For the first time since 2015, I am writing a post here at ClintonFitch.com on a Windows PC. It is not that I necessarily planned to move away from my MacBook and MacOS, far from it actually. Nor does it mean that I’ve given up on Chrome OS. My trusty Acer Chromebook 14 is sitting next to me as I write. But the reality of my day-to-day job kept pushing me ever closer to this eventuality. We are a pure Microsoft shop so while I could somewhat get away with it on MacOS, it was becoming increasingly difficult to leverage Chrome OS.
Add to this my general unhappiness with MacOS Sierra. It was okay but it never really performed well on my 2016 MacBook Pro. I had stability issues with it (even after a complete wipe of the system) and, going back to my point about my day-to-day job, Office apps were never really all that great. Sure, Office 2016 is way, way better than 2011 for Mac but there was still a feature gap between it and the Windows version. This was especially true of Outlook.
So I made the jump. Having updated my wife’s Lenovo ThinkCentre to version 1703 several weeks ago and playing with it, I was impressed with how far Windows 10 had come along. It was smooth, it was stable and it was usable. My last experience with Windows was 8.1 and it was, in a word, disastrous. It was everything that you didn’t want in an OS. I assumed Windows 10 was more-or-less the same beast. I was wrong, oh so very wrong.
My Huawei Matebook
I’ll start with outlining the hardware that I purchased to move to Windows 10. I decided very early on as I was contemplating my move that I wanted a 2-in-1 style device and while the Microsoft Surface Pro was certainly on the list, I was unwilling to commit to that price point. This, after all, was a bit of an
experiement and I really wanted to keep things under $1000. I did through the Huawei Matebook. It’s a 12″ tablet with an optional (but not really, you are going to need it) portfolio style keyboard that connect to the tablet through a POGO connection. It is the 2016 model but I wasn’t overly worried about it given the specifications of the hardware. I knew it would get me through the next 2-3 years if I decided this move was right for me.
I’m not going to review the Matebook in this post. I will however be posting one over the course of the next few weeks. In the meantime, I highly recommend reading Daniel Rubino’s review over at Windows Central. It is thorough and objective. I will, however, share what I purchased so you know the equipment I’m using for now.
- Huawei Matebook Signature Edition – Intel m5 with 8GB RAM and 256GB Storage – $699
- Huawei Matebook Folio Keyboard – $64
- Huawei MateDock – $54
- Huawei MatePen Stylus – $52
All in, it was around $880 with taxes and shipping (I paid to get one day shipping). I then paid an additional $99.99 to do an in-place upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Professional. The only reason I did this was I needed to be able to add my machine to my corporate domain and I needed Bitlocker. 99% of users won’t need it so don’t pay for it unless you do. So, all in, I ended up at $1,015 for the total purchase, just slightly over my $1000 budget. I’ll skip Starbucks a few times this week and we’ll call it even.
Design wise, the Matebook is awesome. The display on the 12″ tablet is stunningly beautiful, the keyboard is responsive and easy to use and it is very responsive to touch inputs and multitasking. I have no problem recommending it if you are looking for a Surface Pro style device but don’t want to spend the money for it. Yes there are some drawbacks: Battery life isn’t fantastic (about 6 hours on average for me), plus, you all-but have to buy the Keyboard and MateDock to really make this a functional device in a work environment.
First Boot Up… and Updates, Updates, Updates
When I received my Matebook and got it setup, I was anxious to get going. After all, a new toy was in the house. Must. Touch. The. Shiny. Toy. So I fire it up, sign in with my Microsoft account and… updates.
Piles of updates.
I fully admit that there was a moment of doubt when the first 45 minutes the device was running was spent with a blue screen for updates (not death). But equally, I knew this was coming. There have been a massive number of updates, big and small, to Windows 10 since the Matebook was released and that includes getting up to the 1703 build, A.K.A Redstone 2. So I was patient and let the updates flow.
Here is the thing that I forgot about those minor updates to Windows. There was a time in the history of Windows that any update required a reboot. That meant stopping whatever you were doing to “feed the machine”. Those days are gone. Yes, for major updates and deep level security improvements you will have to reboot but that’s true of any OS. For the day-to-day updates, no reboot is usually required. In fact, Windows 10 can be setup for those reboot requirements to happen when your machine is idle so it doesn’t impact your day-to-day.
After all the updates were completed, I was ready to get rolling. I went to the Microsoft Store, downloaded a lot of apps I wanted or needed and began the process of setting up the machine to my liking. I took my time to be honest because it was as much tinkering as it was productivity. In the end, I’m happy with the look and feel of how I have it setup but I’m sure I’ll tweak more along the way.
Let’s Talk About Apps, Shall We?
One of the single biggest knocks against Windows 10 has been the apps, or lack thereof, in the Microsoft Store. I get it. This was the fundamental reason that I left Windows Phone 10 and moved to Android a few years ago. But equally, I think it is a different store on a Windows PC.
First, the number of apps available and the quality of those apps have dramatically improved over the past few years, especially with the introduction of Windows Universal Apps. These apps run on Windows 10 anything pretty much and it means apps like Facebook and Instagram, Twitter and Flipboard all work great on a PC, tablet or phone.
