Is Windows 7 what Atom needs?

Last weekend I decided to install Windows 7 RC on my Kohjinsha SC3. The SC3 is an Intel Atom powered UMPC that comes standard with Windows Vista and is equipped with a 7″ rotatable touchscreen. I’ve always been a bit disappointed with the performance of this combination; the device was a bit too slow to be usable for my purposes. Note taking with OneNote was a bit laggy and even though the GMA500 is capable of running aero glass, Vista would suggest turning it off to improve performance every time you started a new application. A lot of users have tried installing Windows XP to improve the performance, but the crappy support for inking made me cling on to Vista.

Installing

Installing was easy enough, with a bootable USB stick the OS was installed in about 30 minutes. I had made a backup of the original Vista driver directory, but I only needed the one for Wi-Fi. After connecting to the internet it automatically started downloading numerous driver updates. One of them is for the GMA, Aero glass was working after installation, but the floating tip didn’t work yet. Installing the touchscreen driver made this available.


Performance

The performance of the SC3 under Windows 7 has improved dramatically. Inking actually is usable now, the half a second lag that was there under Vista is gone. The support for touchscreens has been improved in 7, not only does it support multi-touch, but the general inking experience is much better. Correcting a single character is very simple and the recognition of my horrible handwriting is impressive. Even writing in Dutch is possible, although some words that resemble English words get corrected into the wrong word. After installing the Dutch language files through the optional updates it successfully recognized my crappy Dutch handwriting as well.

Media Center actually works. With Vista I’ve stayed away from using it, but now it seems to be working pretty well. The sample videos play full screen without any hick-ups, it’s still not a fast machine by any means, but it shifted from “annoyingly slow” to “usable”. The SC3 is now out of the box capable of playing 720P content; this was possible with Vista, but only after installing a codec.

The SC3 used to get pretty hot when it has to work hard, with Windows 7 it feels like the device stays a bit cooler, but this is just a feeling. The battery life did improve, where it struggled under Vista to reach 3 hours it easily lasts for 3:30 and then hasn’t warned yet about the battery being empty. I suspect the updated drivers for the graphics and Wi-Fi, together with the more aggressive power management contribute to this.

I haven’t gotten time yet to try Office Communicator in combination with the webcam. If this works properly it could turn out to be a nice “communications” platform.

 

Conclusions

The usability of the SC3 has been improved by the installation of Windows 7. The inking and improved speed within Microsoft Office (my main purpose for it), combined with the extended battery life have made me use the device more the past week then I have been using it for months.

This could be little push that netbooks and UMPCs need. The low powered devices gain performance combined with more functionality and more security. Windows 7 could turn out to be a big boost for the netbooks. It offers more functionality than Windows XP with fewer resources than Vista. Time will tell us if Windows 7 will be a success on low end machines, but for me it’s a winner.

I will continue to use the SC3 for while to see if it continues to surprise me.

What is your opinion about this? Tell us in the comments.

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