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Windows 7 review

Our final and definitive verdict on the best Windows operating system ever

Our Verdict

For

  • Improved performance
  • Pinned icons
  • Live thumbnails
  • Jump lists and window snaps make Aero useful as well as attractive
  • New ways of organising files with libraries
  • Improved backup
  • Less annoying notifications

Against

  • XP Mode isn't an integrated option yet
  • Microsoft backed down on libraries and Ctrl-E brings up My Computer instead
  • You can't add NAS drives to libraries
  • Ultimate edition is almost unnecessary except for adding BitLocker – which should be in the Professional Edition – and rather expensive (as are the Anytime Upgrades)
  • Yes, it's what Vista should have been (but it's more than that)

Windows Media Player gets a big makeover in Windows 7. It now has a main library window for choosing and organising media and playlists, an auto-sizing miniplayer for watching videos or photo slideshows and an even smaller thumbnail preview layer for controlling playlists when Media Player is minimised.

The miniplayer controls are all you need for music and short videos; this takes up a lot less space and still shows what you're listening to. It brings Media Player in line with more streamlined players like MPC and VLC.

media play to

PLAY TO: Send music to a digital media adaptor or another PC; here we can play to the bedroom radio or the stereo in the office

The controls for the new remote playing features are here too; click on the Stream menu to set up streaming at home and over the internet.

REMOTE

REMOTE: If you want to play music from a PC at home when you're away, you need to set up an online ID; so far that's only Live ID

You can right-click on any track or use the Play To button in the Playlist pane to play music on another PC – or a DLNA device like a Sonos ZonePlayer. Shared libraries simply appear in the Library pane, as do removable drives with music and pictures on.

This integrates well with the new peer-to-peer Homegroup networking.

media stream

STREAM: There are three settings for setting up streaming (once you've joined a Homegroup); you can choose whether to share or allow remote control separately

You have to set up sharing music, allowing access to your library and your Play To targets separately, and you have to download and set up Windows Live ID (more providers may join this service by October). At the moment the process is a little complicated and could be more streamlined.

Even so, finding music elsewhere on your network and on your devices is a lot easier than in the past and streaming works well even over Wi-Fi.

media music

MUSIC: Media Center uses the widescreen ratio of modern screens to good effect

The intrusive Sync dialog that used to pop up every time you plugged in any storage device is gone; Microsoft says users can find the sync settings easily enough if they do want them.

Instead of demanding that you configure it, Media Center opens with a Getting Started dialogue that still lets you choose individual configurations if you don't want the defaults.

As well as supporting gestures on touchscreens there are new navigation options when you're using a mouse instead of a remote: drag the cursor along the seek bar of a video you're watching and you get dynamic thumbnails to help you skip to the scene you want, although we didn't see this with all videos.

quicktime

QUICKTIME: With more codecs included out of the box, you don't have to install QuickTime just to watch the videos you've shot on your digital camera

If you have a lot of content, turbo scroll turns on automatically to jump through the alphabet as you move through lists of music and video rather than bringing up every title individually.

no itv

INTERNET TV: Internet TV won't be working until the October launch for the UK

You can do the same with the TV Guide: keep scrolling and instead of going a program at a time, you can scroll through day by day.

Both Media Player and Media Center share libraries, so you only need to choose multiple media folders once.

shared library

SHARED LIBRARY: Add a folder to a library in Media Center or Media Player and you'll see it in the library in Explorer

And they both get the new set of codecs to play a range of popular file formats, including DivX and QuickTime. Media Center performance is far better than in the Release Candidate; no more stuttering video when you stream over your network.

Tech Specs

Product TypeOperating System
Brand NameMicrosoft
Software Sub TypeClient
Distribution Media/MethodDVD-ROM
Licence TypeLicense and Media
Platform SupportedPC
Language SupportedDanish
Licence Quantity1 PC
ManufacturerMicrosoft Corporation
Product NameWindows 7 Ultimate - 64-bit
Software NameWindows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Licence PricingOEM
Manufacturer Part NumberGLC-00734
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.microsoft.co.uk
Marketing Information

Windows 7 Ultimate is the most versatile and powerful edition of Windows 7. It combines remarkable ease-of-use with the entertainment features of Home Premium and the business capabilities of Professional, including the ability to run many Windows XP productivity programs in Windows XP Mode. For added security, you can encrypt your data with BitLocker and BitLocker To Go. And for extra flexibility, you can work in any of 35 languages. Get it all with Windows 7 Ultimate.