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Windows Vista on a Notebook

Microsoft Windows Vista is the successor of the successful and aged Windows XP. Microsoft intents to optically catch up with the competitors MacOS X by Apple and Linux distributions, which are both getting more potent. Furthermore, Microsoft states that Microsoft Windows Vista was developed with an increased focus on security. If you buy a notebook nowadays, you'll very likely have Vista pre-installed and will face some teething troubles.

Microsoft's pledges in detail: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/features/default.mspx

We will now discuss details we experienced during installing and using Windows Vista on a Nexoc Osiris E616.

Nexoc Osiris E616
Nexoc Osiris E616

Installation

We start with a Nexoc Osiris E616 with a pre-installed Windows XP on a hard disk partition partition, which  uses the complete space of the single available 100 GB hard disk. We desire to install Microsoft Windows Vista (Codename Longhorn) on an additional not yet created partition.

At first we start the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor, which requires Internet access. This software evaluated the Nexoc Osiris E616 notebook to be ready for Vista, but also stated that the built-in Realtek High Definition audio card, the Realtek RTL8169 / 8110 Family Gigabit Ethernet NIC network card and the NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 video card will cause problems. Regarding installed software, it  objects to the Microsoft Messenger and the Intel ProSet Wireless software package for the WLAN card. We were really surprised about this, because both programs are widely spread and one of them is even by Microsoft.

Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor
Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor
Notebooks
Programs
General

After starting the installation from a running Windows XP, we learn that we have to reboot from CD to be able to partition the hard disk. But, even there we are unable to make the existing partition smaller. Therefore, you have to use 3rd party tools, e.g., Partition Magic 8 for repartitioning. After creation of a partition with enough space, we start the installation again. It is convenient there is no need to key in any key during the installation - it also works without one.

After an installation  of Vista without troubles (and without any user input), Vista starts with a desktop using 800x600 pixels resolution  - because a video driver for the built-in NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 is missing as already mentioned by the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor.

Driver

First of all we look at Nexoc.de for a driver, but you can only find drivers for Windows XP there at the time of writing (18.03.2007). Afterwards we hope to find a driver by the Barebone manufacturer itself - Uniwill. The Nexoc E616 is based on the Uniwill P53IN Barebone. Unfortunately, Uniwill.com was not available at our configuration time. As a workaround we manually install the driver for the Desktop NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600GT, which we download from the NVIDIA homepage. Although this is not recommended by Microsoft, we were thereafter able to run Windows Vista Aero with the native resolution of the panel (1280x800 pixels).

Despite warnings by the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor the Realtek Gigabit LAN network card and also the sound card work without problems.

Even the hot keys for controlling the display's brightness and the volume work without installing additional software (however, without optical feedback). However, the manual volume control left in the front does not work, which we found out, because a loud Internet advertisement surprised us.

Furthermore, standby failed. Only the display darkens, but one can clearly hear that the notebook continues running, but does not react to any input. Pressing the on/off button for a longer time, is the only way out. However, hibernation works without problems. Unfortunately, the "turn off" button of the start menu defaults to standby (which did not work with the reviewed notebook), but this can be changed by the user.

Interestingly, standby sometimes worked correctly - apparently, one of the drivers seems to cause the troubles.

On the next day the Uniwill homepage was available again. We were quickly able to find the Drivers for the P53IN notebook. However, there was no hint for which operating system the drivers are. Only in the zip file, there are sub-directories for each supported operating system, however, there is none for Windows Vista.

After requesting support from BWD-Computer.de (who provided us with the notebook for our review), we got the reply that drivers for Vista should be available soon.

3 days later we received a Vista driver CD for the Nexoc Osiris E616 by BWD-Computer.de. The drivers could be easily installed and afterwards putting the notebook on standby did not fail any longer. The only thing is that the computer wakes up with a resolution of 1280x768 instead of 1280x800 pixels, which can only be corrected upon restarting. We heard about this problem before from a user of our forum who uses a Dell notebook. So, we blame the video driver for the first. With the provided video drivers, the results during the 3DMark06 benchmark improved, however the results for the predecessor benchmarks worsened. Unfortunately, the manual volume control dial still does not work. Furthermore, terminating hibernation hangs.

Windows Vista Notebook Features

Vista itself pleases by its design and effects. However, as a matter of taste, the desktop might be too colorful for some and, especially at low resolutions, the thick  borders around the windows waste space.

For notebook use a mobility center was integrated in Vista. It allows to configure frequently used notebook settings like volume, brightness, WLAN, synchronization, tablet settings) comfortably. Additionally, each manufacturer is allowed to integrated proprietary tools in the mobility center. (e.g., Lenovo added a tool for turning on the keyboard lightening).

The Windows Vista mobility center pools all important notebook settings.
The Windows Vista mobility center pools all important notebook settings.

The energy options clearly improved compared to Windows XP and can be better fine-tuned.  Besides a number of profile settings Vista allows to configure the details (like clock rate of the processor, integrated search, brightness, etc.) by selecting advanced settings. However, if you do not know your hardware in detail you should really stick to the predefined profiles of your notebook manufacturer.

The energy options of Vista allow to choose the energy settings in detail.
The energy options of Vista allow to choose the energy settings in detail.

