Windows 7 Review – Installation, Boot Speed, Interface, Usability, Compatibility and an nForce 3 Vista Drivers Fix
An Honest and Thorough Windows 7 Review
Well, it’s finally here! Microsoft announced within the last few days that they would make the BETA test version of Windows 7 available for download. It took a little persuasion, but a friend convinced me to give it a try. Here is my Windows 7 review.
First off it behaves and looks just like Vista. This almost stopped me installing it altogether. But – like a cheated lover – I reluctantly and cautiously let it back into my life.
I will be the first to admit that I curse Microsoft. But I can’t deny they put a lot of effort into operating systems that install neatly, require little or no understanding of hardware and run quite fast compared with their Linux counterparts. But I am someone who is hard to please! I will not be easily convinced to move my system because I have lots of huge and expensive programs. If the usefulness of the extra features don’t justify the extra speed, disk space and memory cost then forget it.
Well, the installation – despite taking a little longer than XP to install – worked well as Microsoft ones usually do. Unfortunately my motherboard is weird – old enough so that it had an AGP port for my GeForce 6800, but new enough to support my AMD Socket AM2 duel core processor. It has an on board nforce 3 chipset with an which is no longer supported by NVidea! And because Vista didn’t exist when this board became obsolete there are no vista drivers! Disappointed, Microsoft. Especially since I was relying on an on-board ethernet card. I was hoping this kind of mainstream hardware would have support with the usual library of drivers you supply?
For anyone else having problems, we found the workaround: This set of drivers seem to work in Vista for the nForce 3 and nForce 2 chipsets, but NVidea are not distributing these for whatever reason.
I will admit it starts very quickly… At least as fast as my current installation of XP, perhaps even slightly faster. The bootup logo is nice and flashy with a cool animation (as if I care about stuff like this!).
Interface and Usability
No, I really do care about stuff like this. The more I used it, the more I realised they really have hit the nail on the head. All the fluid usability, responsiveness and some new neat functions that are designed to help someone like me who regularly has 38 copies of Internet explorer, 52 copies of FireFox running at once :-
- Shaking a window title bar causes all other windows in the desktop to gently tumble away and minimise
- Hovering over the folder in the bottom-left will gracefully list icons along the bottom that represent trees, then as you hover over an individual item, the other items will be ghosted outlines to show which window you are on. When happy, click to give focus
- They have full touch-screen support so that all of this can take place on the monitor screen, not with the mouse, which I think (eventually) will revolutionise our input controls, but not for the next five or six years when touch screens become the norm. By that time I suspect we will be way into Windows 8.
- The fluid feel and graceful animations really aren’t all that cumbersome and do make the system more usable
- There are post-it notes. (Why on Gods’ green earth you would need to use these is beyond me. But they are there. And will save the lives of many trees yey!)
Alt-Tab is starting to look a bit dated, and within the first two days I’ve found myself using this bottom-bar trick. There is also another neat feature : the folder icon next to the start menu reflects the current progress of the current task (whatever this is!) So even if you don’t have the window open, or are doing something else, you will know when your download has finished, or files have copied, or software has installed. Pretty neat idea.
What would my windows 7 review be without testing compatibility? This is a big one! If I find some games don’t run, or don’t run well then all of the above is somewhat irrelevant. But, to my surprise it seems fairly compatible with most things. We’ve run Ableton, GTA San Andreas, and (with a little patch from Valve for Steam) was able to run Half Life 2, Counterstrike Source, Day of Defeat Source and the like. Applications seem to run fine, and I think it may only be changes to the DirectX layers that people may find cause problems with some games. But I’ve not hit anything huge yet.
There are some other minor changes I’ve noticed – /Documents and Settings folder is now just /users (I think this was in Vista), and the security features you get with Vista seem to be here
So, my advice on Windows 7… is worth installing? Well, yes. Definitely. But not now or when it’s first released. I definitely think this is worth a look, but wait for others to install it and fall into all the traps and pitfalls. Looks very promising.