I work from home (mostly), from coffee shops, libraries, and parks (frequently), or the front seat of my car on the side of a highway when a client needs something urgently (which might happen once or twice a month.)
Because I'm away from my desk so much, and plan to travel even more, I've made a big effort to transition away from desktops and laptops to tablets for as much of my work as possible. They're super convenient for the day-to-day tasks that I typically use computers for - mail and messaging, news, social media, appointments, and using the web - they're easier to carry, and I find they're easier to use in cramped or tricky spaces. But the realities of my work - graphic design, document production, as well as preparation for print - mean that I still need a desktop computer (preferably with a super-sized display) or, at a minimum, a capable laptop.
As a result, I usually carry even more gear: phone, tablet, laptop, camera plus all of the various cables, connectors, and chargers.
So I thought I'd try something different. I packed a phone, a camera and a Dell XPS 13 running Windows 10. It’s the first Dell computer I’ve used since recommending their desktops and laptops to family and friends back in the mid-90’s, and it’s the first time I’ve installed Windows on a daily work machine since the early builds of Windows 7.
My first impressions were excellent. Windows 10 feels snappy, very responsive and overall much more-polished than the earlier versions of Windows 7 that I’d last used. It only took a few minutes to organise my Office apps, Slack, Skype and photo tools the way I like them and after that the Start menu became a super-convenient way to access recently-used and frequently-used applications.
The Start menu’s live tiles are particularly handy: I found myself hitting the Windows key just to use the Start menu as a kind of dashboard for checking the weather and if there were any unread messages. The Dell's display is very crisp and bright, the screen was easy to read inside and outside. The Windows 10 Battery Saver feature makes it easy to control the way hardware uses power as well as which apps can run in the background when they're not in use. I was able to get a solid day's work out of the machine and when I was working in between stints of driving; two to three days between charges.
Windows 10’s ‘triple-swiping’ is a super-slick, intuitive and fast way to navigate between open applications and works much better than repeatedly hitting Alt-Tab or Win-Tab and selecting your app with the mouse or trackpad. That triple swipe became second nature very quickly and I missed it when used a Mac.
This brings me to an interesting discovery about using this touchscreen PC. In the Apple world, Operating Systems are optimised for either the desktop (MacOS) or mobile devices (iOS) and in theory it makes sense to keep the two separate. But as a long-time Mac user, Windows touchscreen concessions always seemed like a dodgy compromise. But here’s the thing: After using iOS tablets for extended periods of time, then going back to a MacBook, I found myself poking at the screen expecting it to work like its sibling iPad. The first time I did it, I felt like a bit of an idiot. I know I’m not the only one who’s had this experience. Windows 10, on the other hand, works the way you expect it to. You can tap a window to activate an app, or just drag it out of the way.
Crucially though, you can use touch for annotating PDFs and screen-shots which means no more flicking between tablet and laptop. I'd receive a PDF or a screenshot in email, mark it up directly on the screen with Windows 10’s built-in drawing and mark-up tools then either email my marked-up document back to the client or drop it in a Slack channel. It’s slick and actually a bit of a game-changer. For the first time in more than 10 years, I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Michael Hargreaves runs an Enterprise Content Management software business in Melbourne where he resides. This is the first of a 3 part series review for Windows 10. The second and third reviews can be found here.