Introduction and Article Summary
There have been quite a few posts lately on the subject of Windows Vista. Most of the posts are related to whether the "notebook I am about to buy will be obsolete when Vista is released at the end of next year". This guide hopefully will shed some light on the subject. A lot of the information is in flux at the moment, as Microsoft has stated that the final requirements will not be known until the summer 2006.

Windows Vista desktop screen shot (view larger image)
Windows Vista Versions & Release Date
There is supposedly going to be seven versions of Windows Vista:
  • Vista Starter Edition -- Likely a crippled version like XP Starter Edition.
  • Vista Home Basic Edition -- The version you'll see on most consumer PCs/Laptops like Windows XP Home. All the stuff you will need for a basic PC/Notebook.
  • Vista Home Premium Edition - Like Media Center Edition
  • Vista Small Business Edition -- Designed for small business without IT staffs.
  • Vista Professional Edition -- It is similar to XP Pro.
  • Vista Enterprise Edition -- Designed for large institutions.
  • Vista Ultimate Edition -- It has everything.
Here is a nice link from Windows SuperSite outlining what all the version of Vista will include. It also has information on CPU and memory support for the different packages.
http://winsupersite.com/showcase/winvista_editions.asp
One thing to note, most versions of Vista will likely be offered in 32 and 64 bit. Vista is supposed to be released in Q4 of 2006 (around the December 2006 time frame).
System Requirements
Here is, according to Microsoft, a ballpark estimate for the system requirements for Vista As stated above, the final requirements for Vista will not be known until next summer. I can tell you I have had Beta 1 running on my IBM ThinkPad T42. I will tell you more on that later:
  • 512MB of memory
  • Dedicated graphics card with DirectX 9 support
  • Recent Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon CPU

NotebookReview.com as viewed in IE on Windows Vista (view larger image)
There has been a lot of speculation Vista will need a 128 MB graphics card and a 64 bit CPU run properly. Notice there is nothing mentioned about a 64 bit CPU or 128MB graphics card as being required for Vista to run properly. Since Vista will be released in 32 and 64 bit, I think we can safely cross off the 64 bit requirement. From all the reading I have done, the graphics card maybe more tricky. Since this is NotebookReview.com, we deal mostly in laptops which are much more difficult to upgrade than a PC. Aero is the GUI in Vista. Microsoft says these are the requirements for Aero:
  • Requires a DX9 GPU
  • Requires at least 32 MB of VRAM
  • Minimum Resolution is 1024x768x32
  • AGP 4x
Aero Glass is the high end GUI for Vista with these requirements:
  • Requires DX9 GPU
  • 64 MB VRAM (128 MB recommended)
  • Longhorn Display Driver Model
  • AGP 4x
  • Needs to be Performance Qualified
So which graphics card should I get if I want to run Vista if I am concerned it will not run properly? I would say the minimum would be a 64MB card with DirectX 9 support. It will probably run on lower configured systems.
Personal Experience With Vista
A few weeks after the release of Vista Beta 1, I installed it on my T42. The specs on my T42 are:
  • 1.5GB of DDR memory
  • 64MB ATI 9600 GPU which has DirectX 9 Support
  • 1.8Ghz Pentium M CPU
For the most part it ran fine. It was a little crash prone, but it is a Beta. I installed all of the programs I normally do with XP. A few applications like Photoshop and ZoneAlarm would not install, but most everything else installed and worked well. I didn't play around with the graphics system, but everything ran smoothly and looked good. It ran at 1400x1050 which is the native resolution on my T42. I burned a few discs with Nero. It had the drivers for my WiFi card and I was able to surf with Internet Explorer 7. Watched a few movies and listened to some music in Windows Media Player 10. All of the things I normally do with my laptop. It did not seem to run any slower than XP.

Nero in Windows Vista (view larger image)
Conclusion
Hopefully this article provided some detail and relieved some angst about Windows Vista. Beta version 2 is going to be released at the end of the year. It should be more widely available to the public and should give more information on what is required for Vista. If you really want to buy a system that is Vista ready, a 64MB DirectX 9 card is in order and a recent CPU. I don't think memory is an issue, since most laptops sold today support 2GB of memory. Even if you don't get a system that is Vista ready like a laptop with an integrated card, the fact remains XP will be supported well into the future, beyond the natural three year life of a laptop. Windows XP Service Pack 3 is slated for release in 2007. I know many people with Pentium II laptops with Windows 98 that are content to use it surf the net and do Office. For those things, they work well.
Sources
Here are some good articles from which I sourced the information here if you would like read further: