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The Bottom Line
All in all, Windows Vista is a great leap forward for the operating system, with a much-improved, far more useful (and pleasurable) interface; faster, better search; beefed-up security that's a big improvement over Windows XP with SP2; and far, far better networking. There are some clunkers in there, though, such as the annoying UAC feature.
But the pluses make you forget the minuses. I've been using Windows Vista alongside Windows XP for months, and every time I have to switch back to a Windows XP-based PC, I feel like I've moved from a modern automobile back to a Model T. Sure, the old model will eventually get you where you're going--but the ride won't be as much fun.
Pluses and Minuses, Versions and Costs
Here's a summary of the pros and cons, and a table of the versions and their costs.
Five Things We Love
- AERO: Transparent windows, tasteful animation, elegant design: Sure, it looks like a Mac, but why not steal from the best?
- SEARCH: Fast, smart, and you can create virtual search folders to revisit your searches with a single click.
- NETWORK MAP: Finally, Microsoft gets networking right; it's a great way to get an overview of your network and its devices.
- WIRELESS NETWORKING: Connecting to multiple wireless networks and hotspots is a simple affair.
- SECURITY: You get a firewall with outbound filtering, a better browser, and a lot under the hood offering better protection.
Five Things We Hate
- USER ACCOUNT CONTROL: Who needs a virtual nagging nanny?
- BACKUP: How could Microsoft have built such a brain-dead application?
- WINDOWS MEETING SPACE: With worthless chat and no telephony, this isn't a virtual meeting I'd want to attend.
- HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS: Be prepared to spend a bundle for hardware upgrades--or a new computer.
- PRICE: $399 new, or $299 for the upgrade to Windows Ultimate? No operating system should cost that much. And the cheapest version, Basic ($199 full, $100 upgrade), isn't worth the trouble.
How Much Will Your Vista Upgrade Cost?
For the lowdown on the unprecedented array of flavors that Microsoft's new OS comes in, click on the chart icon below.
|Windows Vista Edition||Home Basic||Home Premium||Business||Ultimate
|Windows Defender and Firewall||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Aero and Windows Flip 3D||Y||Y||Y|
|Windows Mobility and Tablet PC support||Y||Y||Y|
|Windows Meeting Space||Y||Y||Y|
|Windows Media Center||Y||Y|
|Business Backup and Networking, Remote Desktop||Y||Y|
|BitLocker Drive Encryption||Y|
|Suggested full price:||$199||$239||$299||$399|
|Suggested upgrade price:||$100||$159||$199||$259|
There's much more to say on Vista. Here are links to other informative PC World Windows Vista stories and video.
- Windows Vista: 15 Reasons to Switch
- Wait! Don't Buy Windows Vista
- Exclusive: First Vista PC Lab Tests
- Windows Vista FAQ
- The Look and Feel of Windows Vista, a video tour with Senior Editor Yardena Arar