Review: eWEEK Labs' tests show a smooth upgrade from Windows XP and helpful new utilities, but the overhauled Windows Explorer still needs work.
eWEEK Labs got a hold of Vista Build 5472 on July 18, loaded it up on a test machine and took a quick tour.
Microsoft officials told us that a Vista Release Candidate 1 build will be arriving by the end of the quarter. You can expect a more comprehensive review of the new operating system at that time, but, for now, well share some notes from our 5472 experience.
Build 5472 is the first Vista build weve tested to support upgrades from Windows XP. We installed the build on a 2GHz AMD Opteron-powered rig with 2GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce 6600 LE display adapter that had been running Windows XP SP2.
After an installation process that took about 50 minutes, we booted into Vista and learned that, according to the OS, our test system rated a 3.3 on the Windows Experience Index.
We followed a couple of links to find out more about the performance rating that Vista had assigned our test machine and discovered that among the featured applications within reach of our machine were Winzip and an add-on spell checker for IE. So we have that going for us, which is nice.
Of course, Microsoft is still fiddling with the Windows Experience Index, so perhaps the utilitys usefulness will become more apparent when Vista launchessometime around January 2007, by the latest estimates.
As for the XP-to-Vista upgrade we undertook, the process worked without a hitch. Our new Vista system looked quite a bit different than our XP box hadgone was XPs default hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music background, for instancebut our Start Menu remained in the same "classic" configuration as wed had it on XP.
The version of Vista we tested was the Ultimate Edition, so we werent surprised to come across several application interfaces that seemed designed for viewing on a televisionfor example, the Windows Security splash screen we saw at first boot and the screens for the systems Windows Media Center.
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In earlier looks at Vista, we reported that the systems overhauled Windows Explorer file manager was confusing to use, and were disappointed to report that this is still the case. We got lost while trying to navigate which views were searches and which were views of individual files.
We also spent several frustrating minutes trying to figure out why we couldnt assign any tags to the screen shots wed been taking, only to learn, eventually, that PNG isnt a supported format for assigning tags. Most of our screen grabs were PNG-formatted, however, because PNG is the default format in which Vistas very cool new screen-shot tool, called Snipping Tool, saves images.
One detail we noticed and appreciated in the Windows Explorer was a smarter file-copying dialog, which helpfully offered to rename automatically files with duplicate namesthe way that KDEs Konqueror has done for years now.
Build 5472 is said to feature improvements to the systems User Account Control mechanism that make the system "less chatty." Were fairly accustomed to prompts for authorization do such things as install softwareLinux and Mac systems have featured these prompts for some time now, which is probably why UAC chattiness wasnt something that seemed a problem in previous Vista builds. At any rate, it did seem that Build 5472 asked for permission less frequently than past builds did. And when the OS did ask for permission, it didnt do so multiple times.
Overall, this Vista version seemed to perform rather snappily, and we didnt notice as many hiccups in Vistas compositing desktop manager as in previous releases.
Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at email@example.com.
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