute the equivalent of the touchscreen gestures (see chapters two and three). However, newer notebooks that are designed for Windows 8 will have updated touchpads that will allow you to perform specific gestures in order to make the most of Windows 8's new interface.

More than implementing an updated driver, the new touchpads will be slightly different physically in that they will sit flush with the palm rest in order to more easily facilitate gestures such as swiping in from the edges towards the touchpad. One notebook that has such a touchpad is Lenovo's X1 Carbon. For desktop users, Microsoft offers a touch-based mouse that allows you to use gestures on its surface.

All-in-one computers with touchscreens have also undergone a little bit of a change due to Windows 8. There are newer models on the market now, which have hinges that allow their stands to fold so that the screen essentially becomes parallel with the floor. This orientation is said to be useful for playing games and viewing photos among other tasks. It's also being used to promote a more social environment for touchscreen PCs as it allows users to sit around the screen similar to sitting around a board game.

Dell's all-in-one Optiplex 9010 machine has a hinge that can make the screen lie flat.
Dell's all-in-one Optiplex 9010 machine has a hinge that can make the screen lie flat.

Proudly sponsored by Trend Micro

Previous chapter: What is Windows RT?

Next chapter: System requirements

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Elias Plastiras
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