Windows 7 is Impressive

Yesterday, I finished installing Windows 7 on my mom's computer. I upgraded my Macbook Pro with a SSD drive, so I took the old HDD, bought a 3.5" HDD enclosure adapter, and threw it in my mom's Dell Dimension E510 desktop computer with the intention of installing the Windows 7 RC on it. I'm very impressed with Windows 7 RC on my mom's desktop. Before I get into my list of observations, here's a short list of the E510 specs:

-CPU: Intel Pentium D 2.80 GHz
-RAM: 2.5 GB
-HDD: 2.5", 120 GB, 5400 RPM
-old HDD: 3.5", 80 GB, 7200 RPM
-wireless network adapter: Netgear
-Monitors: (1) 15", 4:3 ratio Dell connected via VGA and (1) 17", widescreen Dell connected via VGA to DVI port using adapter
-Keyboard and mouse: wireless Logitech set with Dell label
-Printer: Canon Pro9000
-Scanner: Epson
-And various USB devices (muli-card reader, 30 GB external HDD, etc.)

As you can see from the specs, my mom's computer isn't the most powerful out there, but it's more than enough for her needs, which boil down to using the internet, email, word processing, and accounting. I wondered how the slower hard drive would affect the performance of the computer, but I was pleasantly surprised. Here are my observations:

1. Windows 7 is snappier than XP. Even with the slower hard drive in my mom's computers, Windows 7 feels faster. I don't have any benchmarks, but Firefox for example loads faster in 7 than XP. And the UI seems to react quicker to mouse and keyboard inputs without any noticeable slowdown when running multiple programs. Granted, the snappier performance may be a result of the Windows 7 install being fresh while XP is the original install on my mom's computer, so there's plenty of bit rot. I'll have to pay attention as time goes on, but it's still impressive to me that Windows 7, with the full Aero interface, is faster than XP in this case.

2. Windows 7 automatically found drivers for most of my mom's hardware. I was originally thinking that I would have to reinstall drivers for all of mom's equipment (wireless adapter, ethernet card, USB controllers, scanner, printer, etc.). Turns out Windows 7 was able to use my mom's computer immediately and I didn't have to install drivers for all the internal hardware. 7 even found drivers automatically for my mom's scanner, webcam, and external harddrive. And Windows 7 was able to disply the correct resolution on my mom's 17" widescreen monitor, whereas XP couldn't. I thought the limitation was in the video card, but 7 proved that theory wrong. Windows 7 wasn't able to load a driver automatically for the Canon Pro9000 and, not surprisingly, the Apple Airport Express interface software needed to be loaded. But, even with these small caveats, Windows 7 saved me a lot of time having to hunt for install discs.

3. I still get lost in the way the OS options are organized. As I said in a previous post, 7 is organized like Vista, so I just need to learn where options are located. I'm sure I'll be able to find my way around the OS more quickly in the future.

4. I like the new taskbar. Microsoft has made the taskbar similar in some aspects to the 2D dock in Mac OS X. Instead of the annoying blocks with the names of the running programs, the new taskbar only shows an icon for running programs. I think this makes the taskbar look much, much cleaner. Yes, the taskbar is now double the height, stealing some space from the desktop, but with the taskbar cleaner, it's not a big sacrifice.

5. Windows 7 has built in sub-pixel rendering tuning options for text. This is a really great feature and something OS X could use. With 7, I was able to fine-tune the sub-pixel rendering of fonts on each screen so text was easier to read. This will help my mom to have less strain on her eyes.

I'm really liking Windows 7 and look forward to the final release so I can install it on my mom's computer. The RC is so good, I hope that Microsoft doesn't add any features to the final release. Bug fixes only, please.

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