Windows Vista is the new operating system from Microsoft that everyone has been talking about for quite a few years now, even as far back as 2001, when plans were first started for the then named "Longhorn" project. Since then, it has come a long way, and it comes with the promises of offering users an experience with many improvements over the aging XP operating system (OS). Such as vastly improved visuals through the Windows Aero GUI and making life easier and less complicated when you're working on your computer.
It comes with a stack of new features and changes, more than we can talk about today - on the surface it feels like a completely new OS from the positive installation changes through to the first time you load Vista. Although, deep down, it would seem like Microsoft have created an OS which is powered by the XP engine with a bunch of pretty funky cosmetic changes on the top but also some quite utterly annoying security warnings, as well. Of course, it's more than just cosmetic changes as we see totally revamped features such as networking, DX10 graphics support, searching and performance features like ReadyBoost but visuals is a big part of the difference between Vista and XP from what we have seen so far from the latest release from Microsoft, RC2 build 5744.
Because of these major cosmetic changes, Vista will not be for everyone. If you want to run the fancy Aero interface, which comes with certain editions of the OS (such as Vista Ultimate edition, which we are looking at today from RC2), you will need a DX9 capable graphics card with Hardware Pixel Shader v2.0 and at least 128MB of memory onboard. You'll also need a CPU with at least a 1GHz clock speed and 1GB of memory. If you have anything less, you aren't ready for the "Vista Premium" experience and if you aren't ready for that, you probably shouldn't consider upgrading to Vista. In some ways, Vista will force a lot of people to upgrade or buy new computers, which is good for the industry, but not good for the end-user since they need to spend more money. You may be able to run Vista "Premium" editions on your old computer but it will more than likely be sluggish and unenjoyable. If you run the cheap and less impressive versions of Vista, it's very debatable if you should even upgrade.
Eventually PC users, in particular gamers (and us benchmark testers), will be forced to upgrade to Vista because it comes with DX10 and if you want to play the latest games with all the latest visually impressive graphics features, Vista is a requirement. Of course, people will just upgrade because it's the latest thing on the streets and you gotta keep up with your pal down the street, right?
Today we'll take a close look at the latest released build from Microsoft (RC2 build 5744) and give you our thoughts on the OS, from the down right impressive to the down right dog ugly. We look at installation to tweaking the OS, driver support, discussing what XP supported programs and games worked in Vista and then run some benchmarks to compare the performance from XP to Vista in its current state and with the latest drivers available to us at the moment.
Vista is looking pretty good so far but definitely some changes are required by Microsoft before the official release next month. Let's go and take a closer look!