Win­dows 10 Cre­ators Up­date

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Mi­crosoft’s Win­dows 10 Cre­ators Up­date of­fers the most sig­nif­i­cant up­grade to Win­dows 10 since its launch, splash­ing a bright, cheery coat of fun over Win­dows 10’s pro­duc­tiv­ity foun­da­tion.

Price

This free up­grade is avail­able now – new users will need to pay £119 for Win­dows 10 Home or £219 for Win­dows 10 Pro.

A cool new ex­pe­ri­ence

If you’re up­grad­ing to a new PC equipped with the Win­dows 10 Cre­ators Up­date, the new Cor­tanadriven, out-of-the-box ex­pe­ri­ence (OOBE) is a charm­ing in­tro­duc­tion. Nar­rated al­most ex­clu­sively by the ac­tress Jen Tay­lor as Cor­tana, the OOBE is now voice-driven and al­most en­tirely hands-free, orally ask­ing you to agree to us­ing Cor­tana, Win­dows’ de­fault pri­vacy set­tings, and the like. In all, the set-up process took us about four min­utes. You still have the free­dom to tog­gle off tar­geted ads and other op­tions, though Win­dows will im­me­di­ately sug­gest a rea­son why you shouldn’t.

You’ll also no­tice a few thought­ful touches while bring­ing your PC up to speed. Adding a Log­itech mouse to our test bed prompted Win­dows to search out Log­itech’s associated soft­ware. De­vice set-up now takes place be­hind the scenes, so Win­dows will no­tify you that you can use a new de­vice within just a sec­ond or two. We also like how the Cre­ators Up­date ad­justs your dis­play res­o­lu­tion or mon­i­tor set-up au­to­mat­i­cally in­stead of ask­ing you to ap­prove the process.

And then there’s the “oh, wow” mo­ments: Win­dows Hello and Themes. Set­ting up fa­cial au­then­ti­ca­tion is done al­most be­fore you’re aware it’s taken place. Recog­ni­tion is al­most in­stan­ta­neous, too. (We just wish there were a con­sis­tent way to sign in to mul­ti­ple Mi­crosoft ser­vices at once. Cor­tana of­fered to sign us into ‘all Mi­crosoft apps’ within Win­dows, but it didn’t take.)

Do not over­look Themes, ei­ther. For too long Win­dows has been shack­led to generic de­fault back­grounds. With the new Themes packs in­side the Win­dows Store, you can get a glo­ri­ous na­ture- (or cat-) in­spired back­ground, in­clud­ing op­tional sounds. Win­dows even dis­plays dif­fer­ent back­grounds on dif­fer­ent mon­i­tors.

Gamer gifts: Game Mode, Beam game streaming

Though Mi­crosoft has in­vested heav­ily in the Xbox One game con­sole (whose own Win­dows 10 Cre­ators Up­date fea­tures are now live), Mi­crosoft has made two key ad­di­tions for PC gamers: Game Mode and Beam.

Re­mem­ber when games like the orig­i­nal DOOM re­quired tweak­ing HIMEM.SYS and other start-up files to eke out ev­ery last bit of per­for­mance? Game Mode does the same, but au­to­mat­i­cally, check­ing

to see what other pro­cesses are run­ning on your PC and giv­ing your game ap­pli­ca­tion pri­or­ity over them. The idea is less that you’ll gain a few more frames per sec­ond, and more that games will run smoothly, with­out hitches and stut­ters.

If you’re run­ning a Ti­tan X GPU, Game Mode isn’t for you – lap­tops and desk­tops with low-end graph­ics will see the most ben­e­fit. But even those im­prove­ments could vary: we tried Game Mode with Mi­crosoft’s own in-house Gears of War 4 on a lap­top with a dis­crete, but low-pow­ered GPU. It showed just a small in­crease in min­i­mum frame rate.

