There have been two activities that have become the norm across the world of technology blogging in the last couple of years: unboxing, and loading Mac OS X onto netbooks. As a person who is lucky enough to have the opportunity to play with lots of phones, notebooks and other “unboxable” items, I’ve done the former a fair bit, and as an owner of a MacBook Pro for the past few years, I can understand peoples need to load OS X onto any device with an x86 processor.
Another trend that’s come up in the last month or so is loading up Windows 7 onto netbooks, since it is aiming to be a leaner, meaner version of Windows that Vista should have been. After dabbling with XP and absolutely loving the speed boost it offered over Vista on the Shift’s frankly pathetic 800Mhz processor and 1GB RAM, I decided to give Windows 7 a chance. After imaging my XP install (since it was working perfectly, I didn’t want to have to set it up all over again if I wanted to return), I connected up my USB DVD drive and began the install.
The Windows 7 installer is very similar to the Vista one, and groups all the pre-installation inputs together before the install starts, as opposed to scattering them throughout the process like XP annoyingly did. I didn’t time the install, because frankly I don’t care how long Windows takes to install since it’s not something I do on a regular basis.
Once the installer completed I was greated with the usual Welcome wizard where you setup your computer name, select a background you will change shortly after (although the included ones are nice) and the revised Windows desktop appeared.
At first boot there are a fair few drivers missing (graphics, touchscreen, WiFi to name most), which can be rectified by installing the latest Vista drivers from HTC’s website, selecting the Vista Compatibility setting and “Run as Administrator” tickbox on each installer beforehand.
The only thing that doesn’t work correctly is HTC’s control panel that looks after the WiFi and Bluetooth On/Off functions, resetting SnapVue and providing a link between the 3G modem (which is attached to the Windows Mobile side) and Windows. Fortunately all these issues can be worked around using the same hacks as Windows XP (eg. using Internet Sharing in WM to use 3G in Windows 7).
I’ve had Windows 7 installed on the Shift for several weeks now, and I’ve used it quite a bit in that time to really get a feel of Microsoft’s latest effort to woo people. Straight up, I really like what I see. As many of you will know, the Shift doesn’t have the highest of specs, and simply could not handle Vista reliably without getting laggy and unresponsive. While I wouldn’t say it runs as well as XP on the Shift, Windows 7 is leaps and bounds ahead of Vista when it comes to performance. With the slate clean, apart from drivers, Windows 7 is quite snappy, yet retains Vista’s “look at me” glass interface. Since I’m using the Shift as my coffee-shop typewriter, I haven’t ladened it down with loads of apps. The main one I’ve been using is Safari 4 Beta, which runs brilliantly.
I’ve also loaded up some codecs and Media Player Classic 6.4.9 for video playback when travelling. I was able to watch videos with only the occasional stutter (maybe 3 times an hour).
I’ve been practising my typing on the Shift, and I’ve really started to adjust to it, so I’ve been taking it with me to the coffee-shop when I want to do some typing. When loaded with Vista, the Shift is simply too much of a pain to use comfortably. Combined with Windows 7, it really is an excellent little unit. Got a Shift? Get Windows 7.