With Windows 7, there’s real evidence that Microsoft has truly listened to the many criticisms leveled at Windows Vista. Essentially, Windows 7 is a much more streamlined version of its predecessor with some of the kinks ironed out and many, many nifty little additions – too many to detail individually within this review.
The first thing I did notice, however, was a fairly hefty install time. I know this can vary from computer to computer, but just be prepared for the possibility that you might be waiting a few hours for the install to finish. My computer is reasonably modern (about a year old) and fairly powerful, but I made the mistake of starting the installation process fairly late at night. Windows 7 warns that the process might take several hours, and soon after I watched the progress bar hardly budge after about an hour, I was forced to leave it to install overnight.
Thankfully, it’s a one-off problem, and the added functionality and improved performance is well worth it. The most noticeable changes are to do with enhancements to the user interface; Microsoft has added lots and lots of little features and commands that will make your life easier. The new taskbar application groupings system is a triumph, especially for those (like me) who often have multitudes of application windows open at any one time. Simply hover over the desired application icon in the taskbar (say, Internet Explorer), select the appropriate window and it will be isolated, quickly and conveniently, while all other windows are rendered translucent. It really takes all the search work out of running multiple windows concurrently.
The ‘snap’ functionality is also of note; it allows you to quickly resize one window to take up 50% of your screen’s real estate by dragging it to the left or right extremities of the screen. Essentially, you can now have two Windows, side by side, without all the tedious manual resizing.
Windows 7 is loaded with neat new features like the aforementioned. Windows Media Centre and the networking functionality of the operating system have also seen considerable overhauls. Home networking has never been easier, with Windows 7 automatically detecting other computers on a home network and allowing for straightforward administration. And Windows Media Centre
now supports a fairly comprehensive range of video and audio formats, while also adding ‘push’ functionality; you can now ‘send’ media to any networked multimedia device (such as an Xbox 360) from a networked computer running Windows 7.
Pros: Loads of subtle yet very handy extra features, faster and more efficient (you’ll really notice it in the boot-up and restart/shut-down times).
Cons: Potentially lengthy installation time.
Verdict: Windows 7 has not only come a long way in addressing the issues of Vista, but it’s gone the extra mile and packed in a nice and comprehensive set of extras. It’s a faster, more efficient and less resource-hungry version of its predecessor, and then some.