Single Status Update
...writing this on Windows 7 Ultimate x86, Greek edition.
OK, so it's not a bad OS (nobody said it was). I put it to some "stress tests" of my typical daily usage patterns.
So, to be "fair" to my old Windows XP installation, I took a old IDE 40 GB Maxtor HD and slapped 7 on it. The rest of the hardware is:
- Athlon 64 3200+ (x86 mode, soz)
- ASUS K8V-X mobo with Socket 745.
- 1 GB of DDR-400 RAM
- ATI Radeon X1650 w/512 MB
- Integrated VIA AC'97 audio
- Generic BT878-based TV capture card
- Gigabyte AirCruiser GN-WP01GS wireless PCI card
So, the good things:
- The installation was quicker, considering how larger the OS itself is. Windows XP's installer has some lower time cap at about 15-20 minutes with an average of 30-40, which I've never been able to significantly see improving over 10 years of installing the thing. I always felt there was something fishy about it.
- The Aero interface is heavy, but luckily you can have a "near classic" look.
- Some things like Explorer do indeed work better and less ambiguously than their XP counterpart. In any case, adjusting to the new interface is a no-brainer.
- Most stuff that relies on raw CPU power alone doesn't appear to be slowed down, and some operations may actually be faster from a computing point of view.
- Compared to Vista Ultimate, the driver support is much better. After installation I did have no audio or wireless drivers, and of course no webcam (Vimicron VC0343) or TV capture card drivers), however ethernet worked (also, 7 has out-of-the-box VIA chipset drivers, unlike XP, so I guess SATA installation would work without SATA driver floppies)
- After I plugged the ethernet cable in and got connectivity, Windows Update found drivers for everything save the Webcam and TV Card. I got the camera's from the manufacturer's site the usual way (for Vista) and for the TV card I got some generic "refurbished" BT878 drivers. They both worked good enough for VirtualDub's capture to work (with audio).
- Seems more stable under circumstances that lock up XP e.g. an unreadable floppy or CD/DVD.
- It seems able to hold up roughly as many applications as you can under XP with the same amount of RAM, and almost as fast. So it's not a dramatic change like e.g. installing Windows 95 on a 386 with 4 MB RAM, at least not on a machine of that class. With less than 1 GB though, I'd doubt it. Not that it's easy to even BUY a machine with less than 1 GB today
- Some optimizations/tricks used on XP work on 7 too, so you can add some extra functionality like e.g. opening commandlines in context menus or disabling some useless services (OTOH, there are more useless services to disable).
- Compatibility with application and multimedia stuff that I use (mostly Winamp, CCCP codec pak, Eclipse/Java SDK, C#Develop/.NET SDK, VirtualDub, PSP, Gimp, various disk and programming utliities0 etc. was very good.
- They seem to have sorted out the dreadful WPA/WPA2 connectivity problems that plagued Vista.
- Much, MUCH higher disk I/O. In fact, I think that slowdown -if any- comes mainly from this. Even after I disabled SuperFetch and any other caching services, it just seems to use the hard disk a LOT more than XP, even when the RAM should be nowhere near full. I guess they somehow made Windows' ridiculous swapping policy even MORE ridiculous. So far, I've never managed to actually get e.g. Linux to actually swap out memory on multi-GB setups, but Windows, in all of its flavours, will swap out very pessimistically at ridicolously low thresholds. I guess that can't be helped. The machine was literally begging on its knees for an extra GB or even 512 MB of RAM, or at least a faster HD/SCSI/SATA interface.
- Possibly because of frequent disk I/O, I got frequent audio breaks whenever I moved windows or opened up a lot of stuff. It seems much easier to break sound timers/buffers under 7 by stressing the UI.
- Speaking of audio....yup, the default mixer sucks ass. I never thought I'd prefer using third-party mixers over Windows's.
- The new default locations for program files, user docs etc. appear internationalized in the UI e.g. "Application Files" becomes "Αρχεία Εφαρμογών" whenever you pick it from browsing dialogs and the such. Now, in "legacy" application the names usually get transparently localized to "Program Files" and work, but sometimes they don't, or they break non-unicode file handling. This problem is only likely to affect users of international versions, though.
- When searching for drivers, there's a duality: sometimes there are no 7-specific drivers and you must select either Vista or XP ones, but sometimes both might work, which can become confusing, especially when they DON'T come with the same set of utilities (e.g. with the Gigabyte AirCruiser drivers, if you install the Vista set you can't use Gigabyte's wireless manager utilities, but with XP you'll get an "unsigned driver" warning).
What will be interesting, would be to run a typical 3DMark03 benchmark with the drivers Windows 7 automatically installed vs ATIs (WinXP SP3 gets about 8000 3DMarks on the same HW)
- Athlon 64 3200+ (x86 mode, soz)