Adventures with Windows 7, Part I

| Analysis

My wife decided that she needed a real PC notebook for a special class she’s taking, and I agreed that it was time we had a physical, yet mobile PC in the house. So we went to the Microsoft Store at Park Meadows Mall, Lone Tree, Colorado and had fun buying a 17-inch Hewlett Packard notebook.

Previously, I wrote about my tour of the new Microsoft Store near Denver. It was a great tour, and I sensed my wife would have a great buying experience there.

We did.

I won’t get into the details of why Windows 7 in Parallels wouldn’t do the job on her 2009 27-inch (i7) iMac. It’s part technical, part mobility, and part wifely prerogative. Just don’t go there.

HP Envy

HP Envy: 17-1012nr

Our salesman, Tarik, at the MS store was young, brilliant and awesomely technical. He handled the PCs like a virtuoso pianist, smoothly launching apps and showing us settings. His knowledge of Windows 7 and the relative merits of each PC for sale was vast and accurate.

Decision Time

Our tour of the Website suggested a Sony Vaio (VPCF122FX) for starters. It looks very cool, much like a Mac, and has an (mobile) quad-core i7, but further examination with our salesman revealed that the 5,400 RPM drive and 1.74 GHz clock was hamstringing the Vaio. Plus the display was a disappointing 1600 x 900. He suggested a Hewlett Packard (17-1012nr) on the other side of the table. It only has a dual core i5 (four threads with hyper-threading), but some informal performance testing showed it to be much faster than the Vaio thanks to a 7,200 RPM drive and a 2.4 GHz clock. Plus the screen is full 1080p (x 1920), crisper, and a better graphics card (ATI HD 5850 with a gigabyte of VRAM) and we liked the extra RAM: 6 GB. This HP is fast. It also comes with a second battery.

What a Deal

The deal we got was amazing. First, my wife brought her student ID and got 10% off the retail price. Then, she also received a US$100 gift certificate which she used to buy Office Professional Academic, 2010, for $99 which includes something my wife really wanted: the Access database. She reports that the install at home went smoothly (even though the MS salesman had offered to do it for us for free). Finally, we opted for what’s essentially the same as AppleCare (3 yrs) and got $100 off. Microsoft’s Assure includes coverage for accidental damage while AppleCare does not.

Out of the Box

I was concerned about getting the HP PC onto our home Wi-Fi, but the salesman showed us how easy it is in Windows 7. Just like Mac OS X (!), when you first boot up the machine, it walks you through the user name, PC name, time zone, and then searches for and displays available Wi-Fi networks. We logged on to ours at the house with zero fuss. There’s an easy to find Wi-Fi popup for changing networks.

One thing that we noted with dismay is that the default process of setting up accounts doesn’t ask for a password in Windows 7. But you can go back in later and set one. Crazy.

The sales receipt shows “Store: 0004” suggesting that Microsoft has optimistically planned for 9999 stores. Go ahead, laugh.

My wife reports that the install of Java SE, Netbeans (which is huge and includes Java EE) and Eclipse went without a hitch. Her professional experience is that Java runs faster and better on Windows. One can only guess why this is so. Perhaps market share and community efforts still counts there.

Ports o’ Call

The ports on the side of the HP are nice. It has a Mini DisplayPort (and VGA), HDMI, eSata, Ethernet, SD Card, and 3 USB ports as well as audio in and out. The optical drive reads Blu-ray movies and is, otherwise, equivalent to Apple’s SuperDrive. (We haven’t delved into the act of actually playing a Blu-ray movie, however, and I think we need to download a special player.) I think we’ll be using a small eSATA drive for backups formatted as NTFS.

In summary, the buying experience was fabulous and the HP notebook’s hardware is very nice. Windows 7, with Microsoft Security Essentials included, has treated us well during set up. The only problem we’ve had so far is setting up Windows Live Mail for outgoing e-mail with Earthlink. Of course, time will tell us, especially with Windows 7, new things about the stability and security of this OS.

In Part II, perhaps next week, I’ll talk about daily life in Windows 7.

Comments

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

First thing I was going to suggest to you was uninstalling the crapware anti-virus and going Microsoft Security Essentials. But you’re there. The virus definitions are all the same, and it sounds like your wife is (beyond) technical enough to know the basic safety issues about downloading .exe’s and unzipping attachments.

As to Java… To me, Eclipse on Windows feels like a real app. On the Mac, it feels like a rough tech demo. Even my netbook hooked up to a 1366 x 768 monitor feels better running Eclipse than my MBP. Go figure.

daddy

Hm-m-m.

