Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Buying a new Vista PC

Every two years I buy a new desktop PC. As I bought the last one in summer 2005, I'm planning to buy the next PC this year, somewhere in the next 6 months. And unless one of my local stores comes up with an unexpectedly cheap offer, it is most likely that I will buy another Dell. I'm always having logistics problems with Dell, but their computers just work. And I'm simply not hardware expert enough to build my own system. Well, I'll probably could stick the parts together, but I wouldn't be confident that it was as stable as a Dell. It is far too easy to under- or over-engineer one system component which then ends up making the whole thing flaky.

Now Microsoft has just released their latest version of Windows, called Vista. And installing Vista on an old computer is apparently a bad idea. So my thought is to buy a new computer that is designed to run Vista from the ground up, has a DirectX 10 graphics card, and only uses hardware that is 100% Vista compatible.

Only apparently Dell doesn't have Vista compatible gaming computers yet. Dell's XPS M1710 notebook and the XPS 710 desktop, both gaming computers, are still shipping with XP because of driver incompatibility with Vista. And Dell can't say when they will offer Vista compatible gaming computers.

For once I don't blame Dell. I've read a lot about gaming on Vista machines, and it appears that the world is simply not ready for Vista yet. DirectX 10 graphics cards are still few and far between. Drivers aren't optimized yet, and often run considerably slower than DirectX 9. A typical chicken and egg problem; while there was no Vista, nobody was interested in DirectX 10 yet, and now without good DirectX 10 hard- and software there isn't much interest in Vista.

Well, I think my best option is to wait. In a couple of months I'm sure there will be fully Vista optimized gaming computers out there, even here in Europe. Worst case scenario is that I'll buy the PC a few months later than planned. By christmas it will probably be hard to still find Windows XP computers on the market. :)
I would go ahead and get the XP machine and count your lucky stars that its still an option. Vista is a train wreck and will be for about a year if past experience means anything. XP was this way. 2k was this way. ME was even worse. People talk about the Beta in a box feel of Vanguard... I think Microsoft created this marketing scheme (or atleast perfected it with regard to software).
I am very happy with the new Vista. However I bought a new computer and assembled it myself like always. Core2duo 6700, 2gig, Geforce 8800GTX. It's fast, slick and no troubles at all. Granted this is a "vista-ready" computer and I only run WOW on it. I know the computer as general is what most would say overkill to run just old WOW, but in raids and with all my addons and full graghics I still get stable framerate now. The Nvidia driver issues with WOW in WinXP that caused random bluescreens are gone, no glitches in Vista.
I would wait at least another 2 years before buying something with Vista on it. I'm in the business of writing device drivers and stuff .. and it will take at least that much AND a few so called "Service Packs" before Vista MAY become useful.
Exactly what features in Vista do you need? Vista's certainly newer and has a shiny new finish on it, but at its core it's Windows 2000/Windows XP with a new paint job...

There's nothing wrong with XP.
It would be impossible to over-emphasize what Joel, Anonymous, and Douglas said!
Exactly what features in Vista do you need?

DirectX 10

Keep in mind that the new computer will have to last 4 years. How many new games will still support DirectX 9 in summer 2011?
"Every two years I buy a new desktop PC." "...will have to last 4 years."

Help us reconcile those two statements chief. If you really intend to use the next computer you purchase to play new games in 2011, you might want to wait till at least 1 Vista service pack. Right now is a very inconvenient time to be picking a new computer (if you want it to last for nearly half a decade). It's worse now than it was during the change over from SDR RAM to DDR RAM.

Another thing, is that you might be being too rough on yourself. I think you would have a hard time finding a computer from 2003 that would play Supreme Commander, for example.

Some things we can't predict. Will microsoft wake up and provide a directX 10 for XP? Will game companies make sure their software operates in a DX 9 and DX 10 mode?

"Well, I think my best option is to wait. In a couple of months" you should bring this up again and maybe the situation will have changed.
I have more than 1 computer. You know, I don't throw them away after 2 years. ;)
I've been saving for the XPS 710 H2C, and am pretty dead set on picking it up. The question is this... are those ones even having problems with vista? I mean, c'mon... they were JUST introduced at the last CES... I can't imagine they're not ready.
On the tangent, I'm a firm believer that a near-top-of-the-line computer can last 4+ years. My alienware did it from 2001-2006 (4.5 years) when I purchased and assembled a new computer (now 1 year old). Playing WoW on it wasn't pretty, but it worked (barely).

If you buy any Microsoft OS within the first 6 months, you're just signing on to be a beta tester. My guess is that the majority of the deadly kinks will be worked out by 6 months from now (or so). If you really want to play it safe, then wait 1 year or for the first Service Pack.

As to why to get Vista, imo for the same reason you got XP. One year from now, games will start being crafted to take advantage of Vista. Two years from now, games will be released that prefer Vista. Three years from now, Vista will become baseline for games. Four years from now, you'll be laughing at anyone playing games on XP. Granted those numbers are mere predictions (or BS if you prefer), but it's happened before and, assuming the Iranians don't launch in the next 4 years, it'll happen again.

Why is slow adoption such a surprise?
I got vista the week it came out. I love it. If you learn how to use it, its really great. I can run wow in windows mode and use the 3-d windows-tab to scroll through open windows, and it looks damn impressive to see WoW scrolling through that 3d window list like any other app. I will say that it requires a beefy rig, but mine is almost 2 years old now, about the same as tobold. Its a 2.8 HT with 2Gig ram and a 6800GT. The secret is running all apps that aren't specifically designed for xp in administrator mode. That right there will cure a lot of your headaches with vista. Simple fix I know, but a lot of people don't know about it. Basically until all the apps adapt to the vista UA garbage, I would run everything as an admin to bypass it.

But yea, I agree, wait until this summer when things cool down with Vista driver compatibility and application issues... I'll probably be ordering right around the time you are. I've got my eye on a gaming laptop these days as well, it just makes sense as the cost/benefit ratio has come way down over the years.
I personally like the *look* of Vista - but I won't be updating the OS on my Dell XPS 700. At the moment I'm running SLI'd Nvidia 7900's and from what I've heard, Vista has no SLI support at the moment.

Still - I wouldn't worry too much about it. Vista will straighten up reasonably quickly - just plan on seeing your software update panel a lot.

That said - despite having such a nice gaming PC myself - I tend to end up playing WOW on my Macbook Pro...sitting on the couch...with the cat....
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