I’ve just installed the Windows 8 Customer Preview on my netbook to see what all the fuss was about, and first impressions are…

…strangely positive!

The install took about 20mins from booting from the USB installer to having a working desktop. From that desktop, I noted that all the components were immediately usable, including a reasonable driver for the Intel GMA3150 graphics chipset.

I then tried to play with the Metro apps, quickly finding that they all require a desktop resolution of 1024×768. Since this machine (and pretty much every other netbook I’ve encountered) has a small 1024×600 panel, none of the new apps work. Frankly, given that the Metro interface is most suited to such small displays, this seems to be a bit of an own-goal on Microsoft’s part, and something that I think ought to be fixed before the final release if MS wants to give an incentive for a lot of users like me to spend real money to upgrade.

Besides Metro, the rest of the desktop interface seems to make sense. The new Start interface seems to work, and I was soon able to remove entries for the Metro apps I won’t be using. In doing so, I noted that the tiling and grouping doesn’t seem to be as flexible as most users would like – I wasn’t able to choose a tile colour or size for other installed apps, nor was I able to change their labels.

After installing Chrome, Thunderbird (with Lightning and Google Address Book addons), LibreOffice and a couple of other apps to get real work done, I’ve found the rest of the interface informative and swift.

One surprise as a former XP user wo migrated to Mac OS X, is the ability to calibrate the display colour output using a built-in tool from the Control Panel. It’s simple but surprisingly effective, removing the blue-tint. I tried this in Windows 7 when the netbook still had it, but it wasn’t terribly effective – perhaps a user error on my part.

It seems to me that for the kinds of admin, email, browsing and media consuming tasks I’d usually put this netbook to, 2Gb RAM is enough to keep Windows 8 happy – even with an email client, multiple Chrome tabs, iTunes, Dropbox, LibreOffice Write and some other apps open, memory use rarely topped 1.3Gb – better than my Dell Inspiron 6000 running similar workloads on XP.

So I’ll be sticking with this for a while, and will report back with more findings when I have time.