Windows 10 Fall Creators Update
Full review of the latest Microsoft operating system
Free • From Windows Update
Windows 10 continues to evolve, but if you’re not into VR, there’s not a lot here for you
MICROSOFT IS CONTINUING with its promise to update Windows 10 regularly, adding new features and tweaking existing ones in much the same way as Apple does with macOS. For this release, the big introduction is support for the Windows Mixed Reality platform. Mixed Reality, as the name suggests, is designed to merge the virtual with the real, overlaying the computer generated on the physical world.
A NEW DIMENSION
Paint 3D, an application that launched with April’s Creators Update, now integrates with the Mixed Reality platform. If you have a device with a suitable built-in camera, such as the Surface Pro, you can drop 3D models into the real world, and move and pan around the augmented reality. It’s a neat trick and lets you see how something you’ve modelled on your computer would look in the real world, but this feature will appeal to few.
Mixed Reality headsets (from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo) better demonstrate what Windows 10 can do. These are actually traditional VR models, closer to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive than Microsoft’s HoloLens, but impressively they track movement without an array of external sensors. They all share the same specs, leaving price and comfort the only distinguishing factors.
Control comes via the wireless controllers, with one per hand. These are tracked directly through the headset, too, so you can hook everything up to your PC with one USB and one HDMI cable.
We tested the Dell Visor Mixed Reality Headset. Smooth visuals and the well-designed controllers made it easy for us to dispatch a horde of robotic ninjas with a combination of punches, guns and throwing stars.
Through Windows 10, there’s a Mixed Reality Portal app, which gives you a virtual house to walk through, full of your own content and apps. It’s partly a fancy launcher, but you can use your home for other things, such as replicating a cinema-sized screen for watching films or Netflix. There’s even the option to view your own computer desktop inside your virtual home, which is both strange and quite cool.
SteamVR compatibility is coming later this year, so you won’t be limited to Microsoft’s apps and can play a wider range of games, too.
The Photos app has had a big overhaul and is now called Photos Remix. It works similarly to the Photos app on macOS and Google Photos, collating your images in one place. Images are automatically tagged, sorted and arranged via AI. For example, you can find all images of one person quickly, or search for a common phrase, such as ‘cat’, to find images of one type.
Built into Photos Remix is a new editing tool, which can quickly make videos based on the images and movies that you throw at it. There’s no escape from 3D modelling here, either, and you can edit videos, adding your own 3D effects to them.
Photos Remix is a solid overhaul, but the changes don’t go far enough. With Photos on Mac, you can largely use one app for storing and editing files; Photos Remix is a little more basic and for editing, you’ll most likely want a separate application, such as Lightroom.
Other changes are harder to spot. Microsoft has overhauled some of the design elements, so scroll bars disappear automatically when not being used, and there are some blur and transition effects that make the OS look more modern. These changes are very subtle, though, so you won’t notice an immediate difference.
Storage Sense has also been updated, so the tool can now clear out your downloads folder, removing files that haven’t changed in the past 30 days. It can also delete previous versions of Windows following an upgrade. If you want to keep on top of PC maintenance automatically, both features are welcome additions, but hardly revolutionary.
People Bar is a new app that appears to the left of the Notification Area. It gives you a shortcut to all your contacts (provided they’re in the People app), so you can quickly email or Skype them. However, there’s no integration with Cortana’s SMS ability, which sends text messages via your Android phone, which feels like a missed opportunity.
SHUT DOWN NOW
Cortana gets a minor update so you can lock, shut down or restart your computer using your voice. Personally, we find the lock shortcut (Windows-L) or the traditional shutdown/restart options easier.
Better is that Cortana’s settings are now in the main Settings app, which makes them easier to find and change. Microsoft has also moved more options into the Settings app away from the Control Panel, and the overhauled About section presents more information on your PC and its health in a cleaner, easier-to-read way.
OneDrive users will be pleased to see the Files on Demand feature. Replicating the much-loved and missed Placeholders feature of old, it means that you don’t have to download your entire drive to your computer and can access some files on demand, pulling them from the cloud as needed. You can, of course, mark certain files for offline use, saving them to your hard disk.
As with previous updates, Microsoft sees the Fall Creators Update as a necessary upgrade and one you’ll need to stay up to date with the latest security patches. Downloads will roll out slowly over the coming weeks, although those that want the new features immediately can force the download by using the Media Creation Tool (www.microsoft.com/ en-us/software-download/windows10).
Ultimately, this update is more about bringing mixed reality and VR to Windows 10, so for many users, the changes won’t make much difference to everyday life.
⬆ The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is geared towards 3D modelling
⬆ Mixed Reality is the big new feature to hit Windows 10