Hardware Needs for Vista

By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2006-04-06 Print this article Print

Still Unclear"> The fact that Microsoft has not yet released final specifications for Vista makes it somewhat difficult to surmise which discrete graphics processors and PC chip sets—chip sets handle Input/Output and other functions inside PCs—along with onboard graphics will present a full view of the OS. "We have not yet finalized the minimum hardware requirements for Windows Vista," a Microsoft spokesman told eWEEK in an e-mail. "However, we are confident Windows Vista capable PCs will be able to install and run Windows Vista, and that they will provide a positive customer experience."
However, all recent discrete solutions from major graphics makers such as ATI Technologies and Nvidia, for both desktops and notebooks, are expected to be able to support Aero, Gartner said in the report.
But the majority of corporate desktops and consumer PCs now use integrated graphics chip sets. Integrated graphics tend to be a generation or more behind discrete graphics chips and dont perform as well. Thus only some of the more recent integrated graphics are expected to be able to handle all that Vista can throw at them. Read more here about PC hardware for Vista. Gartner, whose report focuses on businesses who have historically only used PCs with Intel hardware, recommends that companies standardize on Intels very latest 945G desktop and 945GM mobile chip sets. Those chip sets, which now come in mid-to-high-end PCs and notebooks, are expected to support both WDDM drivers and Aero, Gartner surmises, provided that the right type of memory is present in large enough amounts. Gartner recommends that corporate buyers specify, at a minimum, that their desktops include the 945G chipset, a Pentium 4 processor and at least 1GB of RAM, while notebooks start with a Core Duo processor, the 945GM chip set and 1GB of RAM. Technology-minded buyers looking for greater performance, particularly in notebooks, should look at stepping up to 2GB of RAM and a discrete graphics chip, the firm said. Gartner said it did not address AMD-processor systems because most businesses have not yet adopted them. ATI, Nvidia and companies such as VIA Technologies all manufacture chip sets to support AMD processors, both with and without graphics built in. The same general principals should apply to their hardware. ATI, for one, has said its Radeon XPress 200, which is popular in both desktops and notebooks for consumers and, more recently, for businesses desktops, should run Aero. Still, "The most important part of the new graphics model for Windows Vista will be the improved stability and overall performance, not the flashy three-dimensional (3-D) look and feel," Gartner said in the report. "Only users who require a richer graphics experience to complete their work (content creators, graphics professionals and engineers) will see a business benefit from the visual aspects of Aero." Vista, as many analysts have stated, is far more likely to impact consumers at first. While the OS is still likely to play a role in the way IT managers outfit their PCs over the next year, not all of the PCs deployed between now and then will actually run the OS. Because most business arent likely to upgrade to Vista for at least 18 months, meaning that many of their 2006-era PCs will be half way or more through their life-cycles, many of their machines might not be worth upgrading, said Leslie Fiering, an analyst at Gartner in Stamford, Conn. However, "Since you dont have to make a huge effort here to be Vista-ready, theres no reason not to be," she said in an interview with eWEEK. "But we dont think theres any reason to panic or fall prey to vendor hype that youve got to take extraordinary measures." Click here to read about how corporations are preparing for Vista. Choosing the right integrated graphics chip sets for their needs, for one, means that companies arent likely to pay extra for machines with discrete graphics for all but their most demanding users. "Theres general consensus in the industry that the current level of integrated graphics will support the full user interface experience" of Vista, Fiering said. "There are many reasons for buying discrete graphics. Were just saying that you dont need to run out and change your buying habits or incur additional expense to be Vista ready." Ultimately, time will take care of most of the uncertainty of choosing hardware. For one, Microsoft will clarify its stance. Hardware will also progress. ATI, Intel, Nvidia and VIA will all release more powerful products. Intel, for example, will roll out a new 965 chip set with a beefier graphics processor built in. The chip set will appear in desktops this year and migrate to notebooks in 2007. Editors Note: This story was updated to clarify the range of graphics processors that can address all of Vistas features. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

John G. Spooner John G. Spooner, a senior writer for eWeek, chronicles the PC industry, in addition to covering semiconductors and, on occasion, automotive technology. Prior to joining eWeek in 2005, Mr. Spooner spent more than four years as a staff writer for CNET News.com, where he covered computer hardware. He has also worked as a staff writer for ZDNET News.

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