Windows 8 and Windows RT – what’s the difference?
Want to buy a new Windows device? Not sure whether to go for something powered by Windows RT or Windows 8?
Don’t panic. We’ve dug into the specifics of both operating systems so you can decide exactly how to spend your money with Microsoft.
For more information on Windows RT, here’s our guide to the best Windows RT tablets
Windows RT is exclusive to tablets
You can’t buy a copy of Windows RT for love nor money. That’s because it’s been specially designed to come pre-installed with tablets and other touchscreen devices. Microsoft’s own Surface RT is the brand new operating system’s most high profile champion. Read our Microsoft Surface RT review to see what we made of it.
The key technical difference between Windows RT and Windows 8 is that Windows RT only runs on tablets with ARM-based processors – the same kind in most smartphones and tablets. They’re more frugal than normal PC processors, so are cooler and more efficient – vital for good battery life.
This means you can only install ‘tablet apps’ from the Microsoft Store, not the desktop apps you use on your laptop or PC. To compensate for this, Microsoft Office 2013 is pre-installed with Windows RT. Whether this makes up for the inability to use third-party software like Chrome and Spotify is down to you.
Windows 8 is designed for PC and laptops (and tablets)
Windows 8 is Microsoft’s new operating system mainly for PCs and laptops, although it can be used on tablets as well. This means you’ll find it on devices with Intel or AMD processor chips like the Samsung Series 7 Ultra, which was announced at CES last month. Watch our Samsung Series 7 Ultra hands-on video to see what we made of it.
Technically, there are two versions of Windows 8. The standard Windows 8 costs £99.99 to upgrade to, or £14.99 if you’re eligible for Microsoft’s Windows 7 laptop offer – see its website for details. Windows 8 Pro is almost double that price at £189.99 and is unlikely to appeal to those who don’t need a Remote Desktop Connection for working away from the office.
Perhaps Windows 8′s most notable new feature is its Windows Store with 5,000 apps to chose from. Several big names are accounted for in this modest total including Angry Birds Star Wars and eBay. Even more importantly, 90% of these downloads are compatible with Windows RT.
Which Windows should you choose?
Ultimately, whether you end up using Windows 8 or Windows RT depends on your choice of accompanying gadget. Tablet users will almost certainly end up with Windows RT, while desktop owners will get Windows 8 without having to make a choice. The real dilemma comes if you’re thinking about picking up a Surface RT with a view to using it as a laptop substitute. To help you out here, we’ve written a special Surface RT vs Surface Pro comparison blog.
Are you already using Windows 8 or RT? Let us know your first impressions in the comments below.
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