Windows 7: the First Month Review, Part 3

Windows 7 reviewThis is the final post a 3-part review of my experience with Microsoft Windows 7 after one month. In part one, we discussed installation and the interface. Part 2 covered productivity, software and security. In today’s final part, we examine performance and Windows future.

Performance

If you were expecting Windows 7 to be significantly faster than Vista, you’re going to be disappointed.

Actually, that’s not quite true — it depends on your system. If you have a reasonably modern PC, ensured Vista was up-to-date, and kept your system clean, the speed improvements in Windows 7 will be negligible. Sorry Microsoft — I may not have benchmark figures to back that up, but Windows 7 certainly doesn’t feel any faster to me.

However, I suspect you’ll notice speed improvements if you’re running Vista on older hardware or have a clogged-up system that would benefit from a clear out.

In my experience, boot times are similar, although only because Vista has improved within the past few months. It takes my laptop around 40-50 seconds to boot followed by another 20-30 seconds to log in. However, Vista was almost unusable for 5 minutes while it pre-cached every application it thought I could feasibly use. Windows 7 is better, although it’s still a little sluggish immediately after a cold boot.

Memory management has improved and disk activity has been greatly reduced. In addition, sleeping, hibernating and resuming are much faster (the menu is also more logical now Microsoft has removed the 57 stupid options offered by Vista!)

Laptop users should experience longer battery life and your fan noise will be noticeably quieter than before!

The Future

Microsoft are yet to reveal their plans for Windows 8 and beyond. A few “leaks” suggest they’re planning a 128-bit architecture, but that will certainly depend on processor and hardware manufacturers. And it won’t help the 32/64-bit confusion.

However, Google’s Chrome OS will be released in 2010. It has the potential to change the rules of the game, but I’m not convinced many businesses are ready to consider Windows alternatives. I suspect Microsoft will keep doing the same and Windows 8 will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. They tried to be radical with Longhorn (the original vision for Vista) and it failed dismally.

Summary

To me, the most significant improvement to Windows 7 is that you forget it’s there. It’s stable, works well, doesn’t nag you, and offers good performance. It’s what an OS should be: a way to launch programs and manage files. That may appear obvious, but I think Microsoft lost its way when they started assuming the OS was more important than the applications it ran (Apple take note!)

The OS may not be a huge step beyond Vista, but it’s ironed out the problems and addressed the criticisms. If you like Vista and it’s working well, the new OS won’t offer much that’s new. However, once you’ve tried Windows 7, you won’t go back.

In my opinion, the best points about Windows 7 are:

  • the UI improvements
  • libraries and jumplists
  • less intrusive UAC
  • XP Mode
  • no unnecessary software installed
  • good performance and battery life

And the worst points are:

  • cold starts are still fairly slow
  • the lack of native 64-bit software and the confusion it brings
  • inconsistent program interfaces and styles
  • crashing gadgets
  • few Vista users will notice significant improvements

Windows 7 is the first version I’ve purchased (other than receiving OEM versions with PC hardware) and I don’t regret the decision. The Vista improvements may be marginal, but that OS received bad press from which it never recovered. With Windows 7, Microsoft are hoping to change people’s perception and it appears to be working.

Microsoft are increasing their prices in the new year, so don’t hold off if you’re intending to purchase Windows 7. The current Amazon offers are:

US Amazon.com:

UK Amazon.co.uk:

Remember to consider Professional or Ultimate if you want the full benefit of XP Mode.

See also:

Free book: Jump Start HTML5 Basics

Grab a free copy of one our latest ebooks! Packed with hints and tips on HTML5's most powerful new features.

  • Chris M

    Nice to see a lazy opinionated review of an operating system…
    http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=22006 < at least bothered to provide benchmarks as evidence. Time is relative and "I didnt feel it was any faster" is a worthless evaluation.

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    Benchmarks are useful, but you can prove anything either way depending on the testing conditions. Real world usage is what counts and, in my experience, there’s little noticeable between Vista and 7 on a modern PC. Sorry, but I was expecting more.

    The ZD benchmarks show much the same except in one or two extreme tests. I wish I had access to the resources they do! (Note that I’m a freelancer and not a SitePoint employee).

  • SoStupitt

    “Those suckers that bought Vista Ultimate, myself included, are screwed,” said yet another commenter. “There isn’t a chance in hell that I am paying $219 for what should really be Vista SP2. We were promised ‘extras’ which we never got, now we are being excluded from the pre-order special. Anyway even at $49, it is still too much to pay.”

