Touring Windows Vista - Part 5: Wrap-Up

Our epic journey comes to a close

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 by Zoomba | Discussion: Windows Vista

This is the final part of a 5 part series offering a look into some of the new features of Windows Vista, slated for release to consumers on January 30th, 2007.  These articles will be posted once per week starting at the end of December and leading up to the commercial launch of Vista.

The series so far:
Part 1 - Introduction

Part 2 - UI Changes & Additions
Part 3 - Controls, Apps & Games
Part 4 - Tools for the Power User

If you'd like to read the entire series in one shot, I've compiled a single pdf containing all five parts of the series.  You can grab it here.

Conclusion & General Thoughts

This article series was not a "Is Vista Worth It?" sort of sales pitch.  When I started writing this article series, I intended to just write a "Day with Vista" sort of thing, a stream-of-consciousness narration of what it's like to use Vista over the course of one work day.  Nothing really pro or con, just the thoughts on average use.  It quickly morphed into a more detailed examination of what is in Vista and what it might mean for power users looking to get the most out of their purchase.   So it turned into a walkthrough of the OS for those who haven't used it yet, a glance at some of the bits and pieces of Windows Vista they might not have heard about.

As I stated at the beginning, this wasn't an in-depth look at Vista, but more of a skimming of the top layers, looking at some of the more obvious improvements.  Others have spoken at length about the technical underpinnings and very specific features.  Considering how long just this high-level article series ended up running, if I had dug deeper and broken out into more detail, you would have been reading the beginnings of a book rather than just a collection of tech articles.

So after a week solid writing (and a few weeks editing), digging around Vista, learning about the various nooks and crannies hidden away, how do I personally feel about Vista?  It's a step in the right direction.  The operating system is finally reaching a level of detail and sophistication that seems to match up with general level of technology we're seeing rapidly develop around us.  In Windows 98, 2000 and even XP, Windows was just a shell within which the user placed interesting items.  Now, with Vista, many of those interesting bits are built into the OS.  The diagnostic tools alone are miles above and beyond what we've seen in previous versions of Windows, or even Mac OS X.  The addition of Live components gives me the sense that not only will my OS be a framework for other applications to connect into, but that it will also become a channel of its own for services and content distribution.  For the first time it's starting to feel like Windows is an actual platform. 

All of that said, if you're an XP user, you have little to gain immediately from upgrading to Vista.  The new features are great and everything, but there's nothing that screams "must have" just yet.  Add to that the generally buggy and incomplete state of device drivers at the moment and spotty application compatibility as developers race to certify their software on Vista, there just isn't much advantage (and honestly, a few disadvantages currently) for most users.  And, with the rearranged interface and resorting of where tools are placed, troubleshooting those bugs could be extremely frustrating. 

If you're a gamer, stay away from Vista until NVIDIA and AMD/ATI get their drivers sorted out.  If a game even runs under Vista, chances are you'll see decreased performance compared to the same system running the same game under XP.  At the moment, NVIDIA's drivers are in particularly poor shape.  Driver support on video cards and the fact that no games are using DirectX 10 yet make Vista a poor choice at the moment for gamers.

Pros:

  • Stability.  My experience with the RTM build is that it's just as stable as XP is.  This is a nice contrast to using Windows several years ago where a restart at least once a week was required.  I rarely restart my PC anymore and see crashes even less frequently
  • Search Bar in the Start Menu.  Despite my gripes about the overly complicated new Start Menu, the search bar acting as a hybrid search/run command has grown on me significantly.  It's one of those things that seems dumb at first, but quickly becomes essential to your day-to-day use
  • Improved Diagnostic Tools.  I can now see why my hard disk is thrashing, and the event logs give me something that's actually useful.  There's a lot of power hidden underneath the hood here.
  • Integration of Live services.  This mostly depends on how Microsoft handles this new distribution channel, but I think if they do what they did with XBox Live, they'll have a huge success on their hands that provides a good service to customers.

 Cons:

  • New Start Menu.  Outside the new search bar functionality, I don't like the Start Menu redesign at all.  I especially don't like the confusing way they handled shutdown/restart options.  I anticipate many frantic phone calls from my parents in the future asking me how they turn their PC off.  I'm also not too keen on the new way you navigate the programs list in the start menu.  I liked the ever-expanding tree of menus to the right.  Sure it looked ugly, but it was very functional.
  • New Disk Defragmenter.  This is just utter crap.  It took a useful tool and dumbed it down to the point where it gives me nothing useful.  I used to be able to use the defrag tool to give me an idea of where potential performance problems were coming from.  Not anymore.  Now I just have to press a button and let magic happen in the background, hoping that it fixes what's wrong.
  • UAC.  I turned it off shortly into writing this series.  I'm sorry, but I don't want to have to answer a dozen confirmation messages to do simple system tasks.  UAC could have been useful.  It could have worked like the MacOS method where you authenticate once as the administrative user on the first system-critical task you were trying to perform, and for a certain amount of time, you remain authenticated and aren't prompted again.  The way UAC is right now, less confident users will be too terrified to delete even a shortcut from their desktop after all the WARNINGS OF DOOM the OS tosses at them.
  • Driver Support.  It's still in poor shape, especially for gamers.  This is partially the fault of both Microsoft and hardware vendors.  Microsoft failed to provide a stable OS to code against until very late in the game, and evidently hardware manufacturers waited until the very last second even then to start putting serious effort into development. 

