Windows 11 full review: what we learned about the first build

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Windows & Software Expert
Milan has been enthusiastic about PCs ever since his childhood days, and this led him to take interest in all PC-related technologies. Before joining WindowsReport, he worked as a front-end web developer. Read more
Affiliate Disclosure
  • Windows Insiders finally got their hands on Windows 11, so join us for first look at Windows 11 build 22000.51.
  • Windows 11 brings many new features most notably a new user interface with rounded corners.
  • Start Menu has been redesigned as well, and it’s now positioned on the center of the screen.
  • If you want to know more about Windows 11 Insider preview bugs, be sure to keep reading.
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Windows 11 was announced recently, and now Windows Insiders got the chance to finally take a look at Windows 11 on their own.

Unfortunately, many users reported getting a PC can’t run Windows 11 message that prevented them from installing Windows 11, but we managed to install and try out the latest build on an ASUS TUF 15 gaming laptop.

This is our test machine for Insider Builds in our office

We understand how eager everybody is to find out more details about the first released build of Windows 11, and because not everybody is participating in the Windows Insider program, we decided to help.

Thus, we created a hands-on and in-depth review of this build to keep you updated with the way Windows 11 looks and feels now, and update you about how it will evolve across time in other similar articles.

So what does Windows 11 build 22000.51 offer to its users? Join us for this first look while we examine all the new features.

But first, let’s take a look at some unexpected elements found interesting in Windows 11:

  • The Start button in a central position
  • The Refresh button is gone
  • File Explorer still looks like in Windows 10
  • Folder thumbnail previews are gone
  • The Show Desktop button is gone
  • Settings app is completely revamped
  • Microsoft Store’s design is improved
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Let’s have a look at the first version of Windows 11

Redesigned user interface

We’ve all been waiting for a while now to get a fresh feel of a new Windows OS, and Microsoft didn’t disappoint in this department.

Windows 11 comes with a fresh and sleek user interface that impressed us with great-looking rounded corners for windows as well as new animations, but the surprises don’t end here.

Here are more details about what is actually changed from the good old Windows 10 OS:

  • Start Menu and Taskbar

The element that drew our attention from the first second is the changes of the Taskbar and the Start Menu which are now centered in Windows 11.

Many users might not like this change, but luckily there’s an option to move the taskbar back to the left side.

We liked how this element now makes the screen look cleaner and the icons from the taskbar take a centered position.

In our view, this change makes perfect sense, as there is a very specific reason for having the icons in the taskbar in the first place – quick access.

Unfortunately, the taskbar is now static, and on Windows 11 you can only pin the Taskbar to the bottom of your screen. This means that you can’t move it to any other side, like in previous versions of Windows.

In our opinion, not being able to pin the taskbar on other sides of the screen doesn’t affect the workflow and usability of the new Windows 11, as we preferred the taskbar at the bottom of the screen anyway.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that some users might not be affected badly by this detail and some are already complaining.

We are almost sure that this is easily fixable with further updates and other customization options that will be released in the future, both by Microsoft, and other Windows 11 enthusiasts.

The Start Menu has been streamlined, and it now shows pinned applications as well as recommended apps and files, all wrapped up in a seamless and slick design that makes you think of a glass panel with icons lined up on it.

We have to admit that the new design of the Start Menu makes Windows seem friendlier and more immersive, while Windows 10, even though a step forwards from the previous version, felt a bit too mechanic and cold.

We’re glad to see that Microsoft understood that the feel and looks of the different elements contained in their OS impact the entire experience of the user.

As you can see from the screenshot above, the Pinned section applications are presented at the top with icons that are a lot smaller than the Windows 10 bulky blocks.

Now, it makes it easier than ever to have a quick overview and choose the one that you need but there are no more Live Tiles and that’s another aspect that might bother some users.

The Recommended section shows the recent documents you opened, and because of this design, we find that the feature finally becomes useful.

While using Windows 10, even if these elements were present, the feel and accessibility were an issue, and thus, we never used it.

You can see a maximum of 18 pinned apps (3 rows and 6 columns), but you will be able to pin more because you can always scroll down to jump to different pages.

You will also see some dots on the right that you can click to go to another page of apps, just like in the screenshot below.

Another interesting feature is the All apps button that you can see in the top-right corner. You can use it to access the list of all installed apps.

There is where you will also find the most used or the recently added apps for a quicker access.

Unfortunately, you don’t have the option to resize the menu, at least in this version. You also can’t maximize it to full screen and you can’t create groups of apps.

At the very bottom of the menu, you will find the profile menu and the power options. You will also be able to add certain folders or settings for quicker access.

Another important element of the taskbar is the Search function, allowing you to find specific files on your system, and even perform online searches.

