If you're upgrading to Windows Vista Ultimate, buying a new system with the operating system pre-installed can often work out to be more economical in the long term. PC and laptop manufacturers can exploit Microsoft's OEM pricing, and you can also avoid the upgrade headaches associated with switching from XP to Vista, for example, by getting a brand-new machine with a clean install.

Furthermore, some laptop manufacturers are offering Windows Vista Ultimate systems for less than you might expect, meaning you're able to pick up a more powerful version of Vista for a price usually associated with a standard machine with Home Premium installed. Both the Philips 11NB5800 and the Hi-Grade Notino D7000SRA reviewed as part of our Windows Vista Ultimate Advisor zone are available at prices most people associated with mid-range laptops.

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When choosing a new system, it's important to understand the differences between the various versions of Vista, as it seems many people remain either confused or indifferent to the additional features available in higher-end versions.

Nearly three quarters of the more than 1,200 people who responded to our recent operating system survey told us they didn't specify a particular version of Windows (either XP or Vista) when they last bought a laptop or desktop PC.

But the bigger problem comes from the suggestion that computer retailers aren't doing their bit to educate end users: 73.1 percent of respondents said they weren't advised by sales staff of the different operating systems available to them at the time of purchase. This lack of information could leave customers with a version of Vista that doesn't suit their needs – leading to an expensive upgrade to a higher-end version of Vista at a later date.

According to our survey, 53 percent of respondents rated their knowledge of Windows Vista Ultimate as 'poor', whereas 33 percent said the same about Vista Home Premium, and 36 percent about Vista Home Basic.

This confusion over Microsoft's operating systems is reflected in readers' preferences on the version of Windows they'd want pre-installed on their next laptop. We asked those surveyed which version of Vista or XP they'd pick if they were to buy a new computer today. Of those who would choose a Vista system, 74 percent would select either Vista Home Premium or Vista Home Basic, with just 3.7 percent choosing Vista Business and 22.1 percent opting for Vista Ultimate. That's despite the fact that over 50 percent of respondents use their laptop for both business and pleasure, making Vista Ultimate a viable choice.