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9/6/2006
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Review: Windows Vista RC1 Is Almost Ready For Prime Time

The new release candidate of Microsoft's next operating system shows a lot of promise and only a few remaining glitches. Could Microsoft get this one right?

The new release candidate of Microsoft's next OS shows a lot of promise and only a few remaining glitches. Is it possible Microsoft may get this one right?

The long wait for a usable version of Windows Vista is finally over -- the newly released Release Candidate 1 (RC1) version of Windows Vista is faster, fitter, and sports a leaner, far easier-to-use interface. Up until now, I've been a skeptic, not convinced that Microsoft would be able to meet its planned date of January 2007 for consumer availability. But this most recent release has turned me into a believer.



With Release Candidate 1, Vista is getting closer to its final version.
Click image to enlarge.



RC1 Vista shows an operating system with significant performance improvements over Beta 2; much-improved networking and wireless support; a leaner, better-designed Control Panel; and overall better "fit and finish." For the first time, it seems as if Vista may well be on track to meet its January 30, 2007, ship date. This is an operating system that, while not quite ready for prime time, is clearly out of dress rehearsals.

While this version of Vista is not significantly different than the version released to a few testers in July, it is considerably improved compared to the Beta 2 release that I reviewed last May.

(Note that this review was written based on pre-RC1 code released several days before the actual RC1 code released by Microsoft. Microsoft claims that the interface and features of RC1 will have only subtle differences compared to the build I tested.)

Better Installation And Performance
Vista's performance improvements are noticeable, and at times dramatic. Screens display more quickly, applets load faster -- overall, the operating system is more responsive than previously. I saw little sign of sluggishness. In previous versions, it felt as if you could get a cup of coffee waiting for certain tasks to complete. This time around, the operating system seems caffeinated.

This is especially true when running applications on top of Vista. Microsoft Word, for example, is significantly speeded up. In Beta 2, it took an exceedingly long time to save a file for the first time. In fact, it was so slow that as you saved the file, you saw a slow-motion animation of the file being saved, something that you normally don't see because saving is normally nearly instantaneous. In RC1, by way of contrast, a file save felt immediate, and no slow-motion animation was visible.

Similarly, bringing up a search box in Word Beta 2 took an excruciating amount of time, so much so that I found myself manually scrolling through files, looking for text, rather than doing a search. That's no longer the case, and it happens at the speed you would expect.

Installation time has also been cut. Previously, installation typically took well over an hour. That time was down to about 40 minutes with this Vista version. That's still too long for an operating system to install, from my point of view, but at least it's bearable.

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