I've found windows 8 to be quicker than windows 7 on the same hardware.
Without the metro interface, I'd almost suggest that windows 8 is much better than windows 7.
As Dee mentioned, you can use 3rd party (free) software to add a start bar. Its just that you shouldn't have to.
Apart from the FUBAR metro interface, it's a great improvement. But ... it's got metro.