I love Windows 7, it’s speedy, nippy and far more usable than Vista ever was. That last dog of an OS was slow, clunky and deserved all the hatred that was thrown at it. But I still might ditch Windows 7 and reinstall Vista, at least on my home theatre PC.
I’ve had a PC sitting under my TV since 2003. In that time I’ve not had any other set-top-boxes, not a Sky box or even a DVD player… nothing. I’ve used these various PCs, each running different guises of Windows Media Centre for everything from watching and recording TV to playing music and streaming video from a pair of NAS boxes (formerly a custom server until 2007) that I keep elsewhere in the house.
It’s a good set-up that has always worked well for me. It means that I have been able to store all my CDs and DVDs and have not had to hunt for a disc or open an empty box in over six years. Finding and selecting media to play in this completely digital home is quick and simple, especially if I start watching something and then change my mind. On top of all this my house is much less cluttered as I don’t need shelves everywhere with boxes and cases on them.
Media Centre has been a bit of a mixed bag though. When I first went completely digital the early Windows XP edition of Media Centre was all that was available, and it was useless. Barely a day went by without a crash or four and reinstalls were the order of the day.
By the time Vista came along all the problems had been sorted and my current HTPC, a hardback book sized Acer has run both Vista and Windows 7, and in the last two years has needed to have maintenance tasks run on it, or to be restored from a backup about twice.
But Windows 7 Media Centre simply isn’t as good as it’s former brother. In simple operations such as calling up the electronic programme guide or streaming video from a NAS box it’s sluggish, often taking a good while to cooperate when Vista Media Centre on the same hardware would spring into life almost immediately.
I’ve found this frustrating, as have my friends who were used to the speedy system I’ve had for the last three years. Now I’m finding myself asking the seemingly impossible question of “shall I go back to Vista because it’s better than Windows 7”.
This is the one thing I never thought I would say but alas it’s true. I’ve run many diagnostics on the system in the last six months and it’s not an issue with anything other than the OS itself.
This isn’t to say I’m disappointed. Windows 7 is, as I’ve said, considerably better than Vista in every other area but for a single-function machine that just sits under my TV to provide me with entertainment, Vista’s still miles ahead.
There’s also the question of whether the Media Centre software in Windows 7 is better than the one that shipped with Vista. This would potentially make me stick with the Windows 7 install, but it’s not that much better to be honest. Many beta-testers, of which I was one, were expecting some significant changes to Media Centre with Windows 7 but they just never appeared. What shipped was heavily criticised by many people as being a half-way-house between the old and the new.
So will I revert to Vista? The jury’s still out on that one but nothing can be ruled out at this stage.