Last Au­gust, Mi­crosoft bought Beam to gain some foothold against Ama­zon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube in the emerg­ing world of game streaming. Streaming with Beam is pretty sim­ple: open the Game Bar (Win + G, or the Xbox but­ton on an at­tached con­troller) then nav­i­gate to the Broad­cast icon. We had pre­vi­ously set up a Beam ac­count on the web­site, but Beam never asked for it – it used our Xbox Live ac­count name in­stead.

Streaming with Beam lets you play a game as an in­ter­ac­tive per­for­mance, chat­ting with strangers about what’s go­ing on. Strangers may crit­i­cize, praise, or even pay you for your ef­forts. Beam’s hard­ware im­pact may re­quire fur­ther test­ing, though. In our raw bench­mark scores, Beam streaming chopped quite a bit off of our lap­top’s CPU per­for­mance.

Win­dows Ink re­ju­ve­nates Pho­tos and Maps

Mi­crosoft had lit­tle to show for Win­dows Ink in the An­niver­sary Up­date. In the Cre­ators Up­date, how­ever, ink­ing is ac­tu­ally fun. Within the Pho­tos app, you can add ink an­no­ta­tions – com­ments, smi­ley faces, the works – and the ink will save to a sep­a­rate copy of the file. Even set-up is smoother: as we were ink­ing, Win­dows popped up a no­ti­fi­ca­tion to set up the pen.

Ink­ing saves an inked photo as a ‘liv­ing im­age’ within Pho­tos, es­sen­tially a brief video where the ink spon­ta­neously ap­pears. (The above is just a plain-Jane JPEG.) Ink­ing within videos is far more fun, as the ink will ap­pear and dis­ap­pear as the video plays.

Ink­ing pho­tos and video still needs some pol­ish – the erase fea­ture is all or noth­ing – and the fea­ture cries out for some stick­ers or emoji, too. Add those, though, and Mi­crosoft could re­gain some of the play­ful fun that’s been miss­ing from Win­dows from a decade.

One of the fea­tures Mi­crosoft seems proud­est of – ink­ing two points within Maps, which then cal­cu­lates the dis­tance – we ini­tially dis­missed as use­less. Trac­ing a foot­path or stream and cal­cu­lat­ing the dis­tance, though, has merit. (You can ei­ther use Ink’s older straight edge – which now tracks an­gles – or a sec­ond, cir­cu­lar ‘pro­trac­tor’ that helps draw arcs.) What Mi­crosoft doesn’t re­ally make clear is that you can draw a sim­i­lar line be­tween two points, and Maps will then cal­cu­late the street route be­tween them. That’s much cooler, and some­thing Google doesn’t of­fer.

Paint 3D an­chors a patch­work 3D ex­pe­ri­ence

If there’s one theme that Mi­crosoft es­tab­lished dur­ing its au­tumn re­veal of the Cre­ators Up­date, it’s that vir­tual – sorry, mixed – re­al­ity was cen­tral to the up­date. It’s a shame, then, that much of it falls short. You may not even be aware that Win­dows hides a ro­bust suite of tools to im­port, cre­ate/edit, view, and print 3D ob­jects: 3D Scan, View 3D, and 3D Builder all co­op­er­ate to pro­vide a 3D con­tent-cre­ation toolchain through­out Win­dows. All of them were al­ready there within Win­dows 10, and Paint 3D joins them with the Cre­ators Up­date.

The Achilles heel here is 3D con­tent cre­ation. Last Oc­to­ber, Mi­crosoft promised – even demon­strated – a Cap­ture 3D app that used a mo­bile phone cam­era to 3D-scan an ob­ject as eas­ily as tak­ing a movie. And where is it? Miss­ing in ac­tion. Are 3D ob­jects in Of­fice? No. We spent hours with the built-in 3D Scan app, con­nect­ing a Kinect depth cam­era to a Sur­face Stu­dio and at­tempt­ing to scan 3D ob­jects, in­clud­ing this writer. Those at­tempts failed mis­er­ably, re­sult­ing in an ‘ob­ject’ that looked more like a pud­dle.

