I have used Windows 7 since it’s beta and subsequently purchased a copy of the Ultimate edition. While I mostly use my Mac, I feel that I have used Windows 7 enough over the past 3 – 4 months to make a well rounded review that is not based upon a knee-jerk reaction that most blogs published after using it for less than 1 hour.
Windows 7 is simply a rewrite of Windows Vista, but induces customer feedback and a huge overhaul of the user interface (UI). The UI enchantments are the big selling point this new OS. After a painless install and booting up, will you notice the striking changes to the desktop and taskbar; it is as if Vista mated with OS X and Ubuntu. The new taskbar has a very strong linux feel to it, you can have multiple desktops, run in parallel, the program icons expand when a program is running, there is a new preview feature, and there is finally a go to desktop corner. In fact I would not surprised if they simply stole the code from KDE. This is not a bad thing: these features are time tested and proven on both Linux and Mac, so it is about time windows embraced this basic technology. My big complaint is the new Start Menu. It is very difficult to navigate, it demonstrates very unintelligent suggestions for the most used applications, and offers almost no ability to customize. To do something as simple as changing icons/folders in the start menu, you need to open two system folders. This has been a constant source of frustration for me. This is also the first build to remove the beloved Windows classic startbar. A final criticism on the new desktop, is the Windows widgets are still memory hogs and useless, turn them off ASAP.
The next thing that will be immediately apparent is that the UAC is now reasonable. Windows did a good job at removing >90% of UAC and making it so the average user can tolerate to use their OS, and yet enough warnings to be effective. Strong work.
Windows 7 mimics OS X control panel. Microsoft has tried to slim the control panel down to several icons that offer a few different choices that will suffice to most users. However in doing this, they have taken away much customization that was possible on XP and Vista. For me this was the most powerful feature of windows, no matter how bad it was out of the box, you could tweak almost every aspect of the OS with ease. Now only that they have taken simple tasks like sharing a folder, and made it a multi-step process. It would seem they are making things much more complicated, rather than simpler for the average user. For me Windows 7 lost a lot of points for the redesigned control panels.
The good: It’s new taskbar/desktop finally implements long awaited changes. It is a good user experience. Windows 7 is much faster and much less annoying than Vista.
The bad: The new Start Menu is definitely a huge failure and I cannot wait for a patch bringing back the classic start menu. Changing options via the control panel is plain cumbersome and simple tweaks are not possible without manually editing the registry or a system file. I have also had major problems with internet connectivity on Windows 7. For LAN connectivity, I had to disable the OS ability to regulate bandwidth as described here. And to solve the problem with random disconnects on my wireless network, I had to change the settings on my router as described here. I have never had similar issues before with another other OS. I believe that there are still too many bugs for your average user to navigate around.
Thinking of upgrading: If you have Windows Vista, this is a mandatory upgrade. If you have any other OS, I don’t see the need. I would wait until the price falls or until you start having software compatibility issues. Almost all software is XP compliant, so there is no motivating factor to change.
My thoughts on PC vs. Mac: I think Mac has this one all tied up. Mac is easy to use, great support, it just works, and it runs Windows software flawlessly (with VMware Fusion). So while Macs do have a hefty price tag you get what you pay for.