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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  • 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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