At long last the light is at the end of the tunnel. After a several year development period, the longest for any single consumer version of Windows, the end is near for Windows Vista. While it's clearly not ready to be delivered in to the hands of users quite yet, Vista is finally at a point where we can begin talking about what will happen, and not what may.

Although Microsoft uses the Release Candidate nomenclature for Vista builds 5600 and above, including build 5728 we're looking at today, the reality of the situation is that the shipping version of Windows Vista will not be these builds or even a few builds down the line. Given the complexity of an operating system, there are still messy quirks and bona fide bugs in these release candidates, and it's going to be at least another month before we're talking about Microsoft having released a final version, and even then there will be a good amount of post-launch patching to be done as Vista ends up in the hands of the ultimate bug hunters, everyday users.

With that said, this is the first time that we can say without flinching that Vista is in an acceptable state for general use. Compatibility on the x86 version is remarkably improved over what we saw earlier, and in our testing we only managed to come up with a single program - non-commercial at that - that simply wouldn't function correctly under Vista no matter what. Otherwise, everything could be made to work under Vista given enough cajoling, which is an enormous feat given the amount of under-the-hood work the operating system has received compared to Windows XP.

Click to enlarge

User Account Controls have not changed much since build 5472, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Like Windows overall, UAC is usable at this point, and not nearly the nuisance it was as of Beta 2. It still has rough spots, and we'll get to that in a bit, but at this point enthusiasts are the only group that will have problems with it.

Hardware support and in-the-box drivers are also coming together, no doubt due to the portability of drivers between Vista and XP in most cases. A quick run-through of our lab turned up only two pieces of hardware that weren't supported under Vista: a Hauppauge TV tuner that had three of the four drivers it needed, and our PhysX card, both of which should have full support soon. All things considered, this will likely be the least-painful Windows transition on the driver front, as vendors have been on top of the few key kernel/driver changes for a while.

At this point we've been using RC1 for nearly a month, and the newer build 5728 for over two weeks, and while we're ready to switch back to XP until Vista is completed due to some video issues, Vista is ready to be taken seriously.

What Lies Ahead & the Test
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  • mickrussom - Thursday, September 04, 2008 - link

    Horrible. Waited to make final judgment on SP1. SP1 sucked and broke many legacy directx applications. Migrating back. Vista is horrible, unusable for games, and is fraught with BS issues. Its like Windows ME, but not as bad. Piss off microsoft.

    Reply
  • Galvin - Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - link

    I checked over in creative forums on their website. Their plan is to move away from direct sound and to openAL which will have hardware acceleated 3D sound.

    Why MS nerfed their own directsound is beyond me. but openAL will be the way to go in the future. Leaving directsound useless for games.

    This reminds me back when we had NT. You had to use openGL to get hardware accelerated 3D graphics. direct3D in NT was all software driven. So in Vista its the same difference all over again.
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Monday, October 09, 2006 - link

    Which video driver did you use for your testing? The one that installs with Vista, or the one from ATI's website?

    I ask because on my computer, running Vista-RC2, ATI's website driver won't let me run UT2004 above 640x480 without corrupting the lower part of the screen - at my preferred res of 1280x1024, the lower 2/3 of the screen is corrupt and shows part of the UT2004 menu instead of the game screen. Microsoft's driver (which was presumably written by ATI) shows no such problems; however running UT2004 in RC2 with that driver seems much slower than in XP with CAT 6.9.
    Reply
  • Wag - Friday, October 06, 2006 - link

    If not already mentioned, this would have been the real test, not just testing Half-Life2 on XP32 vs the 64bit version on the 64bit OS. Of course it's going to perform better. Reply
  • joust - Thursday, October 05, 2006 - link

    Ryan,

    Were the experiments you performed with UAC off or on? Is there any difference in game performance between UAC being on or off? (I would imagine there would be some performance hit if UAC were on).
    Reply
  • Emryse - Thursday, October 05, 2006 - link

    As stated, I can't get into the technical aspects of what a change to Vista will mean; I'm somewhat managing to grasp what the review is discussing. But before you stop reading, my comment is more of a generalized observation - I'm not the first, I'm sure. And by the way, thanks to AnandTech for the great resources on all of this information, and thanks to you as a community for your interesting posts and points therein.