As in the case of other elements that were revamped in the new Windows 11 build, the search option was not left behind.

If you hover your mouse over the Search icon, you will see the search box and the apps you’re using at the moment, just like in the screenshot below.

However, if you click on it and open it fully, you will also have the other search options and you can even search the web, just like you were able to do in Windows 10.

You will also see the most used apps and at the bottom you will have the recently opened apps.

There is also another thing to note down in the Taskbar section. If you look closely at the screenshot below, you will see a little indicator on the apps that are open so to know that they are active.

Following the same pattern applied seemingly across the OS, the search button is not slimmer and can be found, as in the past, next to the Start button.

Having the Start button so central on the taskbar, next to all the pinned icons makes it even easier for us to access the important applications while offering a more centered and well-designed experience overall.

  • Redesigned Action Center

The notification center, previously known as Action Center, now looks a lot more professional and comprehensive than the Action Center from Windows 10.

You can also open this menu by using the Windows key + N shortcut from your keyboard.

The full redesign not only makes it easier to use but the information is presented in a more easily observable way, the colors also helping.

Because of the way the information is presented, the size is considerably smaller, thus making it look a lot sleeker. We absolutely love the changes brought to this element.

Settings are no longer available in the Action Center, and now you can find them in a separate Quick Settings section that you access by clicking the volume/network icon in the Taskbar.

Having separate access to the Settings app can prove beneficial in most cases, and because it is contained in the same menu which offers access to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other features seems logical to us.

It’s also wrth mentioning that if you’re playing any media at the moment you’re accessing the Quick Settings menu, you will also see the media controls.

Also, you can open the menu by pressing the Windows key and A shortcut, the one that is opening a similar option in Windows 10.

This quick menu also allows you to easily control the Focus assist option which controls the amount of blue light your display produces.

This can be extremely efficient, as blue light seriously impacts your brain’s ability to produce melatonin after a long day, thus impacting sleep.

Besides the possibility for your sleep to be impacted, blue light also causes strain to your eyes, and in time it can amass to poor overall vision and difficulty when concentrating.

In our view (no pun intended), having all these useful settings under an easily accessible menu makes more sense than any other option.

  • Fresh Settings application

The Settings app went through some massive changes, and now it comes with a sidebar allowing you to quickly access any section with just a single click, and the design makes it a lot more compact and easy to understand.

The new layout and the fact that we have a tiny representation of the desktop, while also seeing a quick overview of our Microsoft 365 account, OneDrive settings, and the Windows Update status in one place, makes it considerably easier to gather information at a glance.

Added to this, we loved that there are new and colorful icons that make the Settings application a lot more welcoming. Even more, the implementation of breadcrumbs is also a very useful way of allowing the users to navigate freely and without complications through the app.

In Windows 10 we almost always had issues finding the right settings we were searching for, simply because the layout of the menus and the way the options were grouped caused more confusion.

With the new Settings application looking a lot cleaner, the nice icons and easy access to information , we can surely say that we love the feel of it, and we can’t wait to try it out in the official release of Windows 11 bound to happen in October of this year.

  • Partially revamped File Explorer

The old File Explorer, probably one of the most used elements of Windows overall has been redesigned as well, and this is one of the most anticipated design changes.

The default icons have been updated with a fresh and new look that matches the new user interface, but, as mentioned at the start of this review, the overall structure has remained the same.

This statement applies, of course, only to the Insider Preview build, and might be totally different when the release of the full OS will happen.

Honestly speaking, we would have expected a full re-design of this element as well, and was a bit disappointed in the number of similarities to the Windows 10 File Explorer.

We don’t really know if Microsoft decided not to change it because it did its job in the previous releases of Windows, or simply because it didn’t seem like an important element, but it is safe to say that we will find out in the near future.

  • Slick context menus

The context menus, both from the desktop and inside File Explorer have been revamped so they blend perfectly with the new interface.

First, let’s have a look at the context menu from the desktop, which looks a lot better with rounded corners and the fonts used for the actual menu options.

But, surprisingly so, and as you can observe from the screenshot presented below, the Refresh option has completely vanished!

We were confused profoundly because of this, as one of the first things that we tried at the start of our Windows 11 Insider first build testing was to right-click the desktop.

It might not apply to all readers, but we formed a bit of a habit to use the refresh button sparingly across our daily interaction with Windows OSs, and not being able to see it present in the context menu of the desktop was a bit of a shock.

Some questions immediately appeared in our mind:

  • Is the Refresh button removed entirely?
  • How are we going to activate the refresh option now?
  • Is there an issue with this build of Windows 11?

Fortunately, all these questions were answered quickly, as we curiously tried the options found in the context menu. As it was to be expected, we eventually clicked the Show more options entry.

