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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 7 also delivers better performance in practice; our tests showed improvements over both XP and Vista SP2.

If you've been using the Windows 7 Release Candidate you'll be used to some of the performance improvements like the system not slowing down just because you have multiple windows open (this relies on the 1.1 version of the Windows Desktop Display Manager so you need WDDM 1.1 drivers – only Intel is dragging its feet putting these out).

PC boot

However, the RTM code strips out the debug code and adds a number of performance tweaks; we noticed that restarting from hibernation was considerably improved, especially on older ultraportable notebooks with small, slow hard drives.

System requirements

The system requirements haven't changed from what Microsoft announced earlier in the year; a 1GHz processor, 1GB (for 32-bit) or 2GB (64-bit) RAM, support for DirectX 9 graphics devices with 128MB of memory and 16GB (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit) of free disk space.

The pre-release versions of Windows 7 have all run happily on netbooks and the final RTM version is no different.

Windows 7 on a netbook

As you can see from our benchmarks, we compared XP and Windows 7 on the Atom-based Asus EEE S101, which boasts a fast flash drive; this has an exceptionally fast startup (measured to the point that Windows is responsive to input) and shutdown times (measured without applications open) and in all cases where tasks took long enough to measure, Windows 7 was measurably faster than XP.

netbook boot

On our long-term Windows 7 test machine, the Dell XPS M1330, Vista SP2 gave the release candidate code a run for its money but the RTM improved on all the RC times but one test (copying a 3GB folder to a network drive), it equalled or easily beat the Vista times (See benchmarks from the Dell).

copy from

Built-in applications like Paint, Media Player and Movie Maker are routinely faster than in Vista (often by up to a third) and Media Center is significantly more responsive than the Vista and Windows XP versions.

Battery life

Battery life doesn't get a significant boost on all upgraded systems compared to Vista; you can expect to see bigger improvements in battery life on new systems of comparable specification as OEMs tweak settings in the power policy. Delving into the details will probably help you squeeze more life out of upgraded models.

With the Asus EEE PC S101, our battery rundown test of wireless web browsing and streaming music and video continuously showed a welcome improvement, from 2 hours 50 minutes under XP to 3 hours 2 minutes with Windows 7 RTM. Even more welcome is that fact that the reported battery life is usually close to what you actually get.

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.