What Lies Ahead

Given that Vista is ready to be taken seriously, there are also a handful of issues that we've encountered so far. These issues are not necessarily showstoppers, but they are fairly significant and will be a problem for enthusiasts. Officially, at only a month left until Microsoft wants to have a version ready to ship, we're not sure if these problems will be addressed. Either way, they're important to mention.

The biggest enthusiast issue is still UAC. Certainly for users who seldom need administrative powers UAC is fine, but the more you need administrative powers the more obvious the problems become. As we mentioned in our build 5472 article, Vista does not have a notion of pre-approved programs. Because marking a program to run with administrative privileges is not itself an administrative task, the actual check comes at every execution. The problem with this becomes readily apparent when using a lot of programs that require administrative powers: every single execution requires authorizing the program to run.

What we would like to see is a way to pre-approve programs to run, using hashing to make sure such a program hasn't secretly been changed, so that selected programs won't require user-authorization every single time they're executed. Apple already does something remotely similar in Mac OS X with their password keychain, so the idea is not unprecedented. This alone would solve one of the biggest nuisances in Vista, and is a much better alternative from a security perspective than disabling UAC outright or setting it to approve all applications requesting administrative privileges.

Another notable issue we encountered cropped up in the same security system, ironically because the security service is doing what we want in this case. Upon attempting to patch Battlefield 2, the patch installer took an abnormally long time to start, and upon some investigation the issue turned out to be that the security service was hashing the patch installer, all 500MB of it. It goes without saying that self-contained executable installers are one of the primary distribution formats for data on the internet, so this isn't a minor issue. The biggest single executable we could find, the installer for the Battlefield 2142 beta, took over two minutes just to hash, and that's not going to make people happy. (Given that the Battlefield 2 patch can take well over 20 minutes to install on a moderate system, however, two minutes isn't the end of the world.)

Although it's clearly easier said than done, if Windows is going to hash all executables it could use some way of figuring out what's an installer package and not hashing the whole thing. Running these kinds of installers is not a daily event, but right now other than a lot of disk activity and some CPU usage by the security service, there's no real notification Vista is attempting to launch the application, and this is going to cause concerns for a lot of people the first time they encounter it. Those that don't understand the specifics of what is happening will almost certainly conclude that Vista is simply slower than XP on some tasks.

The third notable issue is audio for gaming purposes, and while we'll have a lot more on this when the final version of Vista is released, it at least deserves a quick mention right now. As Microsoft has moved most of the Windows audio system into Vista itself and out of hardware and drivers, DirectSound3D is no longer hardware accelerated and EAX effects may never work with it again. There are several exceptions and specific scenarios to talk about here, especially with Creative Labs' soundcards since they're the de-facto vendor of gaming soundcards, but it looks like a lot of older games are going to lose some of their audio abilities. There may also be a greater performance hit due to the amount of processing that is now done solely in software.

Last but not least, let's talk about performance. Here is our test bed, which has been updated from the previous Vista article.

The Test

Vista 5728 Testbed
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4600+ (2.4GHz/1MB)
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI (Socket 939)
Chipset: NVIDIA nForce 4 SLI
Chipset Drivers: NVIDIA nForce 6.86/Vista RC1
Hard Disk: Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 120GB
Memory: OCZ PC4800 (512MB x 4)
Video Card: ATI Radeon X1900XTX
Video Drivers: ATI Catalyst 6.9/Vista RC1
Desktop Resolution: 1600 x 1200 - 32-bit @ 60Hz
OS: Windows XP Professional SP2

Index Vista Performance
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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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