And lo and behold, by clicking this option, the Refresh button suddenly appeared in the context menu, in the same place that it should have been from the start.

Even though some other questions appeared in our mind about Microsoft’s reasoning for hiding the most useful elements of the context menu, for now, it is safe to say we’re glad our beloved Refresh button didn’t disappear entirely and was just hidden.

The File Explorer context menu doesn’t look very different from the version we all got used to in Windows 10, but, of course, with the addition of rounded corners.

Even the font used for this menu is exactly the same as in Windows 10. Could this be the setup with which Microsoft will release the new Windows 11 officially, or just a preliminary version? We will all find out at the right time.

  • Partially refreshed Microsoft Store

Another change thas caught our attention is the redesigned components in the Microsoft Store apps, as now it comes with a sidebar allowing you to easily switch between different categories, such as Games, Apps, and Entertainment.

Added to this, the buttons and overall-look is also refreshed, but the general scheme of how the images and tiles are presented is pretty much the same.

Even though overall it looks better with the rounded corners and quick access options, the application still remains as easy to use as it was in the previous models of Windows.

  • Fresh system sounds, themes and fonts

System sounds

Another element that we appreciated greatly was the fact that Windows 11 brings new themes and sounds available, allowing you to customize your Windows 11 experience any way you want.

These sounds complete the look of the smooth and glass-like panels of the windows and accessories both from the desktop and inside the Settings.

Some users have complained across time about the annoying log-in and log-out noises that our Windows devices produced, and with Windows 11, the entire perspective of users could change.

In the same way the overall look of Windows 11 has changed, the revamp wouldn’t have been completed without a new set of sounds to accompany it.

Polished new themes

The themes that you can use to make Windows your own have been a great asset for everybody using this OS across time.

Even though in older versions of Windows themes were very basic, and with sharp edges and weird color combinations, with the release of Windows 10 things have changed for the better. Windows 11 brings incredible new advancements to this department.

Even the way the themes are presented brings a new flair to the entire process, making it look like a designed and interactive process which also allows you to preview how your device will look before you apply a theme.

Added to this, the fact that every theme is easily modified by changing the background settings, you have access to a variety of ways to make your Windows 11 device your own.

We also have a list with the best themes and skins for Windows 11 that you can use to make the OS look like home.

Fonts

We also have a new font family in Windows 11 called Segoe UI Variable that changes and scales to adapt to any scenario.

It’s an adaptation from the main Segoe font that has been improved to be more legibile at small sizes and to have a better outline at any display sizes.

Lock screen

The new Lock screen is not so much different than in Windows 10 but you will notice that the time and date are centered.

You will also see some useful hints and the link to get more information about the photo on the screen. The Singn-in screen looks identically to the one from Windows 10.

Widgets

Widgets are back, but not as you remember them from the earlier versions of Windows. Instead, Widgets have a panel in which you can add, customize and disable widgets in Windows 11.

Windows Tiles are gone, and you won’t see them anymore in Start Menu, and instead, we got Widgets that feel similar to Windows Tiles, but bring the same round-edged and glass-panel feel to the experience.

The way the toggle screen appears and disappears, and the texture of semi-transparent glass-like panel that house the Widgets, in our opinion Microsoft has struck gold with this change.

No more rugged edges and eye-harming contrast of colours that don’t go together. But that is only our oppinion.

It is safe to say that Windows 11 feels like a colourful water stream, in total opposition to the coarse and sharp-cornered ideas that described Windows 10.

Multitasking improvements

  • Multi-monitor switching

Another very important element that surely caught our eye and impressed us, is the multitasking elements Microsoft has brought forward with their new design for Windows 11.

Because multi-tasking is a big part of the Windows experience, this element doesn’t only have practical implications, but also improves the overall feel and utilizability of the OS.

This feature is also making it fully compatible with both touch-screen and multi-screen devices, including mobile usage.

You can also use the Windows key + Tab to switch between the different desktops. This shortcut is used in Windows 10 to show the Timeline option.

Of course, you will be able to run and customize as many desktops as you want and even design them for different purposes. For instance, you can have a Work desktop, a Home desktop or a Multimedia desktop.

  • Great new window snapping features

Window snapping has been improved as well and now you can choose between six different snap layouts simply by hovering over the maximize button. Sadly, this feature didn’t work for us in this build.

It seems that we’re not the only ones, and many users reported that Windows 11 Snap doesn’t work on older monitors properly, but we expect that to be fixed in near future.

Snap groups are a new feature in Windows 11, and if you’re snapping applications, you can now quickly go back to the applications that you have snapped without having to reconfigure the layout.

To do that, you just need to hover over those apps on the Taskbar and select the snap group to go back to it. This is a simple but powerful feature that will surely make multitasking much more effective.

