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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  • yxalitis - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    intersting, the first thign I did wiht Vista X64, is to compare Half Life 2 Lost Coast timedemos between the X64 versions of Windows XP and Vista. I found a MASSive improvement, quite repeatable, at the highest quality settings at 1600 X 1200 on an ASUS p5W deluxe running an X1800 XT. I mean 68 fps compared to 48 in XP.
    I wonde if Anand and tema would consider doing an X64 comparison. I have lived in teh X64 world for some time now, and therefore have all the XP X64 drivers I need to install all my hardware! This is a far cry from Windows 2000, wheere ti was like it or lump it! (New HP scanner anyone? Creative sound cards? Forget it!)
    Reply
  • flexy - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    wait 4,5,6 months, say, spring next year.

    We will have Vista and hopefully new and better drivers, and new DX10 cards from ATI and Nvidia.

    Until then performance-enthusiasts can stay with XP..it's not that someone gets FORCED to go Vista, especillay since some drivers and 3rd party apps still need some maturity. Just be patient.

    As for right now...i got Vista 5728 64bit and i am VERY please despites MINOR quirks (say: CREATIVE Audigy :)...i dont have reason to think negative, instead positive....things need a while to mature.

    And then in a few months load up Crysis under Vista w/ a DX10 card and noone will complain anyore :)
    Reply
  • mgambrell - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    The compatibility score would drop through the floor if they tested the 64bit version of vista. It's got nothing to do with the 64bitness--I am comparing to XP-64. The 64 bit version forbids unsigned drivers from loading, which while this may be eventually resolved by all the indie developers, for now means no daemon tools and no ultramon.

    Be very careful with 64bit vista, it has disadvantages when compared to xp-64
    Reply
  • yxalitis - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    I disagree, are you using RC1, or Vista beta? I loaded all my hardware using various unsigned drivers, including my Epson RX510. I am fairly certain Microsoft dropped that requirement from RC1, because I have read it in lots of forum posts, but never encounterd any problems. Reply
  • ProviaFan - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    I'm using Vista RC1 (build 5600) x64, and it still seems to have the signed driver requirement. You can select to disable signed drivers temporarily for one boot from the F8 boot options menu, but under normal operation Vista will prevent my Gretag Macbeth Eye-one drivers from loading (said drivers work perfectly in XP x64, naturally). Reply
  • mgambrell - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    Hamachi too. i was just reminded of that by a hamachi update which said they added driver signing. so hopefully this stuff will begin soon. Reply
  • yacoub - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    With this many years to develop it, it is not at all unreasonable to expect IMPROVED performance, not equal and especially not lesser performance. Totally unacceptable. Reply
  • ChronoReverse - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    When was the last time a new OS was released that ran significantly faster on the same hardware?

    I can only think of WinXP boot time and even then only the usual case compared with Win98.
    Reply
  • mgambrell - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    Well personally I expect more robustness, capabilities, and security. That stuff all comes at the cost of speed. I absolutely do not expect several years of development in an OS to improve process startup time. I expect the process to become more involved and powerful and thus the speed to on the whole remain the same. Reply
  • Pirks - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    This "gaming" review may be interesting for people who buy ATI cards which are a mix of nice hardware and stinking decomposing corpse of software... until I see your review with various GeForce video cards I won't pass any judgement on Vista. I expect ATI to continue producing a joke they call "Vista drivers" and will accept only the gaming benchmark results made on nVidia cards. Thank you. Reply

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