Microsoft has released Windows Vista RC1 for public download. Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 is the biggest ever public beta test for Windows Vista operating system, which has been delayed its official shipment for several times. And RC1 is likely to be the last major beta release which resembles much of and doesn’t have too much different from the functionality and features of final Windows Vista release, thus allows consumers to have a insight and sneak preview on the ability, security, user interface, features, compatibility, usability and many other aspects of Windows Vista by reviewing Windows Vista RC1.

ABC News (dead link) install and uses Vista build 5568 (pre-RC1 release) and concludes that “I’ve encountered recurring problems when resuming from sleep, anomalous network behavior, and some performance issues. That said, for the most part, the experience is remarkably good enough so that I’m thinking I may finally be able to start using Vista as a production platform. Most of the flaws I’ve encountered are minor nuisances rather than showstoppers. On the whole, I’ve found performance and stability in the builds leading to RC1 to be tolerable and dramatically better than beta 2 but not yet what I’d expect from a release-quality product. Resuming a machine from sleep is especially slow, and I sometimes encounter cases where the Windows shell lags.

WebProNews tests out Windows Vista Build 5536, the Pre-RC1 build and concludes that “in a word, performance. This baby runs smooth, many times better than Vista Beta 2 did. My hard drive doesn’t spin 24 hours a day, my battery life is getting back to Windows XP levels, and my laptop isn’t running at a billion degrees. All my programs work (Media Center and Movie Maker were completely broken before the upgrade, now I want to bear their children). I’m filling giddy. Sure, I’ll come crashing down eventually, but right now, all is well with the world.”

The Inquirer (dead link) concludes that “this build is much slicker than earlier ones, and it has to be said that this is now looking more like a finished product than ever. It’s clear to see that Microsoft has been pulling out all the stops in the past couple of months trying to get Vista ready. The size of the image file is down to 3.7GB from the 4.4GB of beta 2, further suggesting that a lot of programming code has been tightened up. Although not perfect, this release is a great improvement over earlier builds and for the first time ever, I can actually see them getting Vista finished in time for a January 2007 release.”

APC Magazine (dead link) found that Windows Vista RC1 still have a few problems such as “when upgrading from XP to this build included none of our network printers being correctly upgraded, with apps reporting that no printers were installed. A quick look at the printers control panel showed they were there, but were stuck on ‘needs driver upgrade’ status. Another problem was that Outlook 2003 couldn’t access any PST files we had stored on an external drive. This appears to be a problem with the User Account Protection in Vista, because once we modified the security properties on those files to explicitly add our user account, we could open them again. Vista required us to uninstall Nero completely before it would go ahead with installation. APC Magazine concludes that RC1 is likely to be followed by at least one additional Release Candidate RC2 before the codebase receives the blessing of St Bill.

iTnews (dead link) installs and reviews Windows Vista RC1 with conclusion that RC1 is solid, fast, and much improved over Beta 2. RC1 Vista shows an operating system with significant performance improvements over Beta 2; much-improved networking and wireless support; a leaner, better-designed Control Panel; and overall better “fit and finish.” This is an operating system that, while not quite ready for prime time, is clearly out of dress rehearsals.

AnandTech previews Windows Vista RC1 build 5728 and concludes that at this point most of Vista is perfectly fine. Everything works, all functionality is enabled, and driver support is looking good. If anyone had to pick up Vista and use it today, they would be able to do so once they got over the initial shock of just how different it is compared to XP. For doing so, they would be rewarded with a lot of new functionality that XP can’t offer, though other operating systems like Mac OS X have offered many of the features for years now. Beside, general performance numbers are a mixed bag compared to XP, which turns out is a good thing since it would imply that overall Vista is no slower than XP for performance-critical applications. Unfortunately, gaming performance is still lagging behind, heavily at times, and this is troubling.

Technology Review concludes that “‘ll spend more time with Vista over the next week, exploring its features for my magazine review and trying to get my sound card to work. But as soon as I’m done, I’ll revert to Windows XP on my personal laptop. As chock-full of new features as Vista is, few of those I’ve tested manage to surpass, or even equal, the Mac OS X features. Almost none look as though they would significantly change my daily computing routine, particularly since few software makers have announced 64-bit versions of popular programs, which minimizes any real benefit to running a 64-bit operating system.”