Lab Tests: Vista's Fast If You Have the Hardware

Illustration by Joe Zeff.
Illustration: Joe Zeff
With Microsoft's Windows Vista finally released to manufacturers and on the verge of making its way to retail, we can at last get down to the business of examining precisely how well the new OS performs. In our first tests, we discovered that while Vista's hardware requirements may be steep, it should run just fine--even with the Aero bells and whistles active--on machines that meet Microsoft's Premium Ready specifications (1GB of RAM, and a DirectX 9-capable graphics board with at least 128MB of dedicated memory).

We installed the RTM (release to manufacturing) Vista Ultimate code on desktop and notebook systems of varying specs and ages, and then we ran a series of benchmarks to answer several key questions about Vista's impact on performance. Our main findings:

  • Vista is generally slower than XP, but it's better at multitasking on dual-core PCs.
  • Your PC should have 1GB of RAM at the bare minimum.
  • Aero won't slow you down if you use a discrete graphics processor and enough memory.
  • Apps run slower on the 64-bit version of Vista, but adding RAM closes the gap.

Our conclusions here aren't the last word on Vista performance, however: When we conducted our tests in November, graphics companies were still fine-tuning their drivers (for example, we decided to drop our Doom 3 gaming tests because ATI's drivers didn't yet support that game's OpenGL graphics API).

Another note: Since we used updated, Vista-compatible versions of our Photoshop and multitasking tests from the beta of WorldBench 6, the results are not comparable with those for XP systems tested under WorldBench 5.

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