    In essence, I've been following quite closely over the last 1.5 years the progress being made for high-end computer components. Unfortunately, what I see is a very bleak future for technology, if business can't separate itself from the creative process. I see these very small incremental increases in "horsepower" when card after card comes rolling out, with only a one or two letter/number designator to set it apart from it's predecessor. Business has become overly greedy, and in reality I think it's harming the industry as a whole, for the following reasons:

    1. RACING = AUTOMOBILES as GAMING = COMPUTERS, in my humble opinion. When you have a lot of different teams, competing to develope better and faster, you see dramatic positive changes in the industry as a whole. But in reality, just take for instance, the merger between ATI and AMD. This does not at ALL appear to me a move to increase competition, and push for greater advances in the industry. On the contrary, this move will further restrict the ability for smaller companies to maintain competition, because in reality, the market has no choice.

    2. Before I'm labeled as an MS hater (and I do love MS), it is still a fact that MS is realistically the ONLY choice for the gaming industry at this point. This further restricts the ability for competition and creativity - this article, and the fact that the whole world is watching for what Vista will become, proves my point true. If Vista isn't enhancing for the gaming industry, then we as gamers (and developers) are forced to either a.) wait for SP enhancements (out of our control), or b.) not transition to Vista (which won't remain an option for long, as history shows MS ceasing support for prior OS, thus forcing transition in the long run). And if anyone has read the other article on "WINDOWS-READY Games", it's very clear that Microsoft wants to take control of the direction the entire industry heads - and I have my reservations that technological progression and competition will be highlights of the MS agenda.

    My conclusion (and I don't claim to be 'right'), but in my humble opinion: I see an industry that is becoming less and less competitive, and I also see products that are less and less productive, while becoming more and more expensive. What I see from MS lately, is more concern over copyright / piracy / security-related issues, and less of a concern for advances in performance, expanding the limits on creativity and control for the devoper / gamer to modify and expand, etc. If anyone can afford to sacrifice a little profit to see gains in the advance of an entire industry, it's MS. Hey - it's just business, but when you have an empire such as the world has allowed MS to become (myself included) because up to now they are the best, there really isn't all that much pressure on MS to provide the market with a truly astounding and creatively progressive product, and we as the community have no real available means to force MS to do better.

    What are we going to do, abstain from MS? (And for you Linux / MAC / -insert alternate OS here- fans, don't respond; this was a rhetorical question for the 98% of the community for whom this issue will have the most impact, no offense).
    Reply
  • flexy - Thursday, October 05, 2006 - link

    >>>
    What I see from MS lately, is more concern over copyright / piracy / security-related issues, and less of a concern for advances in performance,
    >>>

    you brought it down to the point.

    However,there WILL be new features in Vista regarding better performance, just mentioning ONE thing which will be superfetch, which could be seen as a "intelligent" prefetcher which will know what applications you use mostly (and when) and will speed up loading of programs.

    NEVER EVER was MS Windows a "gamer OS"..you dont need the whole Windows overhead AT ALL for playing a game - but we just dont have a choice :)

    The moment MS came out with DirectX basically meant that games need Windows to interact with hardware...which basically is a monopoly...ever thought how much "sense" it makes that the ability of running a certain game automatically DEPENDS on a certain OS ?

    There were times when an OS was not an requirement at all for running games...just to show you how "brainwashed" we actually are :)

    One good thing however, hardware/memory is NOT that expensive anymore.

    People should refrain from complaining about "memory requirements" for Vista etc....which firstly, are so not true AT ALL....and, secondly, it wouldnt just make sense to go Vista yo utilize its new features - and at the same time complaining that the new features use MORE memory than eg. what XP did.

    Then please get another stick of memory, problem solved :)

    Besides, hardware requirements in general....it looks like Vista will not even USE DX10, so the *requirement* for a DX10 card is NIL:....it WILL run fine on MOST recent hardware

    ALso...from a certain point of view MS actually did GOOD putting a big focus on security...because those were the major issues in previous versions, and for sure of concern for the "every day user".

    Built-in spyware-scanner etc...etc....much more security..nothing speaks against it
    Reply
  • Griswold - Saturday, October 07, 2006 - link

    quote:

    There were times when an OS was not an requirement at all for running games...just to show you how "brainwashed" we actually are :)


    When was that? On IBM compatible PCs, there was always the need for an OS - it was called DOS.
    Reply
  • kleinwl - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    This is the first I've heard of the elimination of Hardware accelleration for sound systems. I don't understand how software only can possibly have the same high quality as a well designed DACs. Can you please do some testing and see how much sound quality is impared? I love lisening to music through my computer and if Vista is going to degrade that experience.... well.. Reply
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    sound will be great, because now AC97 will be replaced by HD Sound.

    lol.

    I agree, for the majority of pc users sound is for some reason taking another step back.

    with all its problems creatives sound was always better then onboard.
    Reply

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