Ultrabook (Windows 7)
A quick look at our newest computer Ratings tells an interesting story: Despite the release of the new Windows 8 OS, many Windows 7 computers are still available from a variety of retailers, and several top our Ratings. If you're shopping for a new computer right now, there are some good reasons to opt for Windows 7.
Here's a look at the pros and cons of the new operating system, and some reasons why you might want to go old school.
If it ain't broke. Windows 7 generally received favorable reviews when it was released. A few years after its 2009 launch, there still haven't been a lot of complaints. If you've been happy with Windows 7 and even Windows XP up until now, there's no compelling reason to switch to Windows 8.
You're not buying a touch screen. Windows 8 is all about touch. When you launch it, the opening screen is a touch interface. Yes, you can use it with a mouse or touchpad, but it's designed to make you instinctively want to tap on the computer screen, and even swipe it. Without a touchscreen, reasons for upgrading an old system or buying a computer with Windows 8 become less compelling.
You don't like change. Windows 8 doesn't have the familiar Start button for launching programs and shutting the system down. Of course, it's not difficult to launch your applications from the Start screen with the Windows 8 tile interface. But then again, it's also not the same as clicking your Start button and seeing a list of programs. So if you prefer the old way, go with Windows 7.
Vizio CT15-A4 (Windows 8)
Drivers still need updating. Some Windows 8 models still are not performing as well as expected, and Windows 7 computers topped many of the new ones. The need for vendors to update their Windows 8 drivers could explain the less-than-optimal performance (the Vizio CT15-A4 pictured above was an exception, with excellent performance).
You're on the fence. You might be better off getting a Windows 7 computer for now, waiting for the dust to settle, and upgrading to Windows 8 later. Although we haven't yet noticed prices dropping on older Windows 7 models yet, there are still some Best Buys in our Ratings (including the Acer Aspire TimelineU M5-481TG-6814, shown at the top of this post). If you decide to upgrade over the next couple of months, it will cost you just $15 to do so, provided you buy your new computer by the end of January and register to upgrade at windowsupgradeoffer.com by February 28, 2013.
Then again . . . There are reasons to buy Windows 8 computers, but they're probably a matter of personal preference. If you are getting a touch screen and like the idea of using your computer in some ways that are similar to a tablet, Windows 8 could be for you. If you like the notion of "live" tiles that change as new e-mails or social-network updates come in, you'll appreciate the tile interface on Windows 8. We've got you covered, with more than a dozen recommended Windows 8 laptops and four desktops.
Check out all our computer Ratings, for both Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines.
—Donna L. Tapellini