Wrestle with lions, dodge bullets, launch yourself from a cannon… but if you want to be really brave, try testing PCs with a new OS

This article appears as part of the April 07 issue of PC Advisor, available now in all good newsagents

Feats of bravery aren't generally expected of IT journalists. While others earn their wages by pulling children from burning buildings or driving racing cars at speeds an Intel processor can only dream of, the dedicated PC reviewer locks himself away in a darkened room for hours on end, pitting one graphics card against another or assessing the skills of the latest MP3 player. But as extreme jobs go, volunteering to test a bunch of PCs equipped with a brand-new and (at the time) unreleased OS (operating system) is a pretty foolhardy act of self-sacrifice.

This being the launch issue for Microsoft's new OS, I reluctantly agreed to put a herd of Vista PCs through their paces. And there are some lessons to learn from this sobering exercise. Perhaps the most salient is that those who require perfection should wait a few months before hopping on the Vista bandwagon.

Despite the years of beta testing, there are definite kinks that weren't all ironed out at the OS's launch. The graphics card drivers aren't as flawless as they might be and, at the time of testing, many games were registering drops of 5-20 frames per second. Existing software titles proved a hit-and-miss affair.

Of course, this imperfect state of affairs is unlikely to last for long. In several months' time there'll be very few pieces of hardware or software that haven't been nipped, tucked and rendered fit for Vista service. Performance will be at least comparable with XP. There might even be the odd application that can truly harness Vista's 64bit multicore multithreaded environment, or the occasional game that shows what DirectX 10.0 can really do. And any remaining niggles will mostly be smoothed out by the inevitable service pack release.

At which point we should be able to take in the elegance of Aero, the fantastic search facilities and added functionality of the pile of other useful tools and enhancements that should make Vista the operating system we've been promising you.