First look: Windows 7
I’m gonna write this post in english since some friends (*wink* to Spain and the US ) are waiting for my review And the other note: I’m not gonna talk about the details of new features or UI changes here, since most of it got already discussed to death in various online media. If you want background infos on features, ask Google. The version i’m testing here is „Windows 7 Ultimate RTM x64 en-US“ (with german language pack).
The install went smooth and without problems. I’ve used the x64 version. Nothing big to write about it, basicly it’s the Vista installer. What still annoys me: it doesn’t let you choose if you want to install the bootloader or where to install it. I would prefer if the setup didn’t touch my grub and would like to setup the boot manager on my own… But well, Windows is a OS targeted at general noobs so i guess this must be that way. However, they could add an „Expert Mode“ for setup or something like that… A setup where you can’t control the params is no real setup in my eyes.
The install of the language pack also went smooth, you simply put in the DVD (the files can also be located on HDD or LAN, doesn’t matter – i wrote them to DVD for storage purpose) and install them with few clicks. You install languages over the „Region and Language“ thingy in the control panel. After installation of the language pack (and activating it for the whole system, not only your current user account) even the boot screen is localized.
I had only minor problems with drivers at all, not nearly as evil as it was with Vista back when it was released. But then again, i only have Mainstream-Hardware (Asus Mainboard with nForce Chipset, Geforce 9, Realtek HD Audio). The only drivers that created problems was the Logitech G15 drivers – there is no Win7 compatible release, the installer detects an unsupported OS and refuse to install but if you start it in Compat-Mode for Vista SP2 it install and works flawless. For all my nVidia hardware Win7 compatible drivers are already available. To my big surprise Win7 already came with drivers for my Epson Stylus SX100 – and not just the printer part, the scanner also worked out of the box without installing any epson stuff… My 7€ Bluetooth stick is also supported out of the box without any configuration.
It takes some minutes to get used to the new taskbar, but after you got used to it you will like it. The Aero effects are not much changed since Vista and are still inferior to Compiz (the desktop effects component for Linux). What i like is that when you [Alt]+[Tab] to reach another window, all other windows then the currently highlighted will be transparent and displayed with just the border. Also you can shake the window title bar to minimize all other windows then the shaken one – pretty neat in example if you wanna drop a link from a website to your desktop for later use or something like that. UAC was improved over Vista, it isn’t nearly as annoying as in Vista – but i still disabled it. UAC is still failure by design and just annoying, Linux done better here with the „sudo“ concept – but then again Linux was always better regarding administrative rights / user rights management and how they’re handled and this is no miracle if you keep in mind that’s inspired by Unix. One thing that i noted really positive: the default action for the „Shutdown“ button in the start menu is actually shut down again, and not some energy saving mode like in Vista.
The system feels very snappy in normal usage. The improved boot time that was announced isn’t noticeable on my machine. OK, it got faster from login to a usable desktop, but this is eaten by a longer boot phase (when you see the windows logo, pre-„Welcome“ screen) on my machine. Overall my XP x64 still boots faster. What i think is interesting is the fact that after i installed NOD32 Anti-Virus there was no performance loss noticeable, even when accessing large self-extracting archives and stuff like that. I don’t know if Microsoft provides special hooks AV-Tools can use that this is like it is, but however it’s archived – it’s the first time i installed an anti-virus and didn’t regret it five minutes later. Microsoft also seems to really have tweaked the background stuff, i couldn’t notice any performance differences till now between „Windows Defender“ enabled and disabled for example.
On gaming performance i can’t say much yet, since i also upgrade my screen to a 21,5″ FullHD (1920×1080) one. Prior i was running games at 1280×1024 so this increase already eats much performance. But overall it seems to be as fast as WinXP and faster then Vista (Atleast with SP1, the last i tried) in Gaming. One thing that is a bit annoying seems to be caused by the differences between XP and Vista/7 driver model, if you start a game (or change its graphic settings) and the rendering engine get’s initialized it takes noticeable longer then under XP. But we talk about a few seconds here so this is neglectable. I didn’t run in any compatiblity problems, except for Drift City – but this should also apply to most other GameGuard protected games. Older GameGuard versions (like the one used in DC) don’t run on Win7 – INCA already build an update for this but you can’t simply patch your (GG-)Client since the (Game-)Server part of GG also needs to be patched for compatibility with the new client. So currently: no Drift City on Windows 7 currently. But we had this GameGuard issue (and partly hshield, too) also when Vista was released, its only natural if you keep in mind how kernel-near gameguard works (ever analyzed your system configuration? GG installs a hidden driver…) Also Starcraft starts with the famous color bug, but this seems to only affect the menu – ingame the colors where normal. Starcraft however feeled slower then with XP – i’ve no numbers to prove this – but can we take a game from 1998 which was designed for Windows 9x to run in 640×480@256c as a measurement?
Note that you still need to manually install DirectX 9 like in Vista for most games, only DirectX 10 and 11 are integrated.
Overall Windows 7 is very decent operating system, for people using Vista i would call it a „Must have“ upgrade since it’s a big improvement. For people using XP it depends on their computer usage, if you use your Windows just for gaming like me and don’t need or want DirectX 10 & 11 you can keep your XP. But if you use Windows as your daily bread and butter operating system i would recommend to upgrade if your comp is decent enough to run it properly. There are many small tweaks and features where you will think „Oh, thats nice. Clever thingy…“ and similiar. But all the improvements still can’t take me back into the Windows world, i will stick with Linux as my main operating system – it’s just better suited for me and allows better customization. But if Windows is your only OS – upgrade to 7! It’s a real improvement and i couldn’t find any performance issues or other reasons that would speak against it (except the price tag if you can’t get it through MSDN, Technet or OEM/Pre-installed computer).
I will do some benchmarking with games to get some numbers regarding game performance XPx64 vs. Win7 x64 when i’ll have more time so stay tuned…