Paint 3D, on the other hand, is one of the tri­umphs of the Cre­ators Up­date. It en­cour­ages you to cre­ate sim­ple 3D ob­jects with a va­ri­ety of tex­tures, or in­cor­po­rate more com­plex ob­jects from the Remix 3D com­mu­nity site.

From there, you can ex­port your 3D ob­ject to Win­dows 10’s ex­ist­ing, ex­cel­lent 3D Builder app. The app neatly in­te­grates a con­nec­tor to a third-party 3D-print­ing ser­vice, which au­to­mat­i­cally im­ports your ob­ject and prices out its cost. But it’s heart­break­ing to come all that

way and dis­cover that the to­tal print­ing price is prob­a­bly much too ex­pen­sive to jus­tify the ef­fort.

As for the HoloLens? Or the mixed-re­al­ity head­sets Mi­crosoft’s talked up since last year? Both should serve as dis­plays of sorts for vir­tual ob­jects, yet nei­ther is widely avail­able. (Win­dows Mixed Re­al­ity, aka Win­dows Holo­graphic, is avail­able only for de­vel­op­ers, we’re told.) So far, Mi­crosoft’s VR prom­ises are strug­gling to­ward vi­a­bil­ity.

Edge’s new fea­tures in­clude Net­flix 4K, e-read­ing

Though many read­ers wrote off the bare-bones Edge that de­buted along with Win­dows 10, it im­proved with the An­niver­sary Up­date, and the trend con­tin­ues with the Cre­ators Up­date. Here are the four key ad­di­tions: the abil­ity to im­port favourites from other browsers, new tools to or­gan­ise tabs, Edge’s de­but as an e-reader, and its up­graded abil­ity to play Net­flix at 4K res­o­lu­tions.

Read­ing books via Edge is func­tional, lack­ing some con­ve­niences but of­fer­ing a rea­son­able al­ter­na­tive to an app or an e-reader (see page 98). As for Mi­crosoft’s 4K Net­flix claims – yes, we’ve proven they’re true, and no other PC browser can say the same.

A new fea­ture in Edge, the abil­ity to set aside a tab or groups of tabs, is use­ful but needs re­fine­ment. Let’s say that you be­gan re­search­ing a trip to Hawaii, opened a few tabs on what to see or do in the is­lands, then called it a night. Nor­mally, you might book­mark the tabs for a later date. Edge al­lows you to take that group of tabs and ‘tomb­stone’ them on the left rail. Each time you set the tabs aside, a new group is formed, which you can’t la­bel or add to, un­for­tu­nately. Each group of tabs can be reloaded when­ever you want, even af­ter a re­boot. A some­what re­lated fea­ture lets you pre­view tabs as thumb­nails.

You can sup­pos­edly im­port favourites/book­marks as well as pass­words from the two most

Set­ting up the Win­dows 10 Cre­ators Up­date is now a pleas­ant, voice-driven ex­pe­ri­ence with the cheery Cor­tana

The Win­dows OOBE in­cludes a stream­lined pri­vacy set-up process. If you want to dig in later, the Set­tings > Pri­vacy menu of­fers lots of op­tions

We just hap­pened to have the cam­era ready to cap­ture the new Win­dows Hello ex­pe­ri­ence, as part of the Win­dows setup process

Bor­ing Win­dows desk­tops are a thing of the past with Win­dows 10 Cre­ators Up­date’s Themes

Here’s what it looks like to stream Gears of War 4 us­ing the Beam ser­vice. Al­ter­na­tively, you can use the win­dow to dis­play viewer com­ments

Here, Maps is cal­cu­lat­ing dis­tance as the crow flies (pink) ver­sus a cal­cu­lated route (blue). The red bar is Ink’s straight edge

Ink­ing on Pho­tos is fun, but doesn’t have the verve of Ink­ing on Videos

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