Microsoft this week released a new beta version of its forthcoming Windows Vista, known as build 5536. This version is labelled 'Pre-RC1 Windows Vista Ultimate', although some of the Help documentation explicitly refers to RC1, suggesting that the first release candidate is now very close.
I have only had time for a brief look at this version, but some differences are already noticeable from the Beta 2 of a few months back. Firstly, Microsoft has fixed some of my earlier gripes - Vista now recognises the Intel 945G embedded graphics in our test PC without any problems, for example – and it also feels more responsive.
The first time Vista is run after installation, it now tests the PC's performance and reports an overall 'Windows Experience Index', plus sub-scores to indicate where the PC might be falling short. Not surprisingly, our test PC was held back by its graphics capabilities and returned a score of 3.0.
This overall score is reportedly on a scale of 1 to 5, although the links to 'What do these numbers mean?' and 'Learn more about these scores online' do not actually lead to any useful information at present.
This version also supports the BitLocker disk encryption tool, but I was unable to test this; it requires you to already have a separate data partition from that used to boot Windows, and a trusted platform module (TPM) to store the encryption key, which the test system lacks.
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