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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  • Spinne - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    No offense to the Anandtech team and Ryan, but that article was a little too light. Considering that Anandtech doesn't write about Vista builds very often, I expected more! For one thing, when you mention a feature or a change from the previous build, don't just mention it, ELABORATE! Not all of us have the time toi beta test the RC builds and sometimes we just weren't aware of the feature/change you've just glossed over. A case in point being MS's dropping hardware EAX. I'd never heard that they'd be doing this, and so either don't mention it in your article (save it for your next article), or do an Anandtech style job, not a glossy PC magazine type effort. Reply
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    i'm with you on the WAY TOO LIGHT.

    after the great write ups about apple recently. This close to a major os release, we are hearing whispers
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    According to what I have read, the November release of Vista is supposed to be the Enterprise versions only. Versions for non-corporate users are not supposed to be available until 2007; Microsoft is hoping to use this time to fix issues pertinent to home users as well as to provide time for OEMs to come up with better drivers for their hardware for home users' graphics/sound/etc.

    Keep this in mind, because that's why MS is waiting to address any gaming/enthusiast issues, which aren't necessary for the corporate editions of Vista, so they're not considered pressing at the moment.

    That said, the disappearance of hardware Directsound3D acceleration and EAX really bothers me, and if Vista causes me to lose that, it is yet another reason not to use Vista on my primary machine. One of the primary reasons I even use a Creative Labs card is for this, and to offload from the CPU, as well as some of the neat effects EAX provides when done right.
    Reply
  • ChronoReverse - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    Likely the rationale behind this (which I don't like but understand because of the changes to the entire audio subsystem) is that since dual-core will soon be the norm, it'll be an easy way to use the additional cores.

    Furthermore, I don't really see any reason why new audio card designs cannot provide acceleration again. It's really the current generation that isn't designed to account for it. But time will tell on this hopeful guess.
    Reply
  • mostlyprudent - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    Serious reduction in gaming audio performance ability + increased burden on the GPU = Poor gaming experiencee = Sell more Xbox 360s. GRRRRRR!

    LOL...Sorry, but I think every article on an MS product needs a conspiracy theory in the comments!
    Reply
  • flexy - Thursday, October 05, 2006 - link

    >>>
    increased burden on the GPU
    >>>

    i love how some people see things from a different point of view :)

    ONE person defines it as
    "Some tasks are offloaded to the GPU now to take the burden off the CPU"

    while another person sees it as "increased burden for the GPU"

    BUT THEN...what's the big deal ?

    OF COURSE new GUI features (like the 3d windows flipper) will burden the GPU...you will get nothing for free..of course.

    Nevertheless you could ALWAYS disable the new windows-management and go classic (if so desired)...IN FACT as mentioned multiple times) people could VERY WELL tweak down Vista A LOT, starting w/ disabling services, turning off spyware scanner. set to classic GUI ----> MINIMAL

    BUT THERE IS NO POINT !

    You dont go out and buy a $250 OS w/ XYZ new features and then disable all features due to a lack of memory or scared it would use too much resources.

    Either GO VISTA and be aware that new features/processes/programs WILL use more mem/CPU/GPU....or just stick w/ XP and save some coins til you can buy an addtional stick of memory. ?

    The other "hardware requirements" are really only a myth....Dx10 gfxcard requirement is a myth, and every $499 off-the shelf computer from CompUSA/BestBUY/Dell already has a decent CPU...ALTHOUGH i am positive there will be again many "complete" systems sold w/ Vista installed with RIDICULOUS low amount of memory...eg. 512MB with the option to "upgrade" which (of course) would HIGHLY be recommended :)

    Reply
  • ChronoReverse - Thursday, October 05, 2006 - link

    And it's not like the GPU is doing anything under normal usage. When a game requests fullscreen mode, the GPU will then dedicate everything to the game. It's not a hard concept. Reply
  • withalacrity - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    For many upgrading to VISTA will require hardware upgrades. After all is said and done, after the expense of the hardware, after the expense of the new OS, it comes down to performance. The performance indicators shown in this article rhetorically ask the question: what is the point of upgrading? Reply
  • stmok - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    quote:

    For many upgrading to VISTA will require hardware upgrades. After all is said and done, after the expense of the hardware, after the expense of the new OS, it comes down to performance. The performance indicators shown in this article rhetorically ask the question: what is the point of upgrading?


    To get you to spend money, of course!
    ...And hence, make the hardware manufacturers happy!

    Windows users should be well in-tuned with the general pattern by now!
    => With every new release of a new Windows, you must upgrade your system or buy a new one.
    Reply
  • Nailer - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    Ryan,

    Could you please update the article with the Windows Vista RC2/5743 build, which will be released on Friday? This will be the final interim build released to the public before RTM therefore I would expect a high level of anticipation with respect to the performance of this build.

    http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=4409">Windows Vista RC2 Coming This Friday
    Reply

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