Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wow, I love Vista!

I've upgraded to Vista... and I love it. No one is more surprised than me. After reading numerous Vista horror stories, I expected the worst. At the very least, I figured it would be like most Windows updates: increased functionality at the cost of speed and performance. In my experience, using a new version of Windows was always 2 steps forward and 1 step backward. In other words, it's always been a mixed bag and full of minor irritants. As a matter of fact, I would never bother upgrading Windows (that's what buying a new computer is for), but I happened to buy this laptop shortly before Vista came out. I specifically got it because it was Vista Premium Capable (or whatever it's called, it can run Aero), plus I got my copy of Vista at a significant academic discount.

I'm one of those people who reformats periodically to get rid of the crap that inevitably collects after a while. So, this time, I decided to try out Vista with Service Pack 1 out.

Well, for whatever reason, I haven't been able to download Service Pack 1 through Windows Update yet, but I love Vista all the same! It is a vast improvement over XP. So, why is it so great?

1. It's smooth. I don't know how else to describe it. I often found with XP that programs loaded slowly and it would often hang. Programs load quickly in Vista and I haven't experienced any system hanging. It is, of course, just after a reformat, but it's far smoother and snappier than I ever remember XP being.

2. It's pretty. It's stupid to say, but Vista looks great. Even before Aero was running, it looked nice. I don't really care about translucency or any of the whiz bang effects, but it just looks smooth (there's that word again) and polished.

3. It's well-designed. Anyone who has upgraded from 3.1 to 95 to 98 to XP knows that part of the upgrade process is learning how to get the new version of Windows to do the things you learned how to do for the previous version. There's very little of that with Vista. All of the settings are where you would expect them to be. The help is robust, seamless and no longer takes forever to index/load. It's also very intuitive and the automatic configuration works the first time. Networking, which could often be a pain with XP, is easy.

4. It's faster, really and truly. Since Windows 3.1, I have heard Microsoft promise better performance with each version of Windows. I have never found this to be the case. 95 was slower than 3.1. My Windows 98SE speed machine turned into a clunker under XP. Well, while I bought this computer to be Vista capable, I'm still pleasantly surprised by its performance. It is significantly faster than XP.

It's early yet, but my advice is to ignore the initial reviews of Vista. I've had no problems with hardware or software compatibility. All the drivers were installed seamlessley. No dreaded exclamation points. No downloading drivers directly from the manufacturer. I don't expect many people are going to be interested in purchasing Vista retail (with its hefty price tag), but if you're buying a new computer for personal use, you're crazy if you don't get Vista on it. And, if like me, you've had a Vista DVD ready to go for a while, but you've been holding off, now is the time. I bet you'll be pleased.

For the record, I'm running a Dell Inspiron E1405 with 1 gigabyte of RAM, a 2Ghz Core 2 Duo and an on-board Intel 945GM for video.

Oh, and one side note, changing your Windows environment to a different language (in my case French) is easier than ever before.

Just as I'm completing this post, Windows Update informed me that Service Pack 1 is available, so I'm going to install it. I'll put up another post if it changes my impressions.