We test drive Microsofts Vista operating system

Microsoft launches its new operating system, Windows Vista, on Tuesday, promising "the wow starts now" but we give your our impression.

About six months ago I had the opportunity to beta test Microsoft's latest operating system Windows Vista.

I was expecting some improvements but immediately Vista proved to be in a league of its own. A huge amount of research has been put into this new version which is evident in everything from the user interface right through to the new security model.

The first thing you notice when you get to the desktop is the appearance. Visually it's absolutely stunning.

One of the things that Microsoft has been boasting about is Windows Aero, which is an experience centered on 3D graphics.

With features such as smoother window performance, translucent windows and Windows Flip 3D, it just adds to the overall experience.

Windows Flip 3D is my favourite. It's similar to Alt-Tab, but it brings up a 3D view of all the minimized windows. You can see what each window is and then select whichever one you want to view.

As an operating system for your average consumer there are also lots of great improvements, the new media player, a more intuitive user experience and easier backup facilities.

I also like the way that all my existing hardware just works (although I am aware many other people have had problems).

Boot time is much improved over XP and with the deep sleep option, it allows you to resume work from an almost zero power state in just a few seconds.

Excessive demands on hardware also mean that many people may not choose to upgrade their OS, waiting instead until the PC is replaced.

Whilst 512Mb is quoted as the minimum I would say that 1Gb is needed for a wait-free session. The graphics card must also support DirectX9 in order to display the Aero user experience - another expense if you don't have one already.

It took five years, $6 billion and 8,000 workers for Microsoft to develop their new 'Vista' operating system, but if you're smart you won't buy it -- right away that is.

That's because, as most security experts will confirm, the giant that is Microsoft has become a favourite target of hackers. And, despite the emphasis placed on making Vista secure, online troublemakers will be working furiously to find holes.

In fact, only 10 per cent of the market is expected to adopt the new operating system immediately -- meaning 90 per cent won't even touch the product until it has been tested on the open market.

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