Second, and this may get me in trouble, is the question of if you really need apps on a PC? The reality is that most of the social things I do, I’m either doing them on my phone or in a browser. I don’t really need a Facebook app. Sure, it’s handy but if it went away on my PC tomorrow, I doubt I’d miss it. I think this is the question that you have to ask yourself on if it is a big deal. For me, the vast majority of my non-work related stuff happened on my phone or my browser on my Mac. I didn’t have apps then so why all of the sudden do I need them now? I don’t.
I appreciate that everyone’s mileage varies on this topic and it is a favorite bashing point of Windows 10 for those who don’t like the platform. But I’m not sure it is a valid argument for the majority of users out there.
Microsoft Edge is a Proper Browser
I will fully admit that I’m a Chrome guy. I loved Chrome on my MacBook. It was fast, stable and was a quantum leap ahead of Safari. So when it came to moving back to Windows 10, my assumption was that Microsoft Edge would suck as much as Safari did on Mac. I was wrong. I was very wrong.
Edge is a proper browser. It is fast, stable and while it doesn’t have all the
extensions that Chrome has available, I’ve learned to live without them. Is that a sacrifice on my part? Probably, but I don’t feel like it is a huge one. I didn’t really have many extensions to begin with on Chrome. I had one for Gmail and one for OneNote as well as Grammerly. That’s it and two of those three are available on Edge (OneNote and Grammerly) so I’m pretty much good-to-go.
What has impressed me most about Microsoft Edge is its speed. It is shockingly fast. I am able to navigate multiple tabs and have a lot going on in the browser but it never bogs down or feels lagging. This, honestly, I did not expect. I think I had mentally prepared myself for a Safari-like experience and Edge has been far from it. Dare I say, Chrome-like? Yes.
Having used Edge as my primary browser these past few days, I’m not sure I will be installing Chrome anytime soon. It is getting the job done for me, right now at least, and unless I find something I simply cannot do without Chrome, I don’t see it being installed.
Playing Nice with Android
If you have been a reader of the site for any amount of time, you know that I have posted on the wide range of Android apps that Microsoft makes for Android. Indeed, back in January, I wrote a post on how to Microsoft your Android phone. In that post, I pointed out a wide range of Microsoft apps that make being deep in the company’s ecosystem of apps & services work on Android. The most obvious of these is the Office 365 suite of apps as well as Outlook for Android. But Microsoft also produces an excellent app launcher,
Arrow Launcher, which can put your Microsoft centric world at your fingertips. There is also the new To-Do app which sync across to the same app in Windows 10 (and iOS for that matter).
The only app that I discussed in that post in January that I wouldn’t recommend is Next Lock Screen. Microsoft hasn’t updated it in ages and frankly, it doesn’t play well with Android Oreo. Skip that but hold fast to the others along with one more, Cortana.
There is no argument that Google Assistant is leading the way when it comes to the questions it gets asked and how well it answers them accurately. Just last week Business Insider published a report on this and clearly points to this but also as Microsoft’s Cortana as being a close #2. I am a big fan of personal assistants like Google Assistant and Cortana. I use them both constantly to get quick information without having to pick up my phone (in the case of my Google Home with Google Assistant) or simply saying “Hey Cortana” to my Windows 10 PC (and I use it on my Android phone too as my default assistant but it can’t respond to “Hey Cortana” unless the app is open).
Here is were Cortana really shines as an Android user on Windows 10. You can configure the assistant to provide you notifications from your phone to show up on your PC. So, for example, if my wife sends me a SMS, I get a notification on my PC as well as my phone. Sound similar to Hangouts configured for SMS and Chrome (browser or OS)? Or MacOS and iMessages? It should because fundamentally it does the exact same thing. There is more interoperability of Cortana across your Android phone & Windows 10 coming soon in the Fall Creators update. That update will allow you to start a task on your phone and complete it on your PC.
I outline all of this to say this: If you are a Windows 10 users and are debating the iPhone or Android path, I recommend going to Android. Yes, the vast majority of the apps from Redmond are available on both platforms and both perform well. But with Android you have the advantage of a deep integration with Cortana and Arrow launcher that truly set it apart.
I’m Not Naïve – I Know There Will Be Bumps
One of my favorite sayings when it comes to technology is this: Find the right tool that works for you. Your choice doesn’t make you superior or subhuman.
Right now, for what I need as a daily driver, Windows 10 and my Huawei Matebook are the right tools for me, as much as Android is for my phone needs. I’ve found getting things done at work faster than I did on my Mac and frankly, I’ve found the experience of Windows 10 to be… enjoyable.
I’m also a realist. I know there is going to be something that I bump into that makes me scratch my head or bump my head on the desk. It is going to happen and I’m okay with that. Having used Windows 10 as my main OS for a few weeks now, I haven’t bumped into anything that is a complete show stopper. Hopefully I won’t going forward but I know there will be an irritant at some point.
Equally, I know there will be some who read this that will shake their heads on why I would leave MacOS and, to a lesser extent Chrome OS, to go with Windows. Trust me, I was the last one that saw it too. Windows has been, and to a degree will always be, utilitarian. But 10 is different. It is beautiful in many ways and it is easy to navigate, especially in tablet mode. No it’s not perfect but it is not the Windows of old – and by old I mean Windows 8.1.
Look for a review of my Huawei Matebook over the course of the next few weeks and if I find any big bumps in the road of Windows 10, there will be follow up posts to this one. For now, I’m happy with the platform and my equipment to the point that I can’t see MacOS being my main platform again.