Final Verdict:

Overall, it's a solid entry into the Windows family, it fixes issues seen in previous versions, it's stable, and offers a lot of promise.  It's just that at this moment, much of that promise is yet to be fulfilled.  Unless you're getting a copy with a new PC early this year, I'd wait to consider Vista for as a primary OS until at least the middle of 2007, by then drivers, applications and such should be sorted out. 

On issues of price and value, I can't really say.  I personally wouldn't shell out $400 for a copy of Ultimate no matter how fantastic the OS turned out being.  So until I purchase a new computer at the end of the year, I won't be running Vista at home.  Not necessarily because of technical issues, but because I can't afford it.  Personally, because I do find myself working from home, and I do use my PC as a multimedia hub, I need the functionality of both Business and Home Premium (i.e. Ultimate).

Pick up Vista when you buy a new machine starting around 3rd Quarter 2007.

Robbie_Boy
Reply #1 Tuesday, January 23, 2007 12:57 PM
Great Artical (all 5 of them) i think you hit the nail on the head with most of what you said.
But with all the problems with Drivers ect i would buy it tomorrow if i could, i've been using it now for months (RC1-2) and i love it..... 

Do you know the exact price $.of the diffrent editions... 
Corky_O
Reply #2 Tuesday, January 23, 2007 2:24 PM

Mike,

Good article of which I agree on all your points (except the new Start Menu does not bother me). The expedition of application updates/upgrades and stable hardware drivers is a must - IMO - before feeling comfortable in recommending upgrading to any users.

Do you know the exact price $.of the diffrent editions...

RB,

You can click the 'Details' button under the various versions on this page http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/editions/default.mspx and look at the bottom of the text to find the suggested retail pricing for the upgrade and full version.

Thank again, Mike.

Life is a Game
Reply #3 Wednesday, January 24, 2007 4:31 AM
Good articles.

I was using Vista for a month I and yes it's a good system but there is nothing so amazing in it to make me upgrade from WinXP. I will get Vista when I buy a new computer and I have decided to wait for a few months that software and drivers become more compatible with Vista.

I was also very dissapointed when I saw defrag. I was expecting that they would make it even better then it was in XP and not worse.

So it was good hear from a professional in computer industry such as you that you have similar feelings about Vista as me.
Astyanax
Reply #4 Friday, January 26, 2007 3:14 PM
I don't see how its in poor shape for gamers, I just installed a leaked beta of the 100.40 drivers and I can play just about anything, including HL2/CS:S/DOD:S/And Source Mods.
Septimus
Reply #5 Saturday, January 27, 2007 9:32 AM
I'm now liking Vista after some teething troubles, that now I am putting down to a bad burn of the RTM ISO.

Nvidia drivers are good, Half-Life 2 Ep: 1 runs well, though I only have 1GB of ram in this laptop so that is more of an issue than it was with XP (even though Vista in general use seems to use less memory... weird).

After a BIOS update, to a Vista designed BIOS from Toshiba, sleep, hibernate and other resumes are next to instantaneous, much like I am used to in OSX. It's an oversight I think a lot of people will make as I did, the BIOS makes a big difference.

I'm lucky to get Vista Enterprise free, but it won't stop my buying Ultimate for my media centre.

Also, if you have the full Live sub services (some aren't public as yet or closed beta) Vista makes a lot of sense. The Live integration is very nice and I'll happily subscribe once they are released.
MadMax008
Reply #6 Sunday, January 28, 2007 4:24 PM
This is a great series of articles you've got here. I've been keeping up with them.

I think Vista has a lot to bring to the table, but I think I'm going to pass on upgrading until March or so, just in case something comes up..(bugs, etc). I did have some experience with RC1&2, so we'll see what the final version has to bring

warreni
Reply #7 Tuesday, January 30, 2007 2:48 PM
Zoomba,

This was a good, informative series of articles.

Personally, I don't understand why MS went from a two- to a five-tier system of pricing and features for the new OS. This seems like serious overkill and I can't see any reason for it other than that they just felt like they didn't make enough money from the old system. A Home Premium upgrade seems to make the most sense from my current XP MCE setup, as it is comparable both in price and features to what I shelled out for XP Pro, but why should anyone have to pay $200 extra to get the multimedia features and the "Ultimate Extras" that come with Ultimate? For the average home user, even someone who would be considered a "power user," the quantity of seemingly-useless "features" taken from the Enterprise edition (e.g., UNIX support and drive encryption) that are bundled along with the niftier features of Ultimate make it seem like a big ripoff. Maybe when Vista's successor OS comes out, we'll be able to log onto Microsoft's website and select a group of features in addition to a "core OS" element in a cafeteria-style web store.

I hope that Stardock continues to support XP diehards for a long time, because I can't see it being worth my while to upgrade until I get a new machine, and that's not likely to happen for several years!

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