Problems

Because of extensive changes, Vista still has some problems with existing hardware and software. Especially notebooks, which are not yet delivered with a pre-installed Vista often face driver problems. E.g., an older Dell Inspiron 8100 failed, because of unavailability of a driver for the integrated Intel network card. Even for the U.S. Robotics WLAN card, and the ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 no proper drivers were available at the time of writing.

Furthermore, even up-to-date notebooks face driver problems. As already mentioned above the Nexoc Osiris E616 still had problems with the stand-by mode and the idle mode.

Also software-sided there are still regrettably many problems. Some older games only run be applying tricks or refuse to run at all. E.g., OpenGL support for games seems to cause troubles for some video cards (e.g., Acer 8100 bei Enemy Territory).  Also Macromedia products (Flash, Dreamweaver) have serious problems with Vista.

A slower execution time can be observed at the desktop for some systems. E.g., our reviewed Nexoc notebook sometimes took a long time to display a system message from the security agent.

Performance

Our comparison of 3D Mark benchmarks of Windows XP and Windows Vista running on a Nexoc Osiris E616 discover even higher benchmark results for Vista than for XP with the provided drivers. However, one of our forum users found some newer drivers which are capable of improving the performance under XP so that XP's performance exceeds the performance of Vista again.forum/index.php/topic,4977.msg33191.html#msg33191

According to c’t 5/2007 which compares some performance measurements of XP and Vista on different notebooks, Vista rates up to one third worse regarding performance. However, this depends on the manufacturer. E.g., the reviewed R60 and T60 notebooks of Lenovo performed better under Vista.

The battery runtime test of the Nexoc Osiris E616 did not discover any considerable differences between XP and Vista. The Reader test (without Aero) uncovered an even better runtime than under Windows XP. However, under full load the notebook could be used slightly longer under XP (few minutes).

According to c’t 5/2007 there are again manufacturer dependent results regarding energy demand. Most of the notebooks needed more energy under Vista and therefore, had a shorter battery runtime. But, the battery runtime is nearly the same for Lenovo notebooks, regardless of the operating system used.

These experiences suggest BIOS and driver problems not yet solved by particular manufacturers. Therefore, performance as well as battery runtime should not decline, if the drivers and the BIOS are adjusted to the used operating system. However, it might take a while until all notebooks are optimized for Windows Vista.

Benchmark Vista Vista with Desktop video drivers Windows XP original drivers Windows XP modded drivers
3DMark01 16936 17106 (+1%) 16370(-3,3%)
3DMark03 7084 6563 (-7,4%) 4570 (-35,5%) 8510 (+20,1%)
3DMark05 3074 2991 (-2,7%) 1550 (-49,6%)
3DMark06 1760 1822 (+3,5%) 782 (-55,6%) 2242 (+27,4%)

Verdict

Colorful - more colorful – Vista. Vista places emphasis on current graphical trends, which seem to please the eyes of most users. Even the new features like the central search, the mobility center and improvements of the Windows explorer have clear advantages.

However, the Microsoft's brand-new operating system still faces a variety of teething troubles, e.g., driver problems, worse performance, shorter battery runtime etc. However, these are likely to vanish, as the adjustment improves.

Therefore, we do not recommend a complete change to Vista right now. On the contrary, we highly recommend to install Vista to an additional partition to be able to use XP instead in case of any hardware or software problems.

However, newer notebooks most of the time are only delivered with a pre-installed Vista. Even here, you can often face problems because of weaknesses of adjustment. If you can wait, you should really postpone a planned notebook buy. Despite this, there are already some notebooks available which are well adjusted to Vista, e.g, the 2 Lenovo models of the c’t review).

Microsoft Windows Vista
Microsoft Windows Vista on a Notebook
Microsoft Windows Vista on a Notebook
Microsoft intents to catch up its competitors ...
Microsoft intents to catch up its competitors ...
Business - less multimedia features, but enhanced network features
Business - less multimedia features, but enhanced network features
Home Premium - provides Aero, Media Center, and burning of DVDs, comparable to the Media Center Edition of Windows XP
Home Premium - provides Aero, Media Center, and burning of DVDs, comparable to the Media Center Edition of Windows XP
The different versions: Home Basic - reasonable beginner version, but without Aero desktop
The different versions: Home Basic - reasonable beginner version, but without Aero desktop
Vista can be boosted by Readyboost by attaching a proper flash memory (which is used as cache).
Vista can be boosted by Readyboost by attaching a proper flash memory (which is used as cache).
The new search tool is maybe the most convenient change.
The new search tool is maybe the most convenient change.
The new sidebar has space for a number of gimmicks.
The new sidebar has space for a number of gimmicks.
Even the Media Center was  improved and integrated in the Vista versions Home, Premium, and Ultimate
Even the Media Center was improved and integrated in the Vista versions Home, Premium, and Ultimate
... provides a convenient search utility.
... provides a convenient search utility.
The new start menu ...
The new start menu ...
... and other optical gimmicks.
... and other optical gimmicks.
... by 3D effects ...
... by 3D effects ...
Ultimate - integrates all features of the versions mentioned above
Ultimate - integrates all features of the versions mentioned above
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Klaus Hinum, 2007-04- 5 (Update: 2012-05-26)