Windows 11 review: An unnecessary replacement for Windows 10

Expert’s Rating

Our Verdict

A decidedly mixed bag of improved features and unnecessary changes. Windows 11 will undoubtedly improve over time, but it’s a very polarizing upgrade that many users will want to forgo for now.

Windows 11 doesn’t convincingly answer the question every PC user should ask: Why do I need this upgrade? The new operating system repurposes some of Microsoft’s cancelled Windows 10X code, but lacks the unified vision that 10X promised.

In some ways, Windows 11 feels very much like a product of 2020. Last year, we often felt we had to do something, and for some very good reasons, but without a real sense of the way ahead. And so goes Windows 11. Aesthetically, Windows 11 sacrifices productivity for personality, but without cohesion. A new Start menu seems designed for enterprises. A hyperactive Widgets app pushes celebrity gossip. Teams Chat asks you to reorganize your social circles around Microsoft.

Yes, you’ll find things within Windows 11 worth applauding: the initial installation experience, a redesigned Settings menu, Tips, and some improved Windows apps. Under-the-hood performance improvements will collaborate with gaming enhancements like DirectStorage and AutoHDR…eventually. For now, however, most users will probably want to forgo the update from Windows 10.

Windows 11 is a choice, not a process

Windows 11 will be a free upgrade to Windows 10, which some compatible PCs will have access to on or around for the update to be made available to all eligible computers.) What’s important to remember is that with Windows 10, mid-cycle feature updates like moving from the Windows Update usually occurs within a month or so of when Microsoft begins pushing the new feature update to PCs. You can delay the update, but not for very long.

With Windows 11, users have much more free will. On or around Oct. 5, you’ll be offered a choice to upgrade to Windows 11, or remain on Windows 10. If you choose to accept it, you can. But you can also or so, when support for Windows 10 expires. The decision to upgrade to Windows 11 is a real choice, and one you should consider carefully.

How long that choice will be available isn’t known. Even if you upgrade to Windows 11, you should have an option to “roll back” to Windows 10-a ten-day window, according to information that Microsoft has circulated to its customers.

And that all assumes that your PC will be able to receive Windows 11, too. Windows 11 arrives with some very strict hardware requirements for PCs that can run Windows 11, essentially requiring the latest Trusted Platform Module (TPM) technology as well as a recently released computer processor. Microsoft has the best of intentions here. In order to provide a secure , managed PC, Microsoft’s Windows 11 code must sync up with specific PC hardware. But those hardware restrictions have also proven to be an enormous controversy in their own right.

We reviewed Windows 11 on three PCs, including the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (Ice Lake), running Windows 11 Pro, as well as the Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ tablet, also running Windows 11 Pro. A third device, the Surface Laptop 4, ran Windows 11 Home. We began our formal review process with Windows 11 Insider Build 2 (21H2), part of the Windows Insider Beta Channel, with the intention of monitoring it up through the formal release date of October 5. (Microsoft moved the Dev Channel of Windows 11 to future builds of Windows 11, with code that will not be released as part of the October 5 launch.)

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