No Mary Jo, cheap PCs will run Vista!

Summary:Any product that Microsoft brings out generates a high level of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). Windows Vista (or Longhorn as it was called before that) has created a greater frenzy of FUD than any other product that I can recall. One myth that just won't seem to go away is that some sort of super PC is needed to run Vista. Garbage!

Any product that Microsoft brings out generates a high level of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).  Windows Vista (or Longhorn as it was called before that) The idea that a $1000 PC won't run Vista is total nonsensehas created a greater frenzy of FUD than any other product that I can recall, probably because it's been in the development pipeline for a number of years.  The latest bit of FUD is a transcript of an IM conversation published by Mary Jo Foley (thanks to my blogging colleague Ed Bott for uncovering this one):

MR. Biz: vista will NEVER run on a $1000 PC
MR. Biz: EVER
MR. Biz: maybe a $1500 PC, but that one doesn't exist Yet
MR. Biz: there aren't cheap dual cores yet
MR. Biz: price point is still around $2000
MJF: u are right

The idea that a $1000 PC won’t run Vista is total rubbish.  The Windows Vista build 5536, the current pre-RC1 build, is a pretty good benchmark for what the Vista release will be like and that will run on PCs bought 2 to 3 years ago which cost less that $1,000 back then.  Are we to believe that PC power has gone backward in that time and that PCs are now more expensive and less powerful than in 2003/2004?  Rubbish! 

As Ed pointed out, you can go to Dell and spend under $1,000 and get a PC that is guaranteed to run Vista.  Period.  However, it did get me thinking - what's the cheapest PC that I could buy or build that would run Vista?

A few weeks back I looked at how you could build a Core 2 Duo based PC for under $1,000, and by now the prices on many of these components will have dropped a bit.  Heck, the minimum spec for Vista isn't all that high anyway, take a look at this, which is the minimum spec for a Windows Vista Capable PC:

  • A processor with a minimum speed of 800MHz
  • 512MB of RAM
  • A graphics system capable of supporting DirectX 9 (SVGA 800x600)
  • 20GB hard drive (with 15GB free - don't worry though, Vista doesn't take up 15GB, it just needs that much room to install!)
  • CD-ROM drive

And here is the official spec for a Windows Vista Premium Ready PC:

  • A processor with a minimum speed of 1GHz (x86 or x64)
  • 1GB of RAM
  • A GPU that supports DirectX 9 and the following:
    - WDDM (Windows Vista Display Driver Model) Driver
    - 128MB of video RAM
    - Hardware support for Pixel Shader 2.0
    - 32 bits per pixel
  • 40GB hard drive (with 15GB free - again don't worry, that’s just the space needed for installation)
  • A DVD-ROM drive
  • Note that BitLocker Drive Encryption also needs a requires a TPM 1.2 chip or a USB 2.0 flash drive

Personally, I think that the Microsoft requirements are on the low side and I've come up with my own "unofficial minimum-spec Windows Vista Premium Ready" PC requirements:

  • A processor with a minimum speed of 2.0GHz (dual-core recommended)
  • 2GB of RAM for x86 (32-bit) systems, 4GB for x64 (64-bit) rigs
  • A GPU that supports DirectX 9 and the following:
    - WDDM (Windows Vista Display Driver Model) Driver
    - 256MB of video RAM
    - Hardware support for Pixel Shader 2.0
    - 32 bits per pixel
  • 100GB SATA hard drive, 50GB free
  • CD/DVD burner

Shopping around, it's easy to find loads of Vista Capable and Windows Vista Premium Ready PC.  Prices vary considerably (and change almost daily), but I probably wouldn't go much lower than about $699.  This would buy a Systemax Venture Intel Pentium D 840 3.2GHz with 1GB DDR2 RAM and a 320GB hard drive (plus trimmings like a DVD burner, gigabit LAN and so on).

What about a "build your own" system?  If I was building a mid-range Vista PC I'd base that around a Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 CPU ($369), a Gigabyte 945PL-S3 motherboard ($99), a Radeon X1300 video card ($90), 1GB of RAM ($60) and a 120GB hard drive ($65).  Even with a case, PSU and other bits, it's going to come in at under $800.  For $1,000 you could build a system that really moved, while for $2,000, well, that would get you something very sweet indeed (unless you threw your money away on something like Quad-SLI). (If money is more important to you than time and you’re prepared to do the legwork researching good deals, rebates, special offers, coupons etc you could build a Vista-capable system for $500!)

Before I end, I need to say one more thing.  There’s a big difference a cheap PC and an old PC.  A lot of this Vista FUD stems from people who want to use an OS costing somewhere over $100 (upgrade price) on an old PC that is totally obsolete when compared to PCs available today. Spending that kind of money on a two to three year old PC is just crazy.  If you want to run an old PC, stick with the OS that came with it or install a suitable version of Linux (which is free to download).  Don't expect Microsoft to come up with an OS that caters for technology that's not been sold for several years because, bottom line, most of their sales come from operating systems installed on new PCs, and come January, no vendor is going to be selling PCs that won't support Vista.  The customer wants the latest OS to take advantage of the additional power and features that their new PC offers, not be designed with legacy in mind.

Topics: Windows

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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