Added to this, snapping will automatically adapt to the number of monitors you’re using. If you’re wondering how this feature will actually apply to everyday use, imagine the following scenario:

You are using a multiple-monitor setup at work, and you have used the snapping tool to arrange a set of windows on the second monitor for easier access to information while working on the main screen of your setup.

In case you need to disconnect the extra monitor, Windows will automatically adapt to this change and will transfer the layout used on the second monitor to the main monitor without making any changes.

As soon as you’re done walking around with your laptop and want to come back to your multi-monitor desk setup, plugging in the second monitor will instantly transfer the same layout to the new monitor, just as it was before the actual disconnection.

To enable ease of use even further, the docking process also went through some changes, and now when you undock your laptop, all the windows on your external monitor will be minimized.

This way, you will not lose any important data, and you have the capability to return to the same tabs with ease.

Input improvements

  • Voice typing

Windows 11 Build 22000.51 brings various improvements in terms of input, and there’s a brand new voice typing feature available.

The speech-recognition process has been improved dramatically, offering a clearer and more easy-to-understand interface, and at the same time using AI-like capabilities to recognize speech in an exact manner.

This element can be extremely handy if you need to transcript a large amount of data and would prefer doing so by reading the document and not typing, while it also works amazingly for people with disabilities.

  • Improved touch gestures

Another very good feature that we enjoyed using while testing out the new Windows 11 release, is the improved touch gestures.

These new features allow you to easily switch back to the last used app, to your desktop or open the Task View. Everything about this way of control is completely customizable and will offer great customization options for those of you who own a touch device with Windows 11.

For an even easier process of switching between monitors, Microsoft has created a new four-finger gesture, allowing users to become proficient in using double or even triple monitors with ease.

  • Great Pen menu

The Pen menu is another great feature that lets you pin up to four different applications and access them quickly when using a pen.

  • Dynamic Refresh Rate

Another feature that deserves a mention is the Dynamic Refresh Rate, and with it you can automatically boot the refresh rate when scrolling for example, to get a smoother scrolling experience.

This works perfectly with the overall smooth feel of the newly-released version of Windows, and combines seamlessly with the design and colors to create an immersive experience that seems to run naturally between the users and the interface.

Sadly, this feature is available only on selected laptops for the time being. The last feature that needs mentioning is the Wi-Fi 6E support that should provide you with 3x more Wi-Fi bandwidth, as long as you have the compatible hardware.

Known issues in Windows 11 Build 22000.51

General:

  • Certain features may be removed when upgrading to Windows 11 from Windows 10

Taskbar:

  • The Taskbar isn’t shown across multiple monitors
  • The preview window may not display the whole window when hovering over the Task View button

Settings:

  • Settings app fails to launch after upgrading the device with multiple user accounts to Windows 11
  • A small set of Settings legacy pages is still available
  • Power mode setting doesn’t appear on Power & batter page
  • Green flash when launching the Settings app for some users
  • When modifying Accessibility settings from Quick Settings, the settings UI might not save the selected setting

Start:

  • Some users were unable to enter text when using the Search feature from the Start or the Taskbar. You can fix that by pressing Windows Key + R and closing the Run dialog
  • There’s a known issue that is preventing users from unpinning apps from the Start Menu. This can make the command bar disappear in File Explorer or cause the snap to hide. To fix this, you need to restart your PC.

Search:

  • App icons in the Search panel may not load properly
  • When hovering over the Search icon on the Taskbar, the third recent search doesn’t load
  • The search panel might not open after clicking the Search icon on the Taskbar. You can fix this by restarting the Windows Explorer process
  • Recent searches might not get displayed when hovering over the Search icon. You can fix that by restarting your device
  • The search panel might appear black and not display any content below the input field

Widgets:

  • System text scaling will scale all widgets and it can result in cropped widgets
  • Opening links from the widgets pane may not invoke apps to the foreground
  • The content inside of widgets may not be properly announced when using Narrator
  • Widgets pane may appear empty. To fix that sign out and sign back in
  • When using Outlook client with Microsoft account, Calendar, and To Do, the changes might not sync to widgets in real-time
  • Widgets can be displayed in the wrong size on external monitors. To fix that, launch Widgets on your actual monitor and then on secondary monitors
  • After adding multiple widgets quickly from the widgets settings, some widgets may not be visible on the board

Store:

  • The install button might not work for some apps
  • Rating and reviews aren’t available for certain apps

This is the first look of Windows 11 build 22000.51, and so far, it looks pretty promising. The new user interface is a breath of fresh air and a welcome change.

This Build has a few issues, but that’s to be expected. Have you tried Windows 11 yet? If you haven’t, we have a great guide on how to download Windows 11, so be sure not to miss it.

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