My laptop is finally starting to come together after installing the SSD and going with the non-Toshiba installation (stock Windows 8). I had to install a few of the Toshiba utilities, such as the "Toshiba Function Key" (to make the hotkeys for things like volume, and turning off the trackpad, work) and "Toshiba Hardware Setup" (without which Windows Action Centre will complain endlessly about a missing driver).
The SSD is great - I neglected to turn UEFI back on before installing Windows, so I'm probably wasting a few precious seconds on boot up, but it's still very fast. I enabled the setting "lid open power on" in my BIOS, and I don't even bother with suspend or hibernate any more unless I'm in the middle of something. It boots about as fast from a cold boot as our desktop takes to go from a first login to ready. I'm thoroughly impressed.
Today the installer for 8.1 popped up, and despite being some 2.8GB in size the download went very quick. I'm not sure if Squid has cached the last few attempts, or possibly Dad's laptop's attempt, or what.
The most immediate thing one notices about 8.1 over 8 is that the abomination start menu is no longer hidden in a magic corner, but now has it's own actual icon again. This, and the fact that the start menu could not be dismissed with the escape key were my two main grievances with Windows 8's interface. I'm very happy to see these rectified (the latter having been rectified by Windows 8's RTM though).
You still seem to have the issue of settings not being in a universal place - do I go to the charms settings menu, or Windows' control panel first? These are things that can hopefully be fixed in subsequent versions.