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Exclusive | First impressions of Windows 11 aka Sun Valley from a leaked ISO — A much needed visual overhaul that does not alienate long-time users

Windows 11 incorporates Windows 10X's start menu without live tiles.
Windows 11 incorporates Windows 10X's start menu without live tiles.
We have managed to get our hands on a leaked ISO of Windows 11 (Sun Valley) doing the rounds on the internet. First impressions indicate that Microsoft has done a fair bit of UI overhaul to make Windows feel fresh and modern including a revamped OOBE, taskbar, and rounded window corners. But we also see that a lot of legacy apps still continue to exist.

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We've been hearing about Microsoft's upcoming major update to Windows 10 for quite some time now. Codenamed Sun Valley, information so far on the internet indicated deep changes to the OS and the UI. We have also come across news that pointed to the Sun Valley update being likely christened as Windows 11. We can now confirm that it the next version of Windows will indeed be called Windows 11. 

We have managed to get our hands on a leaked build of the OS. Given that we are just about 10 days from the official unveiling, we don't expect too many changes from the current build 21996.1 to the RTM candidate, but it still helps to be skeptical till launch. Here are our initial impressions in the short time we had with the leaked build. Screenshots can be found below.

  • The initial setup PE environment is still unchanged.
  • The out-of-the-box experience OOBE has received a visual makeover. There were no Cortana prompts nor did it nag for an MS account (edit: only when disconnected).
  • Initial desktop onboarding has received a new animation and a short startup sound.
  • The taskbar seems to have been lifted directly from the now canceled Windows 10X. No live tiles are available. But several PWA apps such as Twitter come pre-installed.
  • The taksbar flyouts now hover over the icons and follow the new context menu theming. All context menus and window menus follow a consistent design (finally!).
  • All windows (both legacy and modern) feature rounded corners.
  • Windows can be snapped to different corners or tiled alongside other windows directly by hovering over the Maximize button (works across all apps). 
  • No native PowerToys integration seen yet.
  • Windows Terminal is now the default console experience, but legacy Command Prompt is still accessible.
  • We haven't noticed the rumored macOS-like UI for the Action Center so far. The volume controls and Bluetooth icons are in the same positions as before.
  • A lot of legacy stuff is still present including the old Control Panel, Device Manager, and other Microsoft Management Console apps.
  • Virtual Desktops can now be rearranged.
  • The Xbox app has a new onboarding experience.
  • Windows will now tell you when an app has added itself to startup.
  • What started off as News and Interests in 21H1 is now a full-fledged widgets UI called Windows Dashboard. 

These are some of the first changes we've seen in Windows 11. With Windows 11, Microsoft looks to be setting the base for a more consumer-centric approach in the years to come. This is just the initial results of that effort. 

From what we've been hearing so far, Windows 10 21H2 will arrive separately for enterprises, which would be akin to current Windows 10 servicing. Sun Valley or Windows 11, on the other hand, is specifically geared towards consumers.

There is also a strong possibility that Microsoft will switch back to an yearly feature update cadence henceforth starting with Sun Valley. Known Windows watcher WZor has indicated several codenames such as Vesper Martini, Moon Light, Star Trek, and Ninja Cat for future Windows versions.

Microsoft will take wraps off Windows 11 on June 24. It is possible that the company may show off a few more visual changes not seen in these leaked builds. For now, take a look at the screenshots below and let us know what you think. We are still fiddling around with the build and will update this article if we come across anything noteworthy.

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Windows 11 boot screen
Windows 11 boot screen
Windows 11 Setup
Windows 11 Setup
Windows 11 OOBE-1
Windows 11 OOBE-2
Windows 11 OOBE-3
Windows 11 OOBE-4
Lockscreen
Windows 11 desktop - Many legacy apps continue to exist
Windows 11 taskbar with new Windows 10X-style start menu
Windows 11 Defender app and Action Center
The legacy Control Panel is still present
Flyouts hover above the taksbar
New window-snapping cues that can be accessed from the Maximize button
Widgets are back with Windows Dashboard
Xbox app onboarding
Windows 11 Xbox app

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Vaidyanathan Subramaniam
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam - Managing Editor - 1390 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2012
Though a cell and molecular biologist by training, I have been drawn towards computers from a very young age ever since I got my first PC in 1998. My passion for technology grew quite exponentially with the times, and it has been an incredible experience from being a much solicited source for tech advice and troubleshooting among family and friends to joining Notebookcheck in 2017 as a professional tech journalist. Now, I am a Lead Editor at Notebookcheck covering news and reviews encompassing a wide gamut of the technology landscape for Indian and global audiences. When I am not hunting for the next big story or taking complex measurements for reviews, you can find me unwinding to a nice read, listening to some soulful music, or trying out a new game.
contact me via: @Geeky_Vaidy
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2021 06 > First impressions of Windows 11 aka Sun Valley from a leaked ISO — A much needed visual overhaul that does not alienate long-time users
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 2021-06-15 (Update: 2021-06-18)