At long last the light is at the end of the tunnel. After a several year development period, the longest for any single consumer version of Windows, the end is near for Windows Vista. While it's clearly not ready to be delivered in to the hands of users quite yet, Vista is finally at a point where we can begin talking about what will happen, and not what may.

Although Microsoft uses the Release Candidate nomenclature for Vista builds 5600 and above, including build 5728 we're looking at today, the reality of the situation is that the shipping version of Windows Vista will not be these builds or even a few builds down the line. Given the complexity of an operating system, there are still messy quirks and bona fide bugs in these release candidates, and it's going to be at least another month before we're talking about Microsoft having released a final version, and even then there will be a good amount of post-launch patching to be done as Vista ends up in the hands of the ultimate bug hunters, everyday users.

With that said, this is the first time that we can say without flinching that Vista is in an acceptable state for general use. Compatibility on the x86 version is remarkably improved over what we saw earlier, and in our testing we only managed to come up with a single program - non-commercial at that - that simply wouldn't function correctly under Vista no matter what. Otherwise, everything could be made to work under Vista given enough cajoling, which is an enormous feat given the amount of under-the-hood work the operating system has received compared to Windows XP.

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User Account Controls have not changed much since build 5472, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Like Windows overall, UAC is usable at this point, and not nearly the nuisance it was as of Beta 2. It still has rough spots, and we'll get to that in a bit, but at this point enthusiasts are the only group that will have problems with it.

Hardware support and in-the-box drivers are also coming together, no doubt due to the portability of drivers between Vista and XP in most cases. A quick run-through of our lab turned up only two pieces of hardware that weren't supported under Vista: a Hauppauge TV tuner that had three of the four drivers it needed, and our PhysX card, both of which should have full support soon. All things considered, this will likely be the least-painful Windows transition on the driver front, as vendors have been on top of the few key kernel/driver changes for a while.

At this point we've been using RC1 for nearly a month, and the newer build 5728 for over two weeks, and while we're ready to switch back to XP until Vista is completed due to some video issues, Vista is ready to be taken seriously.

What Lies Ahead & the Test
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  • kristof007 - Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - link


    We'll leave the question of why anyone would release a Vista-only game for you to debate.

    Oh my God I have such a good laugh at that. I saw some Halo 2 vids for PC in some montage video and it looked pretty smooth. I'd say above 40fps but with this article I am sure your going to need like Quad-SLI setup or comparable to run it smooth and high res (1900x1200) or greater.
  • Locutus465 - Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - link

    My experience with vista RC-1 hasn't been that pleasent over all... Firstly, still no support for the Promise Ultra100TX controller card at all, which saddens me greatly. Secondly, whether I did something to mess it up or not I am not sure. But for sone reason I have no optical drive support in my RC-1. I was messing around with nVidia's pre-release vista platform drivers, so perhaps that is a part of the issue. Also, support for doom was absolutly horrendous for my system (running Gefore 7800GT). It appeared to me that there was absolutly no HW openGL rendering. Again, perhaps I messed something up with drives, though I did install the latest available Vista64 build on nVidia's website.

    Perhaps the 32bit version of vista is just much father ahead of the 64b version in terms of driver support and maturity. If this is the case, then I am rather conserned. MS is trying to move the world to 64b wtih vista, and I would love to join them. But not if it means destroying my already working Windows XP system.
  • ChronoReverse - Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - link

    Unfortunately, Nvidia has dropped the ball with the OGL icd for Vista. ATi, however, has released a working one.

    OpenGL works fine in Vista just like XP. MS just doesn't ship a driver since that's the job of the video card vendors. When Nvidia and ATi both get their drivers complete, MS will include a WHQL qualified driver with Vista, but you'll still want to update it.
  • Locutus465 - Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - link

    Yeah, but what is weird is that when I tried Beta 2 the drivers worked much better. Doom 3 wasn't fast by any means, but playable, and it looked like doom 3. It seems to me almost as if MS took a step backwards with the driver situation with RC-1. I'm waiting with bated breath for RC-2 on friday. I want to see how RC-2 compares.
  • ChronoReverse - Thursday, October 5, 2006 - link

    Well, considering that MS aren't the ones writing drivers, I hardly see why they're to blame. Thay've practically been screaming at the manufacturer to make them Vista drivers =/
  • mmp121 - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    The article states:


    At this point we've been using RC1 for nearly a month, and the newer build 5728 for over two weeks, and while we're ready to switch back to XP until Vista is completed due to some video issues, Vista is ready to be taken seriously.

    Yet never expands on what the video issues are, or even HINTS at what they might be related to. Are the video issues driver related, video playback related, gaming related, what?

    Clarification would be GREATLY appreciated.
  • theprodigalrebel - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    It's the game benchmarks. As much as 40% performance hit (in FEAR @ 1600x1200 with 4X AA). I too would like a clarification on who is to blame for this: 1) Windows Vista 2) ATi's Driver Team.

    I'm assuming it is a driver-related issue which ATi will most definitely resolve by the time Vista's released. If there was something fundamentally wrong with Vista itself, then 3DMark results wouldn't be near identical to the XP results.
  • kristof007 - Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - link

    I am REALLY hoping it's as simple as a newer (better) patch from ATI. I think it would be doable. We can see patches coming out pretty regularly adding value and features to our existing hardware. So hopefully as said above, the ATI driver should fix things. Did they test with nVidia and look for discrepancies?
  • nullpointerus - Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - link

    When I ran F.E.A.R. on Vista RC1, the game had massive stuttering every second or so at 800x600 0xAA 4xAF high quality on an EVGA 7900 GT KO. An old 2D/3D RPG that I had lying around got massive framerate improvements - IOW, it became playable! - simply by moving it to an XP SP2 install with a lowly 6200 TC-256 card. There are definitely major problems for the Vista driver teams to fix. And I still can't get any sound out of my Audigy...
  • gaesaekkiya - Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - link

    I think Windows2000 is the most powerful, reasonable Operating System of MS products'.
    Comparing OSs performances, please, include windows2000, too.
    Thank kou.

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