The number in Windows 7 is important – it’s how many years we’ve been using Windows XP, during which it released and then tried desperately to fix the resource sapping mess that is Windows Vista. With a stream-lined interface, host of new features and a little restored faith does Windows 7 do enough to leave Windows XP behind? Find out as we go beneath the skin in our Windows 7 review.
The first thing you notice about Windows 7 is how minimalist it actually is. Gone are the pop-ups and ‘look at me’ features that cluttered Vista. In comparison, all seems a sea of calm as Microsoft has stripped everything back to such a level that the OS simply merges into the background.
It’s only then that you start to see the differences, such as the taskbar, which has to be the big major change. This new dock could well end up being more useful than the Mac OS X Snow Leopard dock, as program icons are large: hover your mouse over any one and instantly you’ll see a full-page preview. We like that you can click on the window, or tap if you’re using a touch-screen, and it’ll pop to the front of the screen.
With the look of Windows 7 very much improved, the other big issue is one of performance. For this one, we think the jury is still very much out. Windows 7 certainly loads faster than previous versions of Windows but you won’t see any dramatic speed boosts. In fact, we’d go so far as to say it’s the same-old-same-old. Sure, the graphics are less system resource heavy, so you don’t need a super-up machine to make the most of it, but everyday app loading is still very much on a par with Windows XP.
Then there is Aero Peek, which makes all your open files transparent so you find that one window that has annoyingly disappeared. It’s a feature that doesn’t seem necessary until you start using it and then it becomes a ‘must-have’. Then there are features such as the beefed up Search – still found in the Start menu – which comes close to being as quick as Mac OS X for file searches.
It’s not all good news, as there are flaws. HomeGroup, which is intended to make networking your home PCs together easier is a big miss. It only truly works if all the machines on your network are using Windows 7 – something that isn’t likely to happen for some time in most homes.
With Windows 7, Microsoft wants us to believe that it’s got its OS back on track and for the most part we feel they have. We wouldn’t say there was an immediate need to upgrade but if you find it pre-installed on a new laptop or PC, you’ll be happy to leave the comfort zone of Windows XP behind.