My take on Windows 7 was long overdue. I’ve fiddled with it for more than a week already, and haven’t got the urge to write a simple review of it.
First things first, I’m going to compare Windows 7 with Windows Vista, considering that this is a successor to the crappy OS, my expectations are high on this one, but I am still wondering if Microsoft could pull this off perfectly or not. I’ve tried Windows Vista, I didn’t like it at all. It is a wasteful OS with huge requirements that required people to involuntarily upgrade their machines just to be able to unleash the OS’s full potential. And I don’t even know if there is such a full potential to Windows Vista. To that matter, I still prefer XP, no matter how bloated it is, it’s still far more useable for me compared to Vista.
I decided to take the leap on installing Windows 7 in my iMac’s VMWare Fusion. I know that this is probably not the best test bed for this kind of thing, and that it’s probably better to try this out in Bootcamp. But for the sake of convenience, this was what I opted for. I have an XP installed in VMWare (I need this to test websites in the bloody hell IE6 and 7 when required), so I can use that as a rough benchmark on how Windows 7 performs under virtualization.
I also took the leap on snatching the leaked Beta ISO off Bittorrent. The ISO, surprisingly small for an OS this class, takes only 2.44 GB. The installation also went smooth, I chose the Windows Vista pre-settings on VMWare, and it took care of the rest.
Compared to the installed XP, the Windows 7 feels faster. I can then assume that compared to Vista, especially under virtualization, Windows 7 is definitely better in terms of performance. It is indeed faster, and I hope, in the final product, it’s more efficient in managing its performance. This is a good sign. For once, Microsoft actually cared in rebuilding the inefficient parts of their OS.
In terms of visuals, Windows 7 looks entirely similar to Vista. The styling, the supposedly semi-translucent window borders (or in fact, almost everything), the start menu, Windows Explorer, and even down to the shiny and in my opinion, overly glossy buttons. Except for the new taskbar design, I didn’t notice anything far superior than Vista’s visual styling. I never liked overly glossy stuff anyway. It looks inelegant and resembles a riced-up Honda.
As what Gizmodo wrote, the new taskbar is indeed far more useful than what we’ve seen since Windows 98. It actually has more useful features that could probably make your life easier in the long run. But whether it could beat OS X’s Dock, I have no idea unless I am a Windows user again, which is unlikely. And since I use Quicksilver more often than the Dock itself in OS X, I can’t compare.
As of today, I still can’t get the full Aero (or is it still called Aero?) feature working on my copy of Windows 7. Maybe because I installed this under VMWare, and that it can’t get the proper graphics hardware emulation. I still can’t get the games to work here as well. It hangs every time I started any game. Maybe this is another VMWare install quirk.
Windows 7 is shipped with Internet Explorer 8. Which I believe, although it is definitely better than IE6 or 7, it is still IE, it still has its own problems. And at this point, I really can’t tell whether IE can perform better than Firefox or Safari, or will it suffer to the same set of problems like its predecessors. It is a good thing, though, that finally IE6 is going down to the graveyard.
One thing that matters for me, as a designer, is text rendering. This is one thing that OS X excels at. And just like XP and Vista, Windows 7 still renders text pretty much garbage, and it makes me itch when I see texts that aren’t kerned perfectly. The Clear Type settings are definitely better now, but in terms of proportionally-spaced typefaces, unless you’re in a software like Adobe, there are still much room for improvement in this OS.
Bottom line, Windows 7 is a definite improvement from that monkey-ball-sucking Windows Vista. It’s definitely faster and useable. It doesn’t impress me that much to switch back from OS X, but if you’re a Windows user looking for an upgrade, you can watch out for this one when it comes out. Of course, since this is from Microsoft, being a company who likes to produce multiple useless editions of a product for no reason, you might want to start thinking whether you should buy the Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate edition. Or maybe, they will release an Extreme Ultimate Edition, with ten autographs from Bill Gates on it. Hey, you’ll never know.