I finally got around to pulling a copy of Windows 7 professional off MSDN and giving it a try. The install went fairly smooth, the boot loader automatically gave me options for both Windows XP and Linux, and the installer let me choose which partition to install to. The only bump in the install process was the lack of Dell drivers. Audio did not work at first, but a quick visit to Dell’s driver page and installing the Sigmetel Audio driver for Vista fixed that. It also detected my Nvidia 8400 as a “generic VGA adapter”, which gave my Vostro a nice 1 rating on the video hardware and wouldn’t let me use the fancy new transparency and Aero theme settings. Finally, I noticed the touchpad scroll wasn’t working, and required another visit for drivers. After all the driver updates my hardware rating came out to,
Not too bad. It seems to run the new Aero theme just fine, and I have to admit that it actually looks okay. I’ve used Gnome and KDE fully pimped out with transparency and special effects before, and though the Aero theme doesn’t quite measure up to a full Compiz install on Linux, it certainly looks nice enough to use. The default Windows 7 theme on the other hand, though faster, looks a little… cluttered? I’d prefer the good old XP look. Although Windows 7 has a “Classic” theme, it doesn’t look much like 2k/XP. The taskbar and taskmenu is forever stuck in the new Windows 7 look, as well as a handful of other things like icons.
Going back to performance, it boots, connects to wifi, and launches Firefox in under 60 seconds, which is a bit slower than XP but still not a big deal.
As for the downsides, both the control panel and taskmenu consistently bother me. The control panel has a horribly cluttered feel, and it seems hard to find things no matter which layout (icons, categories) I use. I’ve also never really liked the new taskmenu, and miss the option to put it back into the classic version like in Vista.
Actually, in general I can’t help things feel cluttered. Explorer, for instance, is brimming with helpful buttons to create new folders, burn CDs, view favorites, homegroups, and libraries. A big feature is the new searching ability from the taskbar, but I’m the type that generally knows where the programs and files I want are, and never need to search. The taskbar itself is filled with things like the ability to pin applications to it, and by default looks quite a bit taller than the XP taskbar.
Time will tell how it fairs in the category of stability. I’ll at least resist jumping back to my XP partition for a little while to let myself adjust to it.