Windows 7: Real advance or just Vista-plus?
New Microsoft OS offers a few improvements over Vista, but not many. And it does not fix many of Vista's annoyances, our review finds.
A new Microsoft Windows operating system is always big news, especially for the federal government, which overwhelmingly relies on Windows of one stripe or another to run just about everything. The last reliably stable operating system to find widespread acceptance was Windows XP. Vista added a lot of user-friendly options but was more or less branded as a consumer product that is not suitable for business.
And now we have Windows 7, which is attempting to keep most of the niceties of Vista while maintaining the businesslike status that XP enjoyed.
After Windows 7 booted up, we gazed at the new desktop and saw — Windows Vista. What? Here’s the dirty little secret that Microsoft is definitely not telling anyone: If you hated Vista because of the interface, you will hate Windows 7, too. Vista totally changed the look and feel of Windows from XP, but W7 only marginally changes the look and feel from Vista. Going on just the look and general behavior, W7 is little more than what Microsoft could have delivered in a free service pack to the Vista operating system.
Most of Vista’s annoyances have remained intact. You are still bombarded with constant “Are you sure you want this program to run?” questions, even if W7 is running an internal process. Performance is also unchanged overall on a system running Vista compared with W7. Going from XP to W7 resulted in a slight performance decrease, much like when going from XP to Vista.
Of course, not everything is the same. Several of the improvements are good. For one, users don’t get fooled when trying to shut down the PC. Under Vista, clicking the button with the international symbol for power throws it into hibernate mode. In W7, the power button actually says Shut Down and turns the system off.
Computers that go to sleep now do so extremely quickly. Even our most modest test systems were able to snooze in seconds. More impressively, they came back out of sleep mode in just a few seconds, too, even going so far as to automatically reconnect with our wireless network.
USB devices have become the cornerstone of PC use these days, be it in the form of portable hard drives, USB mice, digital cameras or even music players. With W7, those devices are almost instantly ready to use. The first time you plug in a portable hard drive to a system running W7, it will be ready to go in a few seconds. And any other time, there is almost no delay at all.
Windows 7 is a good operating system with a lot going for it. And it’s stable. But it’s not anything new. We hate to be the reviewers who say that the emperor has no clothes, but there’s so much hype surrounding W7 that most people are probably expecting an entirely new operating system. What they will find is an improved version of Vista, with the same warts and flaws and a few improvements. That’s really it.
NEXT STORY: Windows 7 readers talk