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Windows 8 vs OS X Mountain Lion: which is the better operating system?

We pit the latest OS from Microsoft against Apple's

Window 8 vs Mac OS X: Contacts

Windows 8's People app is easy on the eyes, with a list that scrolls left to right through the various contacts you have on Hotmail, Outlook, Google, or social media sites, depending on which accounts you connect.

You can create new contacts in the app easily but images aren't an option, which seems quite an omission. Searching is easy thanks to the fact that you can simply begin typing, which automatically opens the search bar. Connecting your Facebook contacts also links to your friends’ status updates and any photos they upload. This can be useful as you can immediately see what someone’s been up to recently.

Win 8 Contacts

Apple's Contacts app is incongruous with the overall 'business' feel of Mountain Lion, due to the styling choice of a traditional leather contacts book. Functionally, though, Contacts is impressive with plenty of detailed fields; iCloud integration so you’re always backed up and can access the information from almost anywhere; very clever blending of Facebook and normal contacts so that duplicates are merged together to form one contact without changing the original data, and the ability to create groups in a number of ways.

OS X Contacts

Window 8 vs Mac OS X: Videos

You might think that playing a DVD would be straightforward on any computer, but it poses quite a problem for our two computers. On the Apple side it’s simply a matter of hardware, as the MacBook Air doesn't have a DVD drive (the current MacBook Pro does, though). You could buy a USB DVD drive for the Air, of course. Apple is clearly trying to steer people towards the iTunes store for movie, but this doesn’t help people who already own a large collection of physical media. Playing DVDs is simple using the built-in DVD Player app, which can play optical discs or ripped VIDEO_TS content.

Mountain Lion Videos

On the Windows side the Yoga 13 also lacks an optical drive, but many Windows 8 laptops still have them. Whether those can play a DVD movie all depends which version of Windows 8 they're running and whether the manufacturer has bundled an app which can play DVD movies.

Windows 8, which is aimed at home users, doesn’t come with Windows Media Center installed, nor the codecs necessary to watch DVDs. Windows 8 Pro users can buy the Media Center Pack for £6.99, which allows you to play DVDs and watch and record TV with Windows Media Center. If you have plan Windows 8, you have to pay £100 to upgrade to the Windows 8 Pro Pack.

Xbox Video Windows 8

Third-party apps, including the excellent, free VLC player will let you play DVD movies without spending any extra, but it doesn't make for a good out-of-the-box experience. If you have digital version of your movies, such as MP4 files, then both systems will happily play them in the Xbox Video or QuickTime apps.

Window 8 vs Mac OS X: Music

iTunes is probably the best-known music playback software around. Thanks to the success of the iPod many have spent hours ripping CDs using iTunes and even creating the odd playlist or two in Apple’s music-management application. Any previous purchases you’ve made on iTunes with your account are also freely available to download whenever you need them, which removes the need for making backups. The application is mature (some would say a little bloated), but it still remains one of the best ways to manage a digital music collection (and buying music via the iTunes store) especially if you also have an iOS device.

iTunes Mountain Lion

Microsoft’s new offering is the Xbox Music app which has some neat features including a Spotify-like streaming option which gives you free, ad-supported, music for six months and then ten hours per month unless you upgrade to the paid £8.99 monthly subscription.

Of course you can import your own music into the app, create playlists - which automatically sync between Windows 8, Windows Phone and RT devices - and buy new albums through the Xbox Music store. It’s a very good app, only hampered by controls that don’t do quite what you expect - such as the space bar restarting songs (or in some cases nothing at all) rather than stopping and starting, double-clicking on a track to play it but finding you’ve just turned a menu on and off, and the search option being hidden away in the Charms bar. A little spit and polish would make Music a real selling point for Windows 8.

Xbox Music

If you prefer, you can use the familiar Windows Media Player (now on version 12) on the traditional desktop. Plus, although you have to download it, the Zune media management program is still a decent music manager and the only way to synch content with Windows Phone 7 smartphones (the new Windows Phone app works only with Windows Phone 8 handsets and has extremely poor user reviews).

Window 8 vs Mac OS X: Games

If there’s one area where Windows has always been streets ahead of the competition then it’s games. That’s still the case when it comes to any new release on Steam, Xbox Games, or physical copies you buy from shops.

Out of the box it’s a little different, naturally. For years now, Windows users have been able to rely on Solitaire and Minesweeper to while away the hours, but with Windows 8 these stalwarts have gone. Instead users need to go to the Games app in which you can see all the different games, many free, available to download.

Win 8 Solitaire

You can’t actually download them from there; that would be far too easy. Instead when you click Play you receive a message that you need to go to the Store and download the title, even though you’re in the "windows games store".

Clicking the "Get Minesweeper from the Store does at least take you straight to the game in the Windows Store. There are some great free and paid-for games available, including touch-based version of Minesweeper and Solitaire. Xbox gamers will also enjoy the way their gaming profiles are included in the Games app, and the ability to purchase downloadable games for their console via the Windows store.

Macs have never really been gaming machines, with even some iMacs struggling to run the most demanding titles. One game that's included with a new machine is a decent version of Chess. Thanks to voice control, you can even make all the moves by saying the board positions rather than fiddling with the mouse. It’s a nice touch, but we can't imagine many people using it.

Mountain Lion Chess

The Mac App store is similar to the Windows alternative with a healthy amount of games to download for a variety of prices, and the integrated nature of both stores means less risk of downloading something harmful to your system from a seemingly innocent site. Apple also includes Game Centre which allows you to play games online against friends if you both have the relevant app and an OS X or iOS device.

Next page: Window 8 vs Mac OS X - Documents, Social media, Cloud integration, App store

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