Windows 7: Mobile

The single biggest reason for existing laptop owners to upgrade to Windows 7 is something unique to this release: it actually requires less horsepower than Vista. This isn’t just clever marketing. For the first time ever in our experience, you can give a laptop struggling to run an older version of Windows a new lease of life simply by installing a later OS.

The most obvious immediate impact of this is going to be for netbooks, and we expect Windows 7 to quickly become the dominant OS here. However, as the 1.6GHz Intel Atom processors that usually run netbooks are roughly equivalent in power to a Pentium M, a typical processor found inside laptops bought five years ago, it’s very possible that your ageing Windows XP laptop will be able to run Windows 7 too.

For Vista laptops, the effect is more impressive. For example, PC Pro’s editor uses an ageing ThinkPad X60 with a 1.83GHz dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo T2400 processor and 1.5GB of RAM. Vista was usable but sluggish. Installing Windows 7 brought a noticeably fresh spring to its step.

Wireless that works

Wireless networkingVista attempted to make it easier to connect to wireless networks by prompting people to fire up the “Connect to a network” dialog. You’d then be shown the available networks and, more often than not, you’d successfully connect. Windows 7 wisely omits this unnecessary middle stage: just left-click on the Network icon and you’ll instantly be shown available networks, their strength and whether they’re secure or not.

Windows 7 also removes the need to load up separate software when you’re connecting through mobile broadband. Don’t be fooled, though: our experience suggests you’ll still need to load drivers for the modem, and follow the usual setup routine for the software so that the correct settings are entered. However, once Windows has all the details it needs, you can use the connection without firing up the often quirky software supplied by the networks.

Fuss-free printing

Windows 7 knows whether you’re connected to your home or work network, and adjusts its printer settings accordingly
One nice new feature in Windows 7 is what Microsoft dubs “location-aware printing”. No longer will you press Ctrl-P only to discover that your laptop is desperately attempting to connect to the 50ppm HP laser that hulks in the corner of your office when you’re sitting in the conservatory. The method is simple; Windows 7 knows whether you’re connected to your home or work network, and adjusts its printer settings accordingly.

Speedy screen switch

Connect screensNo more annoying dialog boxes or heading through the Control Panel – if you want to connect a second screen or projector, simply attach it to your Windows 7 laptop and press Windows-P. You’ll be offered four choices that you can either click or cycle through using the cursor keys: Computer Only, Extend, Duplicate or Projector Only. And, if you regularly use a second screen, you’ll usually find that Windows 7 automatically detects it and defaults back to your previous settings.

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