Vista is out. Everybody knows that. With every new version of Windows OS we are bombarded with promises like: This Windows will do "this" and "that", easier, better, faster...etc. So while the other guys were busy with other Vista features I have tried to find out something more about Vista's multimedia features. Does it really make multimedia easier, better, faster?
The installation is easier and faster. We started the installation out of Windows XP and chose the option to install Vista. We've made a new partition and off we go. After somewhat 30 minutes, Vista installation was completed. Good. Nice and neat Aero Glass graphical interface popped out. It makes really good first impression. Visually Vista is perfect, but sound? Not really.
Vista only failed to instal one of the pieces of hardware we had on our test machine. It was the sound card, Creative's Audigy 2 Platinum. We had to do it manually. We found the beta driver from Creative support site (dated 12 January 2007). We were lucky with that one since there is number of sound devices that still have no drivers for Vista.
After we managed to get our sound card working, first thing we've noticed is that the audio controls look a bit different under Vista.
If you are wondering where the hell are the level controls for audio playback or record, you can find it under Speakers properties. I'm not sure why the guys from Redmond buried those controls under so many clicks?
For Audigy most of the stuff is working except there is no support for CMSS2 and there is no advanced EAX support, not yet at least. Also there is no application for Sound Font technology which makes it unusable. Ok this is the beta driver, so probably in the future we will have those features as well. On the other hand Audigy is capable of reproducing and recording in Vista with sampling rate up to 192 kHz and 24bit resolution.
Than we tested professional audio application behavior under new generation of Windows.
Steinberg Cubase SX 3 was the obvious choice. It doesn’t have any support under Vista but we managed to install it and run it. ASIO driver was working as well, but we have experienced some performance issues under Cubase system.
ASIO driver was struggling to squeeze performance out of my machine (AMD Athlon 4000+ X2, 1GB Corsair RAM, 500 GB HDD, ASUS A8N-SLI Motherboard and obviously Audigy 2 Platinum). After only 2 stereo tracks in Cubase and applying some VST reverb the performance bar in Cubase was oscillating around 30% and we heard some audio clicks. ASIO was working under setting of 4ms, which works fine in XP. So we had to increase latency to 7ms to get rid of the pops and clicks.
So is Vista actually slower than XP? If you would like to find out read on...
Next was the mp3 encoding performance. We've tried to encode Wav audio file (Joe Satriani's - summer song) which was 49.9 MB to Mp3 using LAME encoder (setting was LAME mp3, ~190 kbps, Encoding Quality: Standard, Quality mode (Quality: 2), VBR Mode: Fast, Joint Stereo).
So, XP did it in 15.4 seconds and in Vista - 17.4 seconds!
After that I was curios to actually find out the difference in speed using the good old Photoshop filter benchmark. So we took a picture size 4320x3240, 40 MB 300dpi and then process the image using Radial Blur filter (Amount 100 Blur Method: Spin Quality: Best).
In XP computer did it in 2min and 18.3sec. In Vista the score was 2min and 20.1 sec.
We would also like to try DIVX encoding performance, but due to the lack of (official) support for DIVX software under vista we didn't manage to do that. Anyway, if you are struggling to find good codec pack which works under Vista then we can recommend Vista Codec Package v4.29.
If you have a Windows mobile device such as WM Phone, forget about MS Active Sync application. Vista has a new feature called the Windows Mobile Device Center which looks nicer. Vista gives you some basic support like file explorer for Windows Mobile systems and it allows you to upload or download files or pictures.
In order to use all possibilities like synchronizations, etc. you'll need to download Windows Mobile Device Center application from Microsoft website.
On the other side Symbian UIQ based device didn’t have such luck as Windows Mobile systems. We have tried to connect our Sony Ericsson P990i but later we have find out that the device is not supported yet. There are no drivers from Sony Ericsson or Microsoft. Too bad.
Well after all this we can say that Vista is offering some interesting features, yet nothing spectacular new or extremely exciting (except for visual experience!) mainly because the lack of support for devices (read drivers). It seems that manufacturers did not yet embrace the Vista fully and we are expecting that it will happen in a nearer future.
If you need support, performance and features that work with wide range of devices than for the time being you should stick to the good old XP. But we must admit that the new Vista is looking beautiful, hot and tempting.