Windows Vista and its Wow effect is all around us. It has crawled into PCs and notebooks. We were unlucky and impatient enough to get a new laptop somewhat three months before Vista came out. Or were we really that unlucky? Let’s see.
The machine we bought is Vista capable but it came with Windows XP Media Center: This gave us an interesting idea. We went to a local computer store and bought and 80 GB SATA 2.5 drive and instlled Vista Home Premium on it. The basic idea was to test how much work we could do on the same notebook if we had Vista Home Premium before the battery dies. We are talking about first head to head competition of Windows XP Media Center Versus Vista.
Always expect the unexpected is how one says, so we were ready to encounter all of the possible problems during installation. But we were wrong, the installation of new Windows is so easy even a baby could do it. It did include some screwdriver skills as we had to take one hard drive out and replace it with a new blank one.
Install time took 25 minutes plus additional 5 minutes for testing the hardware. It was showing us screens with different messages why Vista was so cool. Boring marketing.
We might be mistaken but it seams that Vista had detected all of the notebook components during the 5 minutes and installed all of the needed drivers. So we had fully operational laptop after only 30 minutes of installation. This definitely deserves one marketingwise over used Wow!
Everything apart from one unknown device was installed. Our guess was it could be HP quick launch buttons. We went to a HP support site to get the newest drivers if there were any and to get the quick launch button drivers. We downloaded the new GPU drives as HP advised us to. When we started the installation of GPU driver we got a message that "the driver you are trying to install is older version then you already have".
Vista had newer version of GPU driver then the one HP is offering on its support site. One would think HP is a serious company considering its size, but the mistake happens. If any of HP people are reading this please update your Vista support site, it is about time. HP offers version xxx32, Vista has xxx38 and Intel has already came out with xxx82 and even that one is almost a month old. We installed Intel's driver but even without that Aero glass was working well.
The installation was really fast, all of the devices were installed and everything worked perfectly. A true wow effect. We did update everything just in case, but nevertheless everything worked "out of the box". Not to mention that after a while Vista detected the unknown hardware and pointed out that we should go to HP support site and install the HP quick launch. Good job. Just to mention that bare naked Vista with drivers occupied 7,5GB of the HDD space.
After all the drivers were updated restart time took 2 minutes 25 seconds, not bad at all since there were few freshly installed drivers. Once the task was done we went for a clean restart. This time it took 1 minute 15 seconds. We were not impressed by speed as we are talking about the fresh installation. It takes only 50 seconds to boot the few months old XP. The XP installation includes anti spyware, antivirus and some other smaller programs. We counted from the time we pushed the power button to a fully operational OS.
The interface of the new OS is another Wow for itself. Now I get where Microsoft got the idea for the all the "wow" TV commercials. The so called Aero Glass is definitely big step forward compared to XP. It looks very cool. The way you alt+tab your windows, or small info windows that you get when you go over minimized windows with your mouse are great. Then you discover a new win-key+tab option as one rather impressive and sexy looking option. We love the side bar and we think it has the potential to be very serious tool.
The battery lifetime under Vista
So after we stopped admiring the looks of the new interface we continued on with our little test.
The idea was to use the notebook like an average Joe would use a notebook somewhere without power cord, with wireless access to the internet. We ended up working on a word document with few internet explorer windows, a messenger and the side bar open. We were interested to see if we made mistake with getting the notebook before “Vista time”. The question here is which OS needs more battery.
On VIsta it takes 1 minute 40 seconds to turn the computer on and start writing in Word. The same task takes one minute flat for XP. Both Windows used same version of Word 2003. Also please note that all of the values may vary from a notebook to a notebook depending on your hardware.
We went to a nearby café with free wireless and started Word, turned wireless on, connected on the net, and started Internet Explorer in multi window and multi tab mode all set to dry the battery.
We were typing on the MSN messenger and Word 2003 constantly.
We did manage to read few things on the internet since the work was done right before a warning popped out which said that the battery is at 10%. In order not to lose our work we saved everything and emailed it to safe location and shut down our Vista operated notebook. Battery was at 9% after 2 hours and 9 minutes of typing and surfing the net. Not bad we have to admit we did not expect that result, not with Aero on at least.
At the moment when this is being typed, stopwatch shows that we have been using mthe notebook for 2 hours and 9 minutes under XP and the battery is at 26%. XP obviously won this race, but wewill keep it running until we reach the above mentioned 9% so that we can post the official result. And here we go 9% left after 2 hours and 39 minutes. Also please note that these values may vary depending on your battery capacity, hardware and programs you are using, but the difference is here.
This test clearly shows that compared to XP, Vista is a battery assassin. We did have Vista Home Premium edition and XP Media Center available for this test but we haven't been using any of the multimedia features since this test was supposed to show how long can a person work and surf under the two OSs, before their notebook battery dies. Working in Word and surfing the Net with iExplorer 7 does not give you much opportunity to admire the sexy looks of Vista, unless you are switching between windows using keyboard. But even if you do that remember that one can be amused only for so long.
Also we do have to say that we didn’t encounter any issues that others have mentioned with Vista drivers but we believe that is only due to the fact that we used it for a very basic purpose. Bottom line is, yes Vista looks "wow", but if you are on the move a lot and you use your laptop and appreciate battery life then there is no reason for you to switch to Vista.
You won't have much choice as most of the notebooks today come with Vista preinstalled. But then again if you don’t really care about the extra 30 minutes you get with XP, and have an extra €100 for on OEM version you might want to upgrade. We know we will stick to the XP since we value the extra time more then the looks of the desktop.