The Gadgets Page

September 8, 2009

Review: Windows 7 on a UMPC

Filed under: Reviews,Software — Matthew Strebe @ 12:28 pm

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade at Amazon.comMicrosoft’s latest desktop operating system, Windows 7, has been released to manufacturing, which means that it will be available pre-loaded on PCs and in retail boxes in October. Being geeks, the gadgets page got early access to the release version and installed it on the Sony UX 390N to compare Windows 7 to its predecessor, Windows Vista.

In a word, Windows 7 is a sigh of relief. The Sony UX390 is an Ultra-mobile PC, and not very powerful: It has a 1.5GHz Core Solo processor, 1GB of ram, and a 32GB solid state hard disk. It’s basically minimum spec for a modern computer. Vista ran poorly on it, and only with considerable tuning and customization by an expert was it even remotely tolerable. Application “whiteouts” were common, search indexing had to be disabled, and apps ran out of RAM all the time. Beyond using it for Outlook, there was little that it was good for. Sony should never have moved from Windows XP for these UMPC machines.

Windows 7 changes all of that. I performed a clean installation from a boot CD in less than 30 minutes, which in itself is amazing. Secondly, by the time the installation was done (with literally no input from me beyond partitioning), it had nearly all the devices, including the fingerprint scanner, correctly identified and working. Of all of Sony’s original drivers and applications, I only need to install drivers for the memory stick slot, Sony’s firmware extensions device on the motherboard, the onboard camera, and the touch screen calibration application. Everything else was handled out of the box, and the Vista drivers for the missing devices worked in Windows 7. The new Printers and Devices app is a joy—it’s way easier and faster to deal with devices in Windows using this separate control panel. In less than an hour total, I had a new computer.

It’s hard to describe how much better the computer is now. Office 2007 runs just fine—it’s quite snappy. I’ve done literally no tuning—I haven’t had to turn off indexing, add ReadyBoost, or anything else to make the computer perform. It runs just fine by default. Everything is faster—hooking up to wireless networks, running multiple simultaneous applications—everything. The fan isn’t on all the time and the hard disk isn’t constantly accessing. Features that used to be add-on programs, such as Fingerprint logon and burning ISO images to CD or DVD, are now part of the operating system.

The new taskbar works just like the OS X dock. I wasn’t a fan of the dock in OS X when it came out, but I’m quite used to it now, and it’s definitely better than the Start menu ever was. The new taskbar is faster and easier to use than the start menu (which is also still there) and the screen looks a lot more coherent. I wish they’d gone all the way and put the Recycle Bin on it so there’s not just one lonely icon on my desktop, but they didn’t.

The organization of the user interface is a quite a bit better than Vista. Vista was clearly just a bunch of silly layers on top of the old user-interface that rarely made anything easier—they just made it take longer to get to the functionality you were looking for. In Windows 7, finding your way around makes more sense—probably more sense than it ever has in the past. You can generally just find the functionality you need by looking around and clicking in the obvious places.

When you can’t, typing the name of an application in the search box in the start menu will pull up whatever you need quickly. Searching in Windows 7 is dramatically improved, although not yet on par with OS X in terms of speed and low background processing impact. It is finally good enough to use, however.

Finally, every one of the buggy glitches I’d been dealing with in Vista is resolved. File copies are fast. Drag and drop operations actually work the first time. UAC pop-ups are considerably reduced. Applications that aren’t compatible with Vista can be run in a built-in XP virtual mode in the Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate versions of Windows 7. But mostly, it’s just much, much faster.

I strongly recommend upgrading all of your modern PCs to Windows 7. If it runs Windows XP well, it will run Windows 7 even better. And if it runs Vista, Windows 7 will run like the operating system you were promised but didn’t get. Is it better than OS X 10.5 on a Mac? Not quite, but it is a heck of a lot closer, and it runs all your apps.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress
(c) 2003-2017 Michael Moncur, Laura Moncur, Matthew Strebe, and The Gadgets Page