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.

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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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  • flexy - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    mem-usage is a URBAN MYTH :)

    You can check for yourself, and i did too. DWM, the new windows management uses SOME memory, comparable to Explorer...but then it does new 3d fancy stuff and similiar. Of course, more features need more memory.

    You COULD always disable and tweak-down stuff in Vista, as well as you can in XP....HOWEVER i'd say 2GB for Vista would be perfect and 1GB (as i have on XP Pro right now) is a little tight. *IF* you go vista then you of course also want to take advantage of its fetaures, right ? Otherwise you could as well stay with XP..or even get 98 "to save memory" :)

    But its NOT the case that the memory usage of Vista is SOOO over the roof as some people suggest..it's just not true.
    Reply
  • Drexial - Sunday, October 08, 2006 - link

    its not really a myth... those features that are unessesary mostly install by default... and unless you know what your doing (which i might add the new windows is even LESS user friendly) then the memory will remain taken up and what should have run without any hang ups on 1 gig now has you concidering 2 gigs would be better. as little a cost that is, the average user isnt going to need half the crap that vista adds and just makes those that dont need to get a C+ certifacation on computers will be even more lost. Windows isnt suposed to be a prosumer operating system. its supose to be an easy to use way for your software to work for you. Vista is like the Mini with 6 airbags... while it sounds better its just a gimmick. i do understand that there may have been some nessesary upgrades to the system. they just packed it with what ever crap they could think of. Reply
  • jonp - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    Wow, what folks are willing to consider normal today. If someone would have told you even just 5 years ago that the OS would require 2 billion+ (2,147,483,648) bytes of main memory, what would folks have said? And now it is considered just dandy? Even "bloat" doesn't adequately describe where OS’s and applications are headed. Big programming teams with less pride in craft left these days I guess. Reply
  • noxipoo - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    the price of progress. i'd rather move forward than backwards, price of memory has gone down and features have gone up. having so much memory will only limit progress. Reply
  • ChronoReverse - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    A lot of people are probably including the cache inadvertantly.

    MS should report only memory being actively used and rename the cache to TURBOMEMORY (TM)
    Reply
  • ChronoReverse - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    There's a x86 version and that will be the version you'll want to install at this point.

    All the manufacturers STILL haven't gotten on the ball with 64bit drivers so if anyone tells you Vista runs fine (it does), they're using the x86 version.
    Reply
  • yxalitis - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    WRONG
    Time to check the facts, X64 drivers for XP work in Vista RC1, so if you already use XP x64, as I do, it's a no-brainer. I have all my hardware fully supported by X64 drivers!
    Reply
  • RMSe17 - Wednesday, October 04, 2006 - link

    I doubt that the majority of hardware that works in WindowsXP with a 32bit driver has a working 64 bit counterpart. There are products from Windows 2000 era that work in XP, made by companies that are no longer around, or no longer support those products. Until there is a 64bit wrapper for 32bit drivers, those devices will be unusable. Reply
  • ChronoReverse - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    And the driver situation for x64 XP... still sucks compared to x86. So my point stands. Reply
  • ss284 - Tuesday, October 03, 2006 - link

    No matter how much the final version improves in the next month or so, its still nice to know that the xp->vista launch will be much smoother than the 98/me->xp launch, as far as software and hardware compatibility goes.

    On the other hand, the 98 -> xp upgrade was probably a much bigger improvement in terms of features and general os design when compared to xp -> vista.
    Reply

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