    The extras that commenter mentioned refer to “Ultimate Extras,” one of the main features Microsoft cited in the months leading up to the 2007 release of Vista Ultimate to distinguish the operating system from its lower-priced siblings. According to Microsoft’s marketing, Extras were to be “cutting-edge programs, innovative services and unique publications” that would be regularly offered only to users of Vista’s highest-priced edition.

    But users soon began belittling the paltry number of add-ons Microsoft released and the company’s leisurely pace at providing them. Just five months after Vista was launched, critics started to complain.

    Earlier this year, Microsoft dumped the feature, saying that it would instead focus on existing features in Windows 7 rather than again promise extras.

    The furor over Vista Ultimate has even reached analysts’ ranks. In May, Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft urged Microsoft to give Vista Ultimate owners a free upgrade to Windows 7. “It would buy them a lot of good will, and I don’t think it would cost them much,” Cherry said at the time.

    Some of the commenters in the latest Computerworld stories about Windows 7 echoed Cherry.

    “I am running Vista Ultimate and feel ripped off by Microsoft because … [we] never received the extras we paid good money to get,” said “Hellfire” in a long comment. “The very least that they should do is offer a heavily-discounted upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate to those that have lost money by purchasing Vista Ultimate.”

    check google for source

  • Windows 7 x86-64

    “•the lack of native 64-bit software and the confusion it brings”

    What exactly do you mean by this statement? 64-bit compatibility is better than it ever has been and is not a Windows 7 issue, it is an issue with lazy developers not updating their software.

  • Joe Zim

    I can’t believe for one second that you aren’t noticing an improvement in boot up speed. My fiance was running Vista and I went into msconfig and prevented everything from starting up that didn’t need to start up and I’m using Windows 7 on a very noticeably slower machine and my machine boots up noticeably quicker. I also very much like the quick launch combined into the taskbar. I liked the idea in Mac but I think Windows does it much better if you ask me.

  • PCSpectra

    I’ve been using beta build 7100 since it was available.

    It does seem faster, but then I switched from a 2.5Ghz with maybe 256MB RAM to a power house i7 quad core 64 bit with 6 (or 12) GB DDR3 RAM. I’m also powering two displays, 22″ and I think 26″ Samsung LCD displays.

    It’s a nice OS and worth the upgrade, IMO. I never really used Vista, so I compare strictly to XP or Ubuntu.

    Windows 7 recognized all my hardware without any install nessecary, even networked printers, which barely worked with XP and the manufacturer drivers installed.

    My biggest complain with Windows 7 (build 7100) is this annoying keyboard issue I experience. Certain keys will stop echoìng the correct character. For instance, if I press the key for single quotes I get this “ which I actually had to press twice for any output and it delivered “ — other keys include question mark É and slashes used for commenting in PHP which results in this éé

    I can cirumvent the issue by restarting the application (not OS) which is what is really weird — but the problem pops again after a few minutes of typing. I cannot for the life of me figure out the problem and drivers, etc are all up to date. I thought it was my wireless keyboard so I switched to a cheap wired keyboard, same problems.

    Other than that all the little things, really add up in thie latest Windows release. Again well worth the investment, which I plan on purchasing shortly after XMAS.

    Cheers,
    Alex

  • http://www.starsites.co.za Jacotheron

    I also have build 7100 and I noticed that some characters can be used with other characters as combination characters or special characters. I am not sure where to turn this off, but it works after the second key was pressed like ^ e would give ê (first nothing and then the combination). By pressing the space it inserts the character that was pressed before the space (not followed by a space). Although I think this is easier to use than the Alt codes (I am Afrikaans and we use those characters).

    Another problem I have with W7 is the sharing. If you need to share a drive (or folder) to XP and other computers not on your Home Network (although on the lan), you have to go and set the user permissions for that drive or folder under Properties > Security and Properties > Sharing. Folders not created by you (using W7 is locked this way by default). Here is the steps to follow: Right click on the folder > Properties > Sharing > Advanced Sharing > Click “share this folder” and supply the details > Permissions > Add > Advanced > Find Now > In the results select the user or Everyone > Click on OK > Give the needed permissions. Do the same at Properties > Security (I have not found this anywhere and so I post this here, hope this helps someone).

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    I can’t believe for one second that you aren’t noticing an improvement in boot up speed.

    Vista has been upgraded over the past few months and boot-up times definitely improved for me. If Windows 7 improved your boot time, has it done so because Vista was clogged up?

    64-bit compatibility is better than it ever has been

    See part 2 for more details…