Windows Vista has been with us for almost 12 months now, so you'd imagine that pretty much everyone will have heard about it. The question is: does the wow really start now? After using Windows XP, is it time for you to upgrade to Vista?
"NO", says Simon Pickstock
Cards on the table... Vista is a huge disappointment, and it's no real surprise that after six months, sales have tailed off dramatically. One of the biggest issues with Vista is stability and its lack of it. You might not see Blue Screens Of Death (BSODs) any more, but it's all too common to see a message informing you that an application has stopped working. Vista recently informed me that I needed to install a reliability update, the installation of which killed my entire Vista install!
Vista's much hyped Aero interface - its lovely 3D buttons and translucent Window borders - puts quite a burden on your hardware. If you're a gamer, then a machine that was perfectly fine for gaming under XP will need an additional 1GB of RAM under Vista, along with a CPU upgrade.
Microsoft's new OS also suffers from interminable boot-up and shut-down times, and certain actions, such as browsing a network, take far longer than they do under XP.
Security... don't get me started! It's still lamentable. The basic firewall, which is an improvement on the XP version, is still all-but-useless. User Account Control is so invasive that most users are driven to turn it off as soon as they can work out how to do so.
Microsoft might bang on about Vista's multi-media applications, but seriously, who wants a PC in the living room connected to the TV? Let's also not forget that two of the so-called features of Vista, both Media Player 11 and Internet Explorer 7, can be downloaded and installed under XP. For the sake of your sanity, and your wallet, stick with XP.
"YES", says Dan Grabham
Although XP has matured into a (relatively) secure and stable OS, Vista offers a lot more. The most obvious new feature is the look and feel, with the use of translucency on Windows and a gorgeous 3D look to the buttons. This eye candy aside, there are plenty of other things to love about Microsoft's latest OS.
One of the most underrated is the Start search bar, and its ability to launch programs or find files with just a few keystrokes. Want to launch the calculator and don't want to search the menus? Simply type 'calc' into the Start Search box and Vista will quickly show you all relevant matches - just click the icon to launch.
Another innovation is the Windows Sidebar, which acts as a dock for various handy Windows gadgets. These can be anything from weather alerts to daily RSS feeds.
Windows Vista now incorporates Media Center (OK, except for in the Home Basic and Business versions) and it's much improved over the old XP version. Movie Maker has also been given a radical overhaul and the new DVD maker makes creating DVD films an absolute breeze. As for photos, the way Vista handles them is excellent, with instantaneous editing including resizing and red eye removal.
Outlook Express has been replaced with the far superior Windows Mail and there's also a new Calendar, something you previously only got with the full version of Outlook. Vista incorporates Tablet PC features as well, such as handwriting recognition, plus an underrated speech recognition feature that works remarkably well.
Vista is also much more secure than at the kernel level. The firewall has been improved and User Account Control stops unauthorised actions from being performed. Yes there are some bugs to iron out but, overall, Vista is a whole lot better than some people give it credit for!
Simon Pickstock is the Editor of PC Answers magazine. Dan Grabham is tech.co.uk's Computing Editor.