Deja Vista: That's the impression that we got about Windows 7

With the release of Windows 7 yesterday, GCN Lab Director John Breeden responds to reader comments about his review of Microsoft's next-generation operating system.

So by now most of you have probably read our Windows 7 review. The GCN Lab took the unusual step of running a print issue product review early online so that everyone could see how the Microsoft's new operating system performed before it was released. Otherwise everyone would have needed to wait until the Oct. 26 print issue of the magazine arrived.

Incidentally, we also review other products, and you can find an excellent comparison review of military-rugged devices in that same issue.

But for now, the entire world seems to be focused on Windows 7. GCN is getting slammed with hits from curious people who all want to know how the OS fares against Vista and XP. As of this writing, there are more than 45 comments. I wanted to respond to a few of them and clarify some of the testing that went into the review.

Several people asked about the benchmarks that were used in performance testing  done between Vista and Windows 7. The GCN Lab uses the Passmark Performance Benchmarks. We ran both clean and upgrade installs on systems and compared the results to systems running Vista. Before that we benchmarked the same machines running XP. It took forever, but we wanted to make sure our readers got the whole story. Personally, I have seen a lot of magazines saying that Windows 7 runs faster, and a lot of Microsoft employees who say the same thing. But I’ve not seen anyone actually do testing the way that we have.

By the way, anyone can download a copy of the benchmarks at www.passmark.com and use them for 30 days for free if you want to see how your systems, regardless of OS, stack up.

A few people mentioned, correctly, that you can go into the settings menu and disable the security warnings. You could do that with other operating systems too, but I did fail to point out that this is also recommended with Windows 7. In fact, off should probably be the default setting, though nobody would turn it on if that was the case.

Finally, pricing was an issue. I don’t know why Microsoft sent us the Ultimate version to review, but the price for that at retail is $319. However, most government agencies can get it for less as part of their service agreements with Microsoft. I just think that given the lack of a performance boost and minimal new features, Windows 7 could have been a free service pack given to everyone.

Now I don’t want to go tit for tat with the comments, but a few of them I think warrant a reply.

Dave from Texas wrote that our “test” was very wrong. He says he has a laptop that runs faster with Windows 7. “It’s like Vista on ludes” he says. Now, we don’t know much about drugs, but we think that if an OS could take quaaludes it would run much slower given that "lude" is slang for the sedative Methaqualone. Good for you, Dave, for just saying “No.” Cocaine might have worked better for your analogy, or if you wanted to be legal about it, caffeine.

Someone who didn’t bother to leave their name said “Useless drivel, clearly from someone who knows very little about the topic. Win 7 runs fine on clean installs. It's Vista SP3.” Hmmm. Isn’t this what we implied with the headline of the article and in our conclusion? That Windows 7 was just a service pack for Vista? Thanks for agreeing with us. “Useless drivel” also gave us a bit of a laugh, like being yelled at by the Queen Mother or Doctor Who.

John from Richmond, Va., said, “Peculiar review, really. Very little detail, no benchmarks, no real comparisons. ...It seems unprofessional at best and, at worst, presumptuous of its reader's intelligence.” We already pointed out that benchmarks are in the review, though you have to read to the sixth paragraph to find out, though that should not be a problem for another proper British lad. What’s with all the highbrow language in these comments? We fully expect to be called “cheeky monkeys” or that you are “bloody well cheesed off!”

Another anonymous poster says that “By the way , XP still runs fine for me at SP2 and I expect to be using it for some years to come.” Sure, but XP SP3 isn’t too bad, either. That same poster mentions $34 copies of Windows 7 on eBay. We would advise against trying to buy any of them, as this editor at Cracked magazine found out.

Zoda Klontz from Cambridge, Mass., said, “Now I can make an informed decision if I want to switch over from Vista without cats in silly hats trying to goad me into buying ‘the next great thing.’” Dang! We were hoping that Microsoft’s Kylie could be our friend.

Doug writes: “After Windows 7 booted up, we gazed at the new desktop and saw — Windows Vista = All credibility lost. Was your monitor off?” Actually, part of our testing process in the lab requires that monitors be turned on, though once we were lampooned for reviewing a monitor with a “greater than 180-degree viewing angle.” What can we say on that one? Mistakes were made.

Harry K. From D.C. says “Sooo? ... MS never ever delivered much more than an ‘adequate’ product. You could have bought MAC but were too cheap...and obviously still are! Sowhenayougonnalearnpisano?” Not sure if there is anything relevant to say about this one, other than we loved being called Pisano! We are thinking about adding black and red fedoras to our lab coat outfits, Godfather style.

An anonymous user commented: “I would think that with an overall A- rating your write-up would have been glowing.” Sorry, but grades of B, A, A- and C do not equal an overall A-, except in unaccredited online universities.

Finally, someone comments that they “did a fresh install on my system last night and it took 15 minutes.” What the heck were they installing Windows 7 on? Does Cray still make supercomputers?

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