Overall Performance of Windows Vista RC1
Technically speaking, after RC1 all what happens is performance tweaks and slight appearance changes. Obviously Microsoft has a lot more than that to accomplish in the upcoming builds, but nevertheless, this section in particular applies to Windows Vista RC1 and RC1 alone. That said, Windows Vista has undeniably improved performance-wise since the last build.
RC1 has improved memory management (and all the leaks have been plugged too!!) but more importantly (from the layman’s point of view), Windows Vista has been optimized. Very much. Each and every line of code seems to have been thoroughly cleaned up and heavily scrubbed. Debug code is (mostly) all gone, and the rest has been optimized on a processor-architecture basis.
Memory usage in Windows Vista RC1 is surprisingly close to Windows XP + a bit of overhead. For example, Windows Vista seems to be stuck on 500MB of memory. It boots at or around that much (in use!!), but the surprising thing is, it keeps it that way. With Windows Internet Explorer 7 and Outlook 2007 running, Windows Vista consumes 550MB of memory. With Visual Studio .NET 2k5 on top of that, it reaches 600.
It’s obvious that the base architecture of the Windows NT Kernel has been completely revamped and geared towards maximum performance, but nevertheless, don’t let the numbers above fool you. That’s 500–600 MB of memory in use on average! That means, it’ll go up, it’ll go down, and it all depends on what you’re running and what it’s running on. If you turn off Aero (and use Aero Express instead) 512MB will be barely enough. Turn on Aero, and watch your memory fly.
Somewhere along the way, Microsoft realized that the majority of PCs on the market today lull users into buying them boasting high clock speeds for the CPU: Everything else is garbage. So Microsoft switched from GPU-driven animations to a more balanced mix of CPU/GPU, which means the memory takes a hit. Open several Windows Explorer windows and watch the memory soar. It’s not the program, after all, it’s just a shell. Rather, all the nice Aero effects on the window borders and the desktop naturally bog the system down. So stock up on the memory, you’re going to need it.
The shameful thing is that Microsoft still refuses to use processor-specific commands. That means all those memory optimizations, from MMX to SSE4 are useless. When Microsoft planned to make Windows Longhorn run on .NET, it meant higher memory usage but much more efficient utilization of the CPU! .NET automatically converts programs (and operating systems) from .NET pre-compile code (ILDASM) to processor-specific commands. That means it automatically applies whatever processor-specific architectural commands it can find, and runs your programs on them. That’s really the biggest (and one of the few) advantage of .using NET for an OS, but it can easily be circumvented by proper coding techniques that ensure an application uses some of the mandated architectural requirements. But Windows Vista doesn’t.
Although (as previously discussed), Windows Vista on the whole is quite snappy and runs certain programs that tie into Windows services quite fast, some parts of Windows Vista are still not up to scratch. Namely, Windows Media Center. We talked about this earlier in our WMC review, but it certainly deserves another mention here. WMC blows – quite literally. Performance is terrible, the amazing GUI effects are completely undermined by the too-visible lag and the frame-freezes. Playing a DVD in WMC is far less of a media experience than playing it on Windows Media Player. And no, it’s not the drivers, because with Aero Express on and using the real and fully optimized Windows XP drivers in compatibility mode, WMC is just a bit better. WMC needs help, and Microsoft needs to know.
That’s RC1, and it’s bound to change. It’s improved by leaps and bounds, but it still has a long way to go, because despite what everyone else may say, Windows Vista isn’t “just” an upgrade to Windows XP, it’s also a challenge to Mac OS X and Linux, and at the moment, it’s not winning any awards or making many switch. It’s a good upgrade, but that’s just not good enough.