The one thing almost everyone agrees on: Vista looks great. More than 80 percent of survey respondents said the new interface is an improvement. The translucent Aero environment available in the Premium and Ultimate versions may be one of the few features that live up to Microsoft's "The 'Wow' starts now" marketing campaign.
"The Aero interface is excellent," says Brandon Morgan, a 24-year-old graduate student in Columbia, Missouri, who had no problems running Vista Home Premium, which came preinstalled on his new Dell laptop. "The first time I saw Vista I thought of the Mac OS, but it seems to be more sophisticated."
But not everyone could enjoy Vista's good looks. One out of seven Vista users in our survey had trouble obtaining video drivers capable of handling Aero and DirectX 10 (DX10), which allows for faster, more realistic gaming. (At press time, no DX10-capable games had been announced.)
"My nVidia GeForce 8800GTX [video card] drops the Aero interface constantly when using the [beta] drivers," complains Sergio Yanez, a 33-year-old banker in Jersey City, New Jersey. He says the problem usually showed up when he was using a DivX conversion program.
In fact, graphics card problems topped the list of hardware issues with Vista, followed by sound card troubles and Webcam glitches.
While nVidia released certified Vista drivers for its GeForce 6 and 7 series cards on January 30, it didn't distribute final drivers for its high-end GeForce 8800 until three weeks later. Driver delays and glitches inspired disgruntled nVidia fans to set up a protest Web site, www.nvidiaclassaction.org. (ATI also needed an extra three weeks to provide drivers for several of its Radeon cards.)
The reason? Building drivers for Vista is far more complex than for XP, says Dwight Diercks, vice president of software engineering for nVidia. "Vista requires an entirely new driver model for graphics," says Diercks. "It changes how basic display is handled, and it removes older driver portions of the code that have been there since NT 4.0 days."