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
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  • redpriest_ - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    Did you guys run the 64-bit tests solely on the Intel Conroe platform? Or did you test an AMD based platform as well? Recall that Conroe has a few performance enhancing features that *only* work in 32-bit mode (branch fusioning, for one - some decoder limitations as well).

    That could explain why a Core 2 Duo system might have seemed slower in 64-bit than in 32-bit mode.
    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    SuperFetch is by far my favorite new feature of Vista. I put my first copy of Vista on my laptop, which has a 5400 RPM hard drive. Opening apps Outlook and VB .NET 2005 EE weren't really slow under XP, but there were those few extra seconds it took to load that would often leave me tapping my finger on the palm rest while I waited. Now under Vista, Outlook, VB .NET 2005 EE, and IE7 all seem to be able to fit in the SuperFetch cache, as they all open nearly instantly with just 1 GB of RAM. I'm considering upgrading to 2 GB just to see what else I can get to open really fast. :D Reply
  • bldckstark - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    Was superfetch disabled when you tried the Readyboost feature in Vista? Whichever way you ran the test it bears mentioning. If it was off, then how does it do with it on? If it was on, it may make a difference in how it relates to XP.

    Also, as I understand it Vista has a system backup now that creates a "ghost" of the drive. Could you check out this feature and get back to us?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    I'm not sure it's possible to disable SuperFetch, so I'm pretty sure all testing was done with it on. As far as the "ghost" goes, that's part of System Restore which can be disabled quite easily. I'll have to let the other editors say whether it was enabled or not, though. Reply
  • WT - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    What drives me nuts are the plentiful comments about how slow Vista is compared to XP. I mean, anybody hear this before when MS came out with a new OS ? Same thing for XP,W2k,98 ... ad nauseum. Yea, its a new Operating System with more 'toys' built in, what were you expecting ? You aren't gonna load it on your P3/256 RAM rig and enjoy the Vista 'experience'. Damn, this thing runs better than XP on my rig !
    It's understood that it won't be as quick (keep in mind the OS has been available for retail purchase ... 2 days now) as XP, but drivers will improve that performance gap to a smaller number within 3 months time. I waited until just last year to upgrade to XP (W2K all the way for me !) but find myself with 2 copies of Vista and would prefer to dual boot one and go Vista all-out on the other one.
    I griped back in my W2K days about being forced to upgrade due to content (MS games were announced that would only run in XP) so this time around I will be ready.
    DX10? Marketing genius !!! We shall force an upgrade upon the masses !! I upgrade frequently, so DX10 and its graphical splendor is a priority, but if I would have to fork over $200 to actually buy Vista, I would be less than impresssed with DX10 eye candy.
    Reply
  • EODetroit - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    Hopefully, now, finally, Anandtech will start testing motherboards for stability while loaded with the maximum amount of memory. So if the MB supposedly supports 8GB of RAM, you test it with that much, and make sure its stable. I've wanted this done for years... memory is expensive and it sucks to load a MB up and find out it doesn't really work or only works if you cut the speed in half.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • manno - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    ... no mention of DRM then? No mention of Linux? Personally I hate Linux, but I've switched to it because of Vista's use of DRM. Not all Microsoft's fault, but they put it in there... My computer, my hardware, I choose what to do with it, not MS, not media companies. Why shouldn't I be able to watch High def content on my old, and once expensive non-HDMI LCD screen?

    Get a Mac, Apple is the lesser of 2 evils, they aren't the 800lb gorilla in the room. MS could have told media companies to stuff it. Apple has no choice, it's too small, yet their the ones that forced DRM-Light(TM) on the media companies. MS had the media companied force DRM-Oppressive(TM) on them... how the heck does that work?

    I can't believe you left Linux out of the final comparison, is it as capable an OS, yes. Not nearly as user friendly, but it also has 0 DRM, doesn't phone-home isn't beholden to any one entity. I'm not against DRM, as a whole, just Vista's implementation. BS like MS creating D3D to subvert open standards like OpenGL, then removing it from the OS, using it's monopoly-based-ridiculous-margins(TM) to finance D3D's uptake, again rather than take an existing standard and expanding on it. They create their own to reinforce their monopoly. I know why they do this stuff I'm just peeved so many people don't give two flying f...

    grr...
    -manno
    Reply
  • mlambert890 - Friday, February 02, 2007 - link

    Youre insane dude.. No offense but there just isnt anything else to say. Posts like these always read like the transcript of a Weather Underground meeting in the sixties. "FIGHT THE POWER!!! FIGHT THE POWER!!!"

    Look out! The black helicopters have deployed from the underground helipad in Redmond and are circling!!! Send up the penguin symbol to summon the dynamic duo - Torvald and Stallman!
    Reply
  • Reflex - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    There is no more or less DRM in Vista than in XP, or even OS X. The platform does not determine the playback of DRM'd media, the content does. The choice is simple: If you want to play back DRM'd media, then you have to support the decryption scheme that the media requires to decode it. In so doing you have to legally accept the limitations defined by that DRM scheme.

    It is no different for OS X, Linux, XP or any other OS. They either support the DRM schemes or they do not get to playback the media that uses them. This is why it is unlikely that you will be able to play DRM'd High Definition content anytime soon on Linux. That is the alternative, no support for the content at all.

    Also, you can play high definition content on Vista just fine without HDMI/HDCP on your monitor. You simply cannot play back such content if it is coupled to a DRM scheme that requires HDCP, but that is true of every OS. Any other HD content will play back without issue.

    Again, there is no difference between DRM on Vista from DRM on any other platform.
    Reply
  • pmh - Thursday, February 01, 2007 - link

    The DRM in vista is the major reason that I will only install it if physically forced to. Having bought a new Dell in order to get their very nice 24" LCD last december, I have an upgrade coupon which will lie unused until/unless the DRM can be disabled. MS refuses to display HD on my new monitor using Vista? Screw em. Reply

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