Vista x64

One of the major changes on paper for Vista is that x64 now becomes an equal platform with the x86 version, as using the Vista compatibility logo on any hardware or software requires that the item in question works under both the x86 and x64 versions, but the reality of the situation is not as rosy. Along with the other limitations of the OEM versions we listed above, only the retail versions of Vista are shipping with x64 and x86 together; the OEM versions are only sold in an either/or fashion: you can either get the x64 or x86 version, but not both at once. It's possible that this will be trivially easy to work around, however it's something that should be kept in mind if you're purchasing an OEM copy.

As for how well the x64 versions of Vista work, in our first article we called x64 the black sheep of the Vista family, as it was clearly behind the x86 version in terms of compatibility and performance. While we had hoped that Microsoft would remove the gap between the two versions, in our testing this has not completely been the case. Vista x64 is still the product of all the compatibility problems of Vista with all the compatibility problems of a still-young 64-bit platform.

This is not to say that Vista x64 hasn't improved; if anything it has improved more between Beta 2 and now than the x86 version did, if only by virtue of having more ground to cover. The performance gap we initially saw between the x86 and x64 versions has dissolved away in most cases, so x64 no longer means taking an immediate performance hit in benchmarks. However we can't shake the feeling of Vista x64 still being slower, even if the benchmarks don't show it. We've had multiple editors use multiple machines, and general performance in particular just feels slower. At this point we still are unsure why this is, but it's a very real condition that hurts Vista x64.

On the positive side, driver support for the x64 version seems to be about as good as the x86 version (although more testing will be required to completely confirm this). The biggest problem as far as support goes is the applications. Not every application is happy working under the Windows-on-Windows (WoW) compatibility environment for 32-bit applications, and this is on top of the applications that don't work with Vista period. There are very few major applications available with x64 binaries, so without 64-bit applications everything still remains in the 32-bit world for now. Furthermore, as we will also see in our graphics tests, having a 64-bit application doesn't necessarily mean we won't see any performance issues.

At this point Vista x64 is certainly usable if you need it, but we wouldn't recommend it unless you have a specific reason to go that route (i.e. applications that can use more memory). Except in a few cases where 64-bit code is clearly faster, the primary purpose for Vista x64's existence is to resolve the problems of 32-bit addressing space, and we're just not at the point yet where even most enthusiasts are pushing that limit. Once applications begin to push the 2GB addressing space limitation of Win32 (something we expect to hit very soon with games) or total systems need more than 4GB of RAM, then Vista x64 in its current incarnation would be a good choice. In the meantime, Vista x64 shouldn't be used until it's needed or SP1 comes out - whichever comes first. The black sheep isn't ready to rejoin the flock quite yet.

Vista Version Variety Graphical Gotchas
POST A COMMENT

104 Comments

View All Comments

  • haplo602 - Monday, February 05, 2007 - link

    Yes I am biased. I am fed up with MS. All the delay was for what purpose ?
    Yes please, point me to the documentation, I'd be glad to learn something.
    Reply
  • vailr - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    A quick look on Newegg shows the least expensive DX 10 cards (all NVIDIA 8800 based) are priced around $400. When can we expect to see DX 10 cards costing: <$200? Reply
  • Brazos - Friday, February 02, 2007 - link

    I believe that Nvidia is releasing a broader range of directx 10 gpu's in March. They're supposed to be for the low - mid range video cards. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    quote:

    BitLocker is the only feature that the Ultimate edition has that no other edition has, but given it requires a Trusted Platform Module to be used...

    Vista Enterprise/VLK also includes BitLocker, it is not a feature unique to Ultimate Edition, but like you say it requires a TPM to be used and if I had a TPM on my mobo, I certainly wouldn't have the hateful chip enabled.

    quote:

    So far however this does not appear to be the case for Vista, as Microsoft has done away with VLK in favor of requiring activation on all copies, with the Enterprise version of Business using a keyserver. The lack of an immediately piratable version of Vista will undoubtedly slow its adoption compared to XP, and the Business versions' popularity will not be as lopsided.

    Before you say that Vista Enterprise is not a copy that any of us are likely to personally choose, because unlike XP it still requires activation, bear in mind that Enterprise edition activation is rather different from other versions and likely to be the first that is cracked indefinitely. Given that you also recommended Vista Business as the preferred version of Vista for experienced users unwilling to pay the extra for Ultimate, that makes Enterprise even more viable as it includes a superset of Vista Business features and the only things it is missing from Ultimate are a few entertainment oriented apps that no one will miss. That's not to say I condone unlicensed use of Vista Enterprise, I'd never say anything like that here, but I think the use of it may be a lot more prelavent than the article suggests.
    Reply
  • stash - Friday, February 02, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Vista Enterprise/VLK also includes BitLocker, it is not a feature unique to Ultimate Edition, but like you say it requires a TPM to be used and if I had a TPM on my mobo, I certainly wouldn't have the hateful chip enabled.

    BitLocker does NOT require a TPM chip. It can also use a usb flash drive to store the key material.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Saturday, February 03, 2007 - link

    BitLocker requires a TPM chip. This confused us at first too when we were working on the article, but the documentation in Vista for BitLocker clearly states a TPM chip is required. If it's a 1.2 chip or higher the key is stored on the chip, otherwise it's stored on the flash drive.

    If it was possible to use BitLocker without a TPM chip, we would have more than likely thrown in some BitLocker benchmarks.
    Reply
  • mlambert890 - Saturday, February 03, 2007 - link

    You're wrong Ryan. BitLocker does NOT require TPM chip. You can store the decrypt AND recovery keys on a USB FOB. Just go here and read scenario 3:

    http://technet2.microsoft.com/WindowsVista/en/libr...">http://technet2.microsoft.com/WindowsVi...57-b031-...
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Saturday, February 03, 2007 - link

    Interesting; we looked for something like this when we were doing the prep for this article and came up empty-handed. It's nice to see it's there, though I'm not sure for the reason on why MS would go out of their way to disable this option and not leave any instructions in the Vista help on how to enable it. Thanks for the link. Reply
  • stash - Saturday, February 03, 2007 - link

    Couple of reasons:

    First, it is a hell of a lot more secure to use a TPM to store key material than a USB flash drive. A TPM is essentially a smartcard soldered directly to your motherboard. It is physically and logically tamper-resistant.

    Secondly, BitLocker will only do repudiation checks of the system files with a TPM. When using a TPM. the hashes of certain system files are stored in the TPM. On boot, they are compared and if they have been changed, the user will be notified.

    So, are you going to answer my question about which common 3rd party apps require admin rights to work properly? Cause right now, my impression of that comment is that it is pure FUD.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, February 02, 2007 - link

    I was concerned about this too, but my new issue of MaximumPC shows how to use Vista's BitLocker without a TPM.

    Instead of the TPM holding the security key, you need a thumbdrive to do it instead. Doesn't require a high-capacity one, so any cheapie should do (though I'd choose one with a somewhat bulletproof casing to ensure you never break it and end up screwed).

    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now