For some reason I must have accidentally clicked on the “PC Observer” blog when I thought I was clicking the “Mac Observer” button.

John Martellaro

The TMO staff decided that a Mac user’s perspective on all this might be of interest to our Mac loving readers. New perspectives are always good.  Rest assured ... I won’t be defecting ... ever!

geoduck

It will be interesting to see you impressions of W7. I had to do all the testing for our office (will our VNC client work, Will our AntiVirus work, etc.) and I know what I think of W7.

It?s part technical, part mobility, and part wifely prerogative. Just don?t go there.

I know what you mean..

mhikl

That is why you, John, are so respected. Informed, unbiassed reporting; willing to look at both sides of the field.

daddy

You’ll notice that I didn’t make a smug comment about “What is this doing on a Mac blog.” 

And I agree with @mhikl about respect.

Keep up the good work, John.

hangtown

I think the experience at a Microsoft store and with Windows 7 and a PC laptop are relevant. I, as a Mac user, tend to think the state of the PC and Windows is as it was when I defected back to the Mac full time in 2004. And to be honest, my Windows XP and Windows 7 experiences at work have ranged from irritating to maddening, but some of the blame for that goes to our corporate builds and the security software the IT guys keep cobbling together.

Being a Mac owner isn’t the same as sticking your head in the sand, and in fact it’s good for Apple customers to keep up with what’s going on in the PC world to make sure Apple doesn’t get complacent again, which they love to do from time to time.

d'nomder

some of the blame for that goes to our corporate builds and the security software the IT guys keep cobbling together.

The in-house invoicing software we’re forced to used at work is the biggest POS I have ever seen on any platform.  This is coming from someone who goes back to the 8-bit days.

Anyway the last thing the Apple world needs is to get smug and loose touch with reality (again).  Kudos for an unbiased look at the other side.

Lee Dronick

There is a MicroSoft Store here in San Diego a few doors away from the Fashion Valley Apple Store and I have been in there a few times. My experience there is pretty much the one John had; Friendly and knowledgable staff in a very inviting store decor. Sooner or later I will need to replace my PCs and when that time comes I will go to the MicroSoft Store.

tswensen

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Microsoft hire one of the Apple retail store guys to set up their stores? That would explain the excellent store experience. It’s patterned after the Apple Store.

hangtown

That’s true, but it would still be one of the few times that Microsoft stole an idea and managed to make it anywhere close to the quality of the original.

vince7

I hope that HP has eliminated the overheating problem some of their laptops have.  My experience with a HP DV9000 series laptop was painful.  I am now one of the plaintiffs in a class action suit against HP.

I hope your wife has a much better experience.  Good article.

Shoaf

Thanks for your perspective, JM.

Early this summer while visiting my folks, I helped my mom set up her new Vaio notebook. I can’t vouch for the MS store experience, but I was pleased with how much more polish there is on W7. I’ve used Macs exclusively both at work and home since I’ve been using computers, but W7 is the first version of Windows I would call “usable” for me. Still prefer OS X hands-down, but I could use W7 if I had to. XP, not so much.

But man, those HPs are trying awful hard to look like MPBs.

Ross Edwards

I’m an OS X user top to bottom, but I have to concede that Windows 7 is leaps and bounds the next best thing out there (and I’m including Linux in that assertion).  My employer still has us on XP, so those few times I use W7 (mainly at the homes of parents, friends, and siblings) it is palpably more functional and elegant than my usual PC experience. 

As bad as Vista was… and I still have a MAME box that scripts out of a Vista boot… Windows 7 is as far on the good side as that.  (I’ll update the MAME box someday.  The boot is slow, but once the script starts, I can pretend it isn’t running Vista.  So it’s not a critical need.)

Meanwhile, I suspect my parents’ next computer is going to be… an iPad.  The iPad does 100% of what they like to do on their computer, and does it well.  (Email, surf web, look at photos, watch video).  It’s too bad it can’t stand alone and has to sync, though I suppose it can sync to my Mac every few months or so and be in good shape.

Dave

very cool article..
Just a few tidbits you might like
The Sony Vaio (VPCF122FX) has the Intel i7 740QM CPU which has a baseline Ghz of 1.73 X4.. it overclocks automaticly to 2.9 Ghz X4 using intel’s turbo boost tech.

Apple quotes their intel i CPU’s at their top GHZ (Turbo boost) speed.
Everyone uses the baseline speed.

2nd
Microsoft Signature, which is what you got on your Envy 17.. has the pasword setup in the startup..its just really easy to skip.. I’ve done it myself..

Loved the article.. keep up the good work

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