Buyer Beware

One of the reasons I’m switching to Mac is that it’s time for me to upgrade, but Microsoft has – again! – delayed the new version of Windows. When you buy a PC from Dell or Gateway or HP or whoever, it has been optimized for the OS it ships with. It’s usually your best bet to buy a new computer to go with your new version of Windows.

Microsoft would like you to believe that isn’t true:

No fooling, Microsoft is prepping new Windows Vista Capable stickers for PCs, in anticipation of the release of the 50 million lines of Vista code to business users (end of 2006) and consumers (beginning of 2007 if all goes well). Given the shifting ship date for Vista, some reassurance for PC buyers was in order.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Kind of like buying a new car and being told it will run fine on that eco-friendly E85 gas when it becomes available in your area. Problem is, just because your new computer says “Vista Capable” on the outside, doesn’t mean the insides are really up to the job. Here’s what Microsoft claims it will take to run Vista:

• CPU — PC systems should have a modern CPU.

• RAM — PC systems should have 512MB of memory or more.
• GPU — PC systems should have a DirectX 9 class graphics processor.

Those system requirements are just fine – if you want to run Windows XP on the computer you probably already own. Technically, you could run Vista on the machine Microsoft describes, but with all the “cool” features you’ll see on TV permanently disabled.

If you’d like to run Vista with all the bells and whistles, you’ll want a beefier machine:

•A 3.0ghz dual-core processor with separate cache memory for each core.
•2gig of fast memory, double if you can afford it..
•A midrange (by 2007 standards) graphics card with a bare minimum of 128meg of memory.

Early adopters will have to shell out $1,500-2,000 dollars next January for a truly Vista-capable computer. Microsoft would have you think that you could use the fun new GUI for half that price. I’m not saying Vista is bad. On the contrary, it looks like it’s going to be as solid and as safe and as fun to use as Mac OSX 10.4.

Just don’t expect to use Vista on the cheap. If you want those Mac-like features on your PC, you’re going to have to pay a Mac-like price.