COMPUTER geeks know what the proverbial "Win
telâ portmanteau really means. It's borne from the idea that software company M
icrosoft and computer chip giant Intel are in harmony when developing their nex
t generation products. For years, these two have been working closely together
to develop applications that complement each other. That is, until Microsoft's
highly-criticized Windows Vista came out.
Not even the much-vaunted Intel Core i7 could save the buggy operating system.
At one point, a laptop manufacturer had the idea of running Windows Vista on a
mini-notebook, which of course, didn't sit well with techie guys who are famili
ar with the OS' problems and the notebook computer's underpowered processor.
But that was before Microsoft launched a beta version of their next generation
OS Windows 7. The software firm claims that Windows 7 is capable of running on
netbooks, particularly those that have Intel's Atom processor for ultra-portabl
Since Microsoft activated a download site for Windows 7, many have tested it on
various PCs, mostly on Intel processors and some on AMDs. There are a couple o
f tests published online on how Windows 7 beta ran on legacy Pentium 4 processo
rs and so far they have worked but only with a few glitches.
After hours of waiting to downlo
ad Windows 7 beta from the Microsoft website it was time to try it on an Atom-b
ased processor to see if it could deliver on was it promised. The test unit is
an MSI Wind Nettop 110, powered by an Intel Atom N230. The Wind Nettop has a 1
Gigabyte memory and a total of 80 Gigabytes of hard disk space. It also has a d
edicated 64 megabyte Intel graphics card but can be managed to share extra 64 M
b from the memory.
This particular model is supposed to be running Linux but it has an installed M
icrosoft Windows XP (obviously, not the original). The XP runs pretty much aver
age on the Wind Nettop 110 and can play most videos but with some lag when the
videos are encoded in high-quality AVI or MPEG and are played in full screen. I
t can also do a bit of video editing with Windows Movie Maker but the system ca
n't seem to handle the extra video editing load if there is a web browser runni
ng. Still, it is still fully functional if some work is done separately and not
simultaneously with another.
Installation is straightforward. Wi
ndows 7 (Ultimate Edition) can be installed from a copied bootable DVD but it c
an also be done via a large capacity USB drive. The target hard disk has to be
formatted first before installation. The BIOS has to be set to a primary boot a
nd it can either be the USB drive or the optical drive. From there, the Windows
7 disk or thumbdrive will automatically install the operating system.
Surprisingly, installation was very quick and the Nettop 110 was up and running
within 15 minutes. With a few tweaks on the network settings, the unit connect
ed to our corporate network as well as to the Internet.
Look and feel
Upon startup the user will be treated to a new and flashy Microsoft lo
go. Loading time is just about the same as Windows XP, which is approximately o
ne minute. The initial startup was quick because many applications once present
in XP and Vista were now removed from Windows 7. In fact, Windows 7 seems to r
un somewhat faster on the Atom than a Celeron-powered Windows XP or even Window
s Vista on a dual core computer.
Windows 7 looks like a mix between a functional XP and a flashy Vista. The Task
bar has the most changes visually. It has a Pin option wherein logos of commonl
y used applications can be clicked without having to open these from the deskto
p. It also allows users to reorganize the taskbar buttons to make it easier to
access other applications.
Windows 7 also retains two functions of Vista: the first is the Aero and the ot
her is a quick view panel for all active but minimized applications. Aero in pa
rticular runs smoothly when the graphics card is set to use 128 Mb. However, th
ere is some lag when using graphics-heavy applications, such as Windows Movie M
aker (which has to be downloaded), Quicktime and other video-viewing applicatio
I was half expecting the OS to bog down at the start or if not a few h
ours later given that I was installing a variety of applications and drivers to
make it run like it was my personal unit. Thankfully, nearly all of the applic
ations that I installed were able to identify Windows 7 as Windows Vista, large
ly due to both OS' compatibility. Some of the applications installed were Mozil
la Firefox, Google Chrome, Java, Adobe Reader and Quicktime. Kaspersky was also
installed for security purposes since Microsoft has removed some security opti
ons previously present in Vista and XP.
Google Earth was a sweet surprise. Rendering of satellite images, photos and vi
deos were still fast even on the Atom and Windows 7. Again, there is some lag b
ut one can get past this if only for the compatibility of the beta-tested OS wi
th Google Earth.
Both the Windows 7 and Intel Atom performed well even when they were r
unning for nearly two days. Lag happens when the unit is "awakened" from hibern
ation but this is understandable given the limitations of the processor.
The test unit does produce noticeable heat after prolonged use but it had never
once crashed, owing it to the Atom's ability to manage heat dissipation, as we
ll as the OS' minimal presence of active but unused applications.
Overall, Windows 7 beta has so far delivered what it promised. With official la
unch in 2010, Microsoft is at least making good on its promise to ensure that t
he next Windows iteration is trouble-free. The beta version is still far from t
he finished product. Hopefully, Microsoft stays on track. By then, Intel would
have improved on the Atom processor, which is already becoming popular among bu