Lacking? Hardly. They're finally making a "worth while" OS that's more than just a cute interface over an OS thats "secure via annoyance".
Gave it a test drive myself on my older test rig. Athlon XP 3200+, nForce2 motherboard, 7800GS video, 2GB RAM. (Note that I did mention it was older.. I know I won't get the best "experience" with it.)
I was sad to see Microsoft finally dropped nForce2 support. Vista had a driver for the SMBus controller via updates; nothing for 7. (Although who knows when it goes RTM.) No surprise I suppose as it's old. I was able to install the nForce Unified Remix drivers from XP though, and surprisingly it worked, and pretty stable.
The overall "feel" felt a lot faster than Vista, no arguments there. Booting, app loading, memory usage, etc all felt a lot better than Vista.
Oddly though, I ran GeekBench on it on the "out of the box" install, and it actually clocked a little slower
than the same in Vista. Overall feels faster, but raw CPU horsepower was lower. Maybe they changed something in the kernel that affected the benchmark? Perhaps. Plus being a beta, gotta take that one with a grain of salt anyway. Plus I am
running it on unsupported hardware; my main system is newer but I don't use Winders as my main OS. Strangely enough, on this same hardware, Vista actually clocked a bit faster than Server 2008 Standard as well. Possibly a driver issue; I had to use the XP drivers on 2008 as well. On this rig, fastest to slowest, Arch Linux/KDE4 (absurdly fast)> Windows XP SP3 > 2003 > XP SP2 > Vista > 7 > 2008.
Performance aside, I actually liked the desktop "experience". Ok, the new taskbar is different. But once you get used to it, it actually makes sense; a hybrid of a dock and old-school taskbar. (You can
make a regular taskbar out of it if you don't like change.) After messing around with it for a few minutes, I was loving it. Once all my day to day apps support Win7 directly for the taskbar features, it'll be very nice.
The "Desktop Peek" feature in the bottom-right of the screen is borderline useless though and just silly. Seeing outlines of the windows? No thanks; I'll never use it. Want to make it worth while? Make it function similar to Expose. (If you're unfamiliar with it, it shows all open windows on screen at the same time making it easy to find a particular application.. handy if you have a bajillion windows open at once.) A lot of window managers/applications knock-off Expose for a reason. It's a handy little function thats much much more useful than Flip3D, and just plain works.
I definitely like the new "file explorer sidebar", whatever thats called officially. The Vista version is just implemented rather poorly. Not consistent on all windows, some stuff can't be moved, the OS arbitrarily adds stuff to it depending on the dialog, etc etc. The 7 version is damn nice. Much cleaner, the "library" system is actually pretty handy too if you have a bajillion videos/audio files scattered across your network. Coupled with the indexing service, 7's file manager is downright excellent once you wrap your head around how it stores files.
I definitely love the side by side window feature of the desktop. Drag a window to the left or right side and it'll resize the window to fill half the screen. Move it away and it goes back to its old size. Move it to the top and it goes full screen. Simple but brilliant. I hope Compiz Fusion adds a plugin to do similar so I can get that functionality on my main desktop.
Seemed pretty stable for the most part, but it is
a beta so that's not really a point yet. Would expect crashes and such until it gets into the release candidate phase.
Visually not much has changed from Vista. Still using Aero, a few tweaks here and there. GDI performance was still questionable at best, but that's something Microsoft looks to be moving away from anyway, and as my test system is a dinosaur, meh to be expected. The default wallpaper needs to go though
And speaking of looks, why oh why Microsoft do we still need to hack the damn OS just to change how it looks?? That bit of absurdity has been carried on since the very first version of XP, and is just a stupid design decision. Inflexibility at its finest. Corporate users aside, is there anyone who hasn't replaced their UXTheme.dll?
One other thing that would irk me, if I actually bought it, is Vista itself. (I'm an MSDN member) If I had shelled out a few hundred bucks on Vista Ultimate just to have it retired when Win7 is released, and have Win7 touted as what Vista should have been in the first place.. I'd be pretty mad. Probably gonna be a sore spot with Vista users I would guess.
The widgets (or is it gadgets?) are nicely improved too. A bit less resource intensive, and a lot more flexible now. Might actually be able to compete with Yahoo or whatever widgets you're into, if you use them. Vista's was ok, but just wayyyy bloated.
I like the changes they've done to UAC. Much less chatty now. I use Linux as my main desktop, so I'm no stranger to access elevation prompts. Separating root accounts from user accounts is a good. Running your day to day tasks as an administrator is just a horrible idea, and just asking for trouble. Microsoft finally caught onto that idea with Vista, but UAC was soooooo poorly implemented/annoying in Vista that most people turn the thing off just to save their sanity.
All in all 7 looks to be shaping up very
nicely. Definitely "Vista done right". Once it goes gold I'm probably going to finally
retire my XP partition and lay my XP discs to rest.. don't think I've had an OS ever last as long as XP has on my system.