My test was to compare upgrade installs for 32-bit Win 7 on two laptops, the first a recent dual-core Intel with 3GB RAM running Vista, the second also running Vista but on an older and more modest 2GB with a single-core AMD. Both had up-to-date service packs and neither was running much else other than Windows and AV.
So, old v new, Vista v Windows 7, the new machine living happily with Vista, while the older had always seemed slightly overwhelmed by its demands on processor/IO and especially memory.
With Win 7 Ultimate, the newer HP booted up to login in an average of 56 seconds, taking around a further 55 to reach a usable state. These are mediocre times, made worse by comparison with the supposedly hopeless Vista that managed the same feat in 41 seconds to login, taking only a further 35 to reach a usable state.
That's an annoying deterioration for an upgrade that will cost the consumer around £70 ($120).
Interestingly, the older laptop can get Win 7 to login in a much quicker 44 seconds, booting fully in a further 35, beating not only its own Vista boot times, but the more powerful laptop with Win 7 as well.
The variables here are things like drivers (the underlying hardware can be an issue) and the fact that both were upgrade rather than clean installs. It's possible that a clean install of Windows 7 would improve matters, but it's also fair to say that this is not the option most consumers would choose.
On the newer laptop, memory, processor and I/O resource consumption seemed much the same between Vista and Win 7 (we didn't test battery life, but will do so). The one plus for Windows 7 was a slight benefit in shut-down times, down from around 20 seconds to 15 on the newer machine.
The conclusion from this modest test is that Vista is worth sticking with on recent machines, unless you happen to want Windows's tidied-up interface and modest list of new features. As awful as Vista was at launch-time in January 2007, it has matured since then into - yes incredibly - a decent OS. I suspect that the precise benefit (or lack of it) will vary from machine to machine.
Anyone with an older machine (i.e, over two years old or with a single-core processor and less memory) will probably find Windows 7 a good way to extend the life of the hardware for a few more years before it turns into another paperweight.
Here's a ironic thought stream: now unloved by even its creators could Vista yet become the new XP? I have the suspicion that Vista is not about to disappear.
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