Before providing my initial impressions I want you all to know that I’ve been a Mac convert since 2003. Since I bought my PowerBook G4, I’ve used it 98% of the time when computing at home (unfortunately, I use an HP nc6400 laptop w/WinXP Pro at work). Also, over the past year or so, I’ve tuned-out all of the Vista-hype so I went into Vista knowing only about Aero and Windows Media Center.
Ok, with that out of the way…about 2 weeks ago, a buddy of mine offered me a free legitimate retail copy of Windows Vista Ultimate (via his MSDN subscription) and I gladly accepted. So, after downloading the 2.5GB file for about 12 hours, I burned it to a DVD and installed it. After running Vista Ultimate for about 2 weeks, here are my initial impressions:
- Installation: this was the first time I ever upgraded Windows (I’ve always done full re-installs) but I decided to chance it and use the upgrade option. I’m happy to say, the upgrade went smoothly and everything has been running well (minus the 1.5 – 2 hour install time).
- Aero: the visual interface is absolutely gorgeous. The way windows open and close by softly appearing and disappearing is very cool. The translucent window borders (which is also configurable) gives windows a much lighter and airy feel. Actually, I’ve been using Vista more than my PowerBook G4 (OS X 10.3.9) over the past 2 weeks.
- Flip 3D: really, really cool. It’s very similar to Expose on the Mac OS but the difference is that it tiles all of your open windows in a Rolodex fashion (imagine looking at a Rolodex head-on and then rotating it 45 degrees so that you can view the Rolodex cards at an angle). 3D Flip is activated by holding the Windows + Tab keys. As you hold down these buttons, you can scroll through the windows with the scroll wheel on your mouse. The windows or tiles are actually live windows – i.e., your download progress, etc. is displayed in real-time.
- Vista Icons: One nice thing is how, by default, Vista icons give you an image preview of the file. This applies not only to files in the Windows Explorer window but on the desktop, too. For example, if you have a folder full of digital pics, instead of showing the “jpeg” icon, Vista displays a thumbnail of the actual picture (assuming your pics are not in RAW format). I just realized how much of a time-saver this is when I was using my Mac to find pics that I could delete (like those eBay pics). On my Mac, I had to double-click each picture to see it…ugh (I’ll have to see if I can change the setting on my Mac).
- Windows Sidebar & Gadgets: if you have never used Mac OS 10.3 or higher (or never installed Yahoo Widgets / Konfabulator), then you’ll think these are pretty cool. For those of us who have, eh, no big deal. One thing that I was surprised by was the limited number of widgets/gadgets available.
- Search: the search utility is very nice. It’s located throughout Windows – in the Start menu, in window headers, etc. One cool thing is the ability to open the Start menu and type an application name in the search field. Within a second, a link to launch the app is displayed. Again, if you have never used Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger) then you’ll like this.
- Start Menu: the listing of programs in the Start menu has changed – instead of expanding from left to right as you highlight a program/folder name, everything is listed in a tree-type of view (similar to Windows Explorer). As you click the folder, a nested list of program executables (e.g., the nice little MS Word icon) are displayed underneath it (not sure I explained this very well).
- Program / Driver Compatibility: so far, only 2 programs are not compatible with Vista (Spy Sweeper & BitDefender). I was able to download the ATI Catalyst Vista (beta) drivers. Vista auto-detected and installed print drivers for my HP Officejet 7410 all-in-one printer.
- Windows Media Center: pretty cool since I never used Media Center before. I was able to connect it to my Xbox 360 within a few minutes and watch some of the sample video clips and pictures on my Panasonic 50″ plasma (TH-50PX60U).
- Performance: pretty much on-par with WinXP Pro – perhaps, juuust a tad slower. At the end of the day, a non-issue.
- When I first installed Vista, I couldn’t get Aero to work. After about an hour of researching, I identified the culprit: my Harmony remote software that runs in the system tray. Once I disabled that, I could enable Aero.
- Vista doesn’t make it very easy to find out how to enable Aero…I had to do a Google search! You enable Aero by:
- Right-clicking on your desktop
- Click Personalize
- Click Window Color and Appearance
- At the bottom of the page, click the link, “Open classic appearance properties for more color options”
- An “Appearance Settings” window will open. Choose “Windows Aero” for the color scheme.
- Vista didn’t advertise all of the new features or apps that were included. After all of the Vista-hype, I was expecting a window to be opened when I first booted it up to convey: ‘Here are all of the new features and applications in Vista.’ Instead, I got a “Getting Started” window, which was nice but it didn’t help me understand all of the new features.
Windows Vista Ultimate feels like they got all of their ideas from Mac OS X. The main feeling I had when using Vista for the first hour or two was, “I’ve been here and experienced this with Mac OS X.” Don’t get me wrong, Vista is very nice but other than the visual changes it doesn’t feel all that different from WinXP. If your computer hardware doesn’t meet the requirements to use Aero, then, visually, Vista won’t feel that much different from WinXP. Is Vista worth $399 (full version)? In my opinion, no. Is it worth $259 (upgrade version)? Sure, if you have some extra cash and are an early adopter. At the end of the day, it’s not worth upgrading to Vista quite yet.
Since this is an intial impression, I’ll let you know if my conclusion changes after I use Vista some more. If it does, I’ll blog it. 🙂
Update: My PC specs are listed in my About page in case if you wanted to see what hardware I have.
Update 2: (2/2/2007) Webroot has just released Spy Sweeper 5.3 that is Vista-compatible.