What's New Since RC1?

While we saw a great deal of changes between our initial review of Windows Vista Beta 2 and Release Candidate 1, it should come as no surprise that there have been far fewer changes between RC1 and the final version we are looking at today. For better or worse, RC1 was the last chance for Microsoft to implement any changes in Vista that were design changes; everything since then has been in the realm of last-minute polish and bug fixes. As a result, certainly Vista is in better shape than ever before, but at the same time it means that design issues we identified have not been resolved.

Given that, prospective users of Vista are going to find that our previous complaints about the User Account Controls still stand. We still find it's a good idea and a major improvement over the lackluster security features of previous versions of Windows, but even with the improvements Microsoft has made to it, it's still too annoying from a power-user perspective.

When Vista first entered widespread public testing about a year ago, a series of screenshots were circulated showing the worst-case scenario for the number of operations required to permanently delete a single file. At the time it was six operations ranging from confirmation of the delete to granting security permissions to empty the recycle bin. To Microsoft's credit they've reduced that somewhat, but we can still replicate that situation and come up with a worst-case scenario that takes four steps. Two of those steps are the required confirmation for deleting the item and then emptying the Recycle Bin, but the other two are security confirmation steps and while it's admittedly nit-picking, it's overly redundant to require two security steps to delete a file; this makes it twice as hard as it is under any previous version of Windows. UAC security will be accepted up to a point, but even one more operation than is necessary is going to quickly cause UAC to end up disabled by those who know how to do it.

Click to enlarge

Similarly, launching an application that requires administrative rights is still more difficult than it needs to be. As we touched upon this briefly last time, with the launch of Vista a lot of common 3rd-party applications will continue to require administrative privileges to run correctly, and it will continue to be this way for some time until everyone has had a chance to retrofit their applications for Vista. Unfortunately, every time one of these applications is launched the user needs to approve the application, and like the deletion scenario this gets increasingly redundant as the same applications are reused day in and day out. A pre-approval method or some other system is desperately needed for Vista's UAC system if the goal is to maximize security while minimizing the number of users disabling these advanced security features. Otherwise there are only so many orange screens that one can stand before UAC becomes a victim of its super-secure design.

One of the few noticeable changes since RC1 has been the driver situation with Vista, which has steadily improved since we first looked at Beta 2. Between the final driver submissions for RTM and a much smarter Windows Update, Vista was able to install drivers for all of our hardware in one of our test systems, other than the driver for a PhysX card. Working drivers were found for our motherboard, video, sound, network, on-board SCSI, and even TV cards. This is likely the high point for Vista as newer devices will ship without drivers built in to Vista, but nonetheless it's a refreshing experience after the amount of work required to completely install a set of drivers on XP. With the ability to load drivers off of a USB drive at installation, it should never be that bad again either.

The one weak spot as far as drivers are concerned continues to be audio and video drivers, but that too has been improving. We'll take a look at later with our benchmarks of Vista, but video performance is much closer to that of Windows XP compared to our first look at Vista, at least as far as DirectX 9 titles go. DirectX 10 and OpenGL are not as clear as there are no DirectX 10 games (and they will require Vista regardless) and AMD is still working the kinks out of their new OpenGL driver for Vista. For audio, earlier concerns about the new audio stack breaking older games has been partially resolved as Creative Labs has released a DirectSound3D-to-OpenAL wrapper that works with some games, showcasing that it's possible to work around the stack changes.

Even with a lengthy preview article, there is still a lot of ground to cover when taking a close look at the final release version of Windows Vista. We have attempted to create a comprehensive look at the new operating system, but even then there are still plenty of items that will have to wait for another day before we can truly evaluate them. The big question that almost everyone is going to want answered is pretty simple: should you upgrade to Windows Vista now or wait awhile longer? That's a question we hope to answer by the time we finish this article, so without further ado let's take a look at some of the new features.

New I/O Features
POST A COMMENT

104 Comments

View All Comments

  • Zak - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    I've finally got around to installing RC2 last week: Dell Inspiron 2GHz CoreDuo, 2GB RAM, 7200RPM HD, 256 Nivdia video. Vista is slow, network transfers are 50% slower or so than in XP, GUI is sluggish and all the improvements are pretty annoying. Interface is too busy and overdone. A simple copy message contains a long unnecessary explanation of what's about to happen. Even after turning off the security features one can't escape the annoying popups and messages. And my hard drive was crunching non-stop all day, I can't even imagine what it does to battery life. I haven't had a virus or spyware in years and I don't see any compelling reasons to switch to Vista. I haven't even tried any multimedia features as none of my DVD and video playback software worked properly and I will not use WMP if my life depended on it, so I can't comment nt on DRM and stuff but I've had enough after few days and restored my XP image back to the laptop. If MS tries to force this on people as its, without major improvements, I see Apple and Linux getting lots of switchers. But them XP was bad at first too so maybe Vista will become usable with SP2:) I myself will desperately look for an alternative to Vista. I don't play games that much any more so this won't be "a must" for me.

    Z.
    Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    I'm very afraid Zak. I will upgrade due to Microsoft forcing the issue on us gamers with dx10 vista only but with total dread. I may have to start listening to those console fans and linux fans after all. But the lack of TBS games kills consoles for me...SIGH..

    I totally agree with you about Virus and spy/malware issues. All are resolved or blocked with free third party apps many years now for anyone with the slightest clue. Same goes for Firewall/searching and other features MS lists on their "100 advantages" site. Vista is just late to the party with what we all know how to do and cripples your computer performance and makes everything so dumbed down visually and practically.
    Reply
  • mlambert890 - Saturday, February 03, 2007 - link

    You guys must be using a different OS. I havent heard of anyone with this dismal of an experience at all. If you hate the UI, just run it in legacy mode and it will look like XP. Disable all of the security add ins and they ARE gone. Ive take a Vista machine and set it up to the point that the person using it had no real clue it was Vista but did notice that their laptop seemed quicker.

    Have fun on Linux though. Linux is a LOT easier to use/live with than any MS OS! (I need an eyeroll smiley here)
    Reply
  • jonp - Monday, February 05, 2007 - link

    I would be interested to know if you have installed and worked with SUSE 10.2? as I assume your "...a LOT easier..." is sarcasm. Reply
  • kalrith - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    The second sentence of the third paragraph states, "The reason the low end AMD cards look better off here".

    I think you meant ATI instead of AMD.
    Reply
  • kalrith - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    Another typo is in the last sentence on the first page. It says, "What's a question we hope to answer..." What's should be That's. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, February 02, 2007 - link

    Technically, ATI is now AMD, which is why we are now referring to the cards as AMD cards. Same thing as ATI, but since they were bought out.... :) Reply
  • kalrith - Friday, February 02, 2007 - link

    You're right...I completely forgot about that. Reply
  • stash - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    WMDC was RTM'ed yesterday: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?Fa...">http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/deta...0-af33-3... Reply
  • stash - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Similarly, launching an application that requires administrative rights is still more difficult than it needs to be. As we touched upon this briefly last time, with the launch of Vista a lot of common 3rd-party applications will continue to require administrative privileges to run correctly, and it will continue to be this way for some time until everyone has had a chance to retrofit their applications for Vista


    Which common 3rd-party apps are you referring to here?
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now