Adventures with Windows 7, Part I

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.