Vista: First Impressions

January 29, 2008

I recently upgraded my PC, since my previous rig was on its last legs about six months ago. Now, my new set-up isn’t bleeding edge, but at least it looks pretty sweet:

Antec Case

Specs-wise, it’s a Core 2 Duo 2.66GhZ; 2GB; 500GB HDD; Geforce 8800GT 512MB. Not quite “all mouth, no trousers” then.

While I was sourcing the hardware, the question of which operating system to use inevitably cropped up. Although I’ve been using XP happily for around 5 years, in the end it came down to a question of forward-thinking: Let’s face it, no matter how much people love XP, Microsoft are slowly phasing it out and bringing in the highly controversial Vista OS. If I wanted this system to play the latest games for more than a year, I had to go with Vista.

I’d already heard the horror stories and tales of poor uptake, but I figured that a year after release some of the initial hitches might’ve been ironed out just a little…

[Deep breath] This is the part where you usually see a screed of “dissatisfied customer”-type comments, closely followed by some trite remark like: “I’m off to upgrade to XP LOL!!!”

Vista StartThe truth is, for me at least, Vista’s been a bit of a mixed bag. There’s no denying that it looks impressive with all the options switched on — and, fortunately, my machine is enough of a workhorse to get away with all of the flaunted “Aero” features, including see through menu bars and a slick graphical window-switcher.

Most of the time, it seems to perform reasonably well too, although there have been irregular hiccups where an application will freeze unexpectedly, then recover. Having said that, it hasn’t bluescreened… Yet. I also love the “hybrid sleep” feature which quickly shuts down your PC to a totally silent hibernating state (fans off, hard disk off — everything), but is ready to resume right where you left off with a flick of the mouse in seconds.

It took a while to get used to the shiny-ness of… well, everything. Moreover, some of the options to configure Windows are hidden away deep within submenus in Control Panel. This makes it a bit fiddly to get things set up the way you want them.

From what I can see at this early stage, the two major down sides are the hand-holding security system and the incompatibility with certain hardware. Plenty has been written about the first topic, particularly ways of getting round the incessant confirmation requests which pop up in the name of “security”. Are you sure you want to run this program? Cancel or allow? Continue? Etc…

The second has been the most costly issue for me: Vista isn’t currently compatible with ADSL modems. In order to get online, I had to replace my old faithful BT Voyager with a new wireless router plus wireless USB adapter, which jointly set me back around £85. Ouch! That ain’t cheap.

Of course, if I’d done my research properly before investing, I’d have found out about this a while ago. Nevertheless, it’s not like it’s a wasted investment — I’d planned to go wireless at some stage. It’s just not something I’d budgeted for at this stage.

Having said all this, it’s played all the games I’ve thrown at it pretty much flawlessly. Currently, that list stands at: Bioshock, Oblivion, GRAW 2, Medieval 2: Total War, Unreal Tournament 3. I’ll write more on Bioshock later, but at the moment Vista’s made me a very happy gamer. We’ll see if I stay that way over the coming months, I suppose…

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