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
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  • Zebo - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    I'm still on 2k pro which I think is faster and more power-user friendly than XP. Is this true in general? I've never noticed a security issue in the first place so these security features and especially those silly "do you really want to run this program" dialog boxes drove me crazy on XP when I tried it. Does vista have a lot of those? Stupid OS I wouldn't have clicked it if I didn't want to run/install/throw it away etc. Reply
  • Aikouka - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    Zebo, it sounds like if you run Vista and don't disable UAC (User Account Control), you will drive yourself crazy. UAC almost literally warns you about every executable opening (I believe certain ones are allowed automatically, like Windows Explorer. I can't remember since I turned it off :P).

    Other than that, I don't see anything really different from XP in terms of user warnings and such. There's still the balloons from the system tray and such.

    One interesting change that I haven't seen anyone mention is how Windows Update is now an application instead of a website. It seems a bit nicer having it that way as the website with the ActiveX controls always felt so slow to figure out what needed to upgraded. This new WU also includes Ultimate Extras and direct program links to adjust your WU settings (which is handier I think).
    Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    quote:

    One interesting change that I haven't seen anyone mention is how Windows Update is now an application instead of a website.



    I guess thats a good idea if you use windows update. I don't update just for updates sake subscribing to the "if it aint broke don't fix it" axiom...probably why I still use w2k:)
    Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    quote:

    There's still the balloons from the system tray and such.


    Oh that's maddening. I literally offered $100 to anyone in a forum thread who could turn those yellow balloons off completely when i tried XP. No one could do it. You can't turn certain ones off despite tens of registry tweaks we tired.
    Reply
  • Zorba - Friday, February 02, 2007 - link

    The balloons are easy to get rid of. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/power...">TweakUI - FTW

    Not sure if it will be in Vista or not, but works great in XP, never seen a balloon except right after I install XP. PM me and I'll let you know where you can send me my check ;).
    Reply
  • Zebo - Friday, February 02, 2007 - link

    BS doesn't work. Been there done that! Show me a SS with you holding mouse over Start button and it doesn't say "click here to begin" I'll gladly pay you $100 for the fix. You can't do it. BTW this drives me fusken crazy! I've been using MS start buttons for eight years like I don't WTF Start means and designates ..Arrr Reply
  • Zorba - Friday, February 02, 2007 - link

    Ah I thought you were talking about the system tray balloons like that one that always pops up for no reason that always says "now connected to wireless network." That one drives me crazy when I use someone else's lappy.

    I never even notice the ones over the start button, I guess I never hold my mouse over it long enough. I could see how you would find them annoying though.
    Reply
  • Zorba - Friday, February 02, 2007 - link

    BTW: I just checked and Win 98 has those boxes over if hold your mouse over the start button, etc too. So it isn't just an XP thing. (Yes I still have 98 on a box at home) Reply
  • stash - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Zebo, it sounds like if you run Vista and don't disable UAC (User Account Control), you will drive yourself crazy. UAC almost literally warns you about every executable opening (I believe certain ones are allowed automatically, like Windows Explorer. I can't remember since I turned it off :P).

    Not even close. UAC will prompt you for things that require elevated rights, which besides installing apps or making changes to the system, should be very infrequent.

    Which is why I want to know specifically which common 3rd-party apps the author is referring to on the first page.
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Friday, February 02, 2007 - link

    Well, I guess my statement may've been a bit zealous, but you can't forget that literally every application that I ran while UAC on was an install or a system executable to install software that I needed or change settings. The changing the settings may've seemed the worst, as trying to open the system menu from another menu required your authorization. It was a bit crazy sometimes... Reply

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