Drivers are critical to your PC; they are the files that let your OS communicate with devices such as graphics cards, printers, or storage devices. All drivers have to be rewritten for Vista, but not all may be ready at launch, and some older peripherals may never get an updated driver.
The lack of Vista drivers for some peripherals could be a major issue for many users. For example, with the beta drivers in our tests, games ran significantly slower under Vista than under Windows XP. In earlier testing of the Dell XPS 710 running XP, this system ran at 143 frames per second in the game Far Cry at 1024 by 768 resolution. An identical system using the same settings with Vista managed a frame rate of just 108 fps--some 24 percent slower.
Our other test game, Doom 3, didn't run at all on the Vista systems that used ATI graphics cards; at this writing, ATI's beta drivers for Vista don't support the OpenGL graphics system that this game requires. nVidia's beta driver, however, did support OpenGL graphics. ATI and nVidia both claim that they will have full versions of their drivers ready by the time Vista ships.
WorldBench 6 Beta
To test these new Vista systems, we used a beta version of PC World's test suite, WorldBench 6, which has been optimized for Windows Vista. This performance benchmark runs a variety of common tasks in several programs (such as processing a photo in Adobe Photoshop and opening a complex Web page in Firefox) and times how long these tasks take. WorldBench 6 uses, among other things, updated applications (such as Adobe Photoshop CS2), and more demanding tests employing, for example, bigger files, as on our Photoshop test. The WorldBench 6 test results can't be compared with WorldBench 5 results for our desktop PC reviews or with other tests.