This tended to “just work” more than in XP. Specifically, the wireless networking is much better at self-diagnosing issues and either suggesting fixes or repairing connectivity issues automatically.
Another area of improvement over XP, I found it much easier to change power management schemes in Vista than XP. Performance of waking up from hibernate / suspend modes were also quite good, and obviously the power saving under hibernate mode is excellent.
Although I was not a fan of how Aero killed system resources, I did like the eyecandy Vista brings to the table (still behind OSX though). The default Aero theme is pretty clean, although a little dark for my tastes. One gripe: Why can’t I change the color of the app bar from black? Why do maximized windows go to a black border even when they are set to be white otherwise?
No “oh where is my XP cd?”:
In XP, you often need to go back to the install CD to install things like less used drivers, and other features. This is a big pain in the ass for unorganized people that haven’t touched their XP cd in a couple of years and it happens to be sitting under a huge pile of garbage in some closet. Vista tends to have all this stuff already installed, so when you want that esoteric driver or bit of functionality all you need to do is check a box. Downside? The huge install size of the OS.
Although alot of people (including Mike) complain about UAC, this was 100% the right move by Microsoft. The computer should warn you when something risky is about to be done – most people who browse the web have no idea what popups and random applications are actually doing, or even when they are installing software. UAC is a very good red flag to let you catch when something possibly bad is about to happen, so you can stop it. Its the same reason *nix systems make you run as root to do certain things – you dont want those things to “just happen”.
In general, the security in Vista is much much better than XP in terms of the codebase (less bugs) as well as the general philosophy of how security should be approached from a Windows OS. Job very well done here. In my opinion this is actually the top reason to use Vista.
In general, Vista is much more media friendly than XP. I had Ultimate installed, and media center is a very cool app – worthwhile for sure. Also, Vista is much more photo and video friendly, doing much more reasonable default things with them than XP. For example, there is a simple difference between XP and Vista’s slideshow funcitonality, but it is a big difference. Also, MS paint has like 2 new features, which is basically double what it had before.
So that’s about it. In my opinion, these pluses didn’t outweigh the huge negatives I experienced with Vista (application compatibility nightmares, driver issues, windows update breaking, horrible performance). Right now? I’m running XP on all my machines, I have Linux on my desktop, but rarely boot into that.