Windows 7: Release Candidate 1 Previewby Ryan Smith and Gary Key on May 5, 2009 11:00 PM EST
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As far as first impressions are concerned, the view around the AnandTech office has been positive for Windows 7. Gary is ready to replace Vista with Windows 7 on all of his systems if he had the time (and money), meanwhile Ryan's impressed but not convinced that Windows 7 will be worth the upgrade cost considering that it's a much smaller change than was Vista. Thus far anyone using it as a drop-in replacement for Vista has had no trouble adapting.
Hardware compatibility has been a bit hit-and-miss however, and this is something that ideally will improve before Windows 7 goes gold. Windows 7 has taken a strong disliking to a JMicron JMB363 controller on a P35 board we have, hanging on initializing the controller when it's in AHCI mode (JMicron's own drivers solve the issue). Another box, an Athlon 64/K8T800 system pulling HTPC duty, has not fared so well with Windows 7. It's corrupting recordings, something that Vista does not do. Everything else has not been an issue, with newer video drivers usually being the only thing necessary after installing Windows 7.
Briefly, Microsoft has mentioned that they expect Windows 7 to be more power efficient on laptops than Vista, but so far this hasn't been something we've been able to corroborate. We suspect that better drivers will be necessary to extract any power efficiency gains out of Windows 7, so this is something that will require revisiting once Windows 7 ships.
Compared to previous first-edition release candidates such as Vista RC1 and XP RC1, Windows 7 is in a class of its own. While XP's RC1 was okay and Vista's was problematic, as best as we can tell Windows 7 RC1 actually lives up to the name of "release candidate." We haven't found any immediate bugs and the performance is great. If Microsoft were to resolve our hardware compatibility issues, they could probably get Windows 7 out the door right now with most people none-the-wiser that it's the same build Microsoft is calling the first release candidate.
The one thing we're waiting to hear back on at this point is how it's received by the XP diehards. Obviously a significant goal of these public releases is to finally convince the owners of modern computers to get off of XP and switch to a 6.xx release of Windows by giving them a chance to try Windows 7. Windows 7 resolves some of the complaints XP diehards had about Vista, but not all of them. The question is if it's going to be enough.
Ultimately, with Microsoft throwing Windows 7 RC1 out to the masses, we can't think of a good reason not to try it. Based on what we've seen thus far, it's looking like Microsoft will hit all of their technological goals with Windows 7. As for their marketing goals, with the high quality of RC1 they'll likely hit all of those too.
Looking forward, the assumed timetable for Windows 7 means that it won't just be competing against previous Windows versions, but other operating systems too. Apple's Snow Leopard is still scheduled to ship this year, likely towards Christmas along with Windows 7. Apple has been extremely secretive on Snow Leopard, although we do know that it's going to have a much greater focus on under the hood improvements rather than straight up features, which could make for an interesting battle between the two. Meanwhile the various Linux distributions are always coming out with new editions, so the likely competition for Windows 7 will be Ubuntu 9.10 and its ilk.