If you played around with the consumer preview (read: beta) of Windows 8 earlier this year, you may not have been impressed. Certainly, impressions at that point were bitterly divided between those who love and those who hate where Microsoft is going. But hey, that's what betas are for, right? Figure out what people don't like and make improvements.
Today, Microsoft has made available the release preview—roughly analogous to the first release candidate of previous versions—and it shows a lot of improvement. If you can't stand Metro, you'll be disappointed to know it's just as prominent as before. It's more useful now, with better gestures, multi-monitor support, and greatly improved apps, but you still can't avoid it. There's a lot of polish in other areas, but still some work to be done before Windows 8 finally hits the market on tablets and PCs later this year.
Check out PCWorld's hands-on impressions of the release preview for a lot more detail about Microsoft has added and changed. If you'd like to give it a whirl yourself, download the bits from Microsoft's site. Just be sure not to upgrade your current Windows installation; install to a new partition or drive.
This story, "Windows 8 release preview now available" was originally published by TechHive.