I have only been running the Windows 7 beta on the HP Mini 2140 netbook for a few hours but I have been using the beta on other computers for a while so I think my first impressions are valid to visit at this point.
The HP Mini 2140 is a great netbook and it had Windows XP installed as delivered to me so I can’t compare Windows 7 to Vista on the 2140. That’s OK since I haven’t found Vista to run worth a flip on any netbook I’ve tried so far. The 2140 runs XP really well so Windows 7 has its work cut out for it to get me to replace it.
I should tell you how I installed Windows 7 since I remarked yesterday about my difficulties. What I ended up doing was ripping an ISO image from the Win7 DVD (using the Lenovo w700ds) and copied that 2.5 GB image to an SD card. I then put that SD card into a USB card reader, plugged it into the Mini 2140, and then used the Virtual CD powertoy to mount is as a persistent drive.
The install worked flawlessly that way and took a little over 30 minutes. I am impressed with how much the Win7 install process has improved with little interaction required on my part. I was also happy to see that the install now asks for wireless network information as part of the process so that the computer is connected to the web when the install is complete. It makes it easier to get going that way.
All hardware in the Mini 2140 was recognized and fully functional from the install process with the exception of the ethernet controller. The first Windows Update took care of that and everything seems to work as expected out of the box. That is nice.
My first impression of Win7 is that the interface is much more responsive on the netbook. Past attempts of running Vista on netbooks left me frustrated with the slow pace of the GUI and I’m glad that Win7 is much better in this area. Things happen quickly as they should and multiple windows open don’t bog things down. Win7 is the way Vista should be on lower spec hardware.
It is natural to keep comparing Win7 to Vista while using it because frankly the UI hasn’t changed very much. I don’t know if the UI will continue to evolve, after all Win7 is still in beta, but it sure looks like Vista. I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, I sort of expected the interface to improve.
The new task bar is better than the one in Vista but it takes a little getting used to. The Quick Launch toolbar is now gone as you “pin” frequently used applications directly to the task bar. This means that the task bar is no longer a task bar since it mixes running app icons with pinned apps on the same bar, whether they are running or not. This is sort of like the dock in OS X but I find I have to really pay attention to tell if a given program is running or not by looking at the task bar.
The new Aero preview is very cool, hover over the icon of a running app in the task bar and get a fully interactive preview of the program window. I like how you can close the app from the preview without having to open the actual program window.
The window management features of Win7 that I covered in a video segment previously definitely make it easier to use lower resolution screens such as on this netbook. I find I regularly move windows around, drag them to the top of the screen to maximize or to the side of the screen. It is easier to work with multiple programs running simultaneously with Windows 7 no question. Microsoft has done a good job in this regard.
The Start Menu offers good searching and previous file tracking as Kevin covered previously but for the most part the Start Menu looks (and acts) just like the one in Vista. I’m not sure that’s a good thing as the one in Vista never really impressed me, I was hoping for something different (and better). It works and is very responsive but it’s boring, quite frankly.
That description sort of fits the entire Windows 7 UI experience, for the most part it looks like Vista. Given the problem that so many have with Vista and the huge numbers of folks who have refused to upgrade from XP I’m not sure what the response will be to the fact that Win7 seems like Vista on the surface. It almost seems like an incremental upgrade from Vista and that might not be good enough for those who have refused to jump from XP.
Comparing Windows 7 to XP on the netbook the performance is just as good as I get in XP and that’s even with all the extra eye candy that Win7 brings on board. Microsoft has done a lot of work in this regard and it has paid off, at least on the netbook. I am so far very pleased with Windows 7 on the HP Mini 2140 and would have no problem adopting it permanently over XP at this point. I intend to do a video of Win7 in action on the Mini 2140 soon. Before you ask, it’s not been very long, but so far I am seeing similar battery life on the 2140 that I get in XP, which is pretty good.