Windows Vista Ultimate Extras: Extra useless?

By Fred Roth,
Contributing Writer, [GAS] 

As of this month, the first round of Windows Vista Ultimate Extras have been sent out to customers “lucky” enough to have purchased the highest caliber of Microsoft’s newest operating system. These supplemental downloads are available through Windows Update and are described as “Cutting Edge Programs, Innovative Services and Unique Publications.” With Vista Ultimate running at $320 and Vista Home Premium at $220, are these updates worth it to the average Joe?

The first full download to hit my PC was Windows Hold’em Poker. While as fun and entertaining as the standard Hearts and Solitaire we’ve all been playing for years, it lends very little worth to the pack, as similar apps can be downloaded for free.

The subsequent update offered a serie of different language packs: From Chinese to Dutch, Finnish to Swedish. Again, while potentially useful to those in the US who speak another language, these downloads only translate the OS and Internet Explorer into another language, not your non-OS programs, including Office ’07, whose language packs must be downloaded separately (albeit for free).

To add to Vista’s much-vaunted security increases over XP, Vista Ultimate users also have the ability to enable “bitlocker and EFS enhancements.” The point of these being that should your hard drive ever be stolen, even if the thief were to mount the disk in another system, your data is encrypted. Security is nice, but if your computer gets stolen in the first place, I would argue that your physical security is in need of an overhaul, more so than your electronic well-being. This enhancement SHOULD, however, be very appealing to some of those large corporations whose data has been lost on stolen laptops recently.

Finally, the ‘coolest’ upgrade available is the Windows DreamScene feature. This download allows the user to set a video as his or her desktop wallpaper. CPU and graphics-chipset horsepower do not seem to be an issue, as my anemic laptop, with a Core Solo and a single Gig of RAM, handles it with ease. Also, keep in mind that there is NO AUDIO playing for the videos you mount as your desktop. Yet again, this is a very cool little add-on, but in no way is it a deal maker or breaker. Take note, however, that DreamScene crashed both of my systems, one with an  Intel integrated 950 graphics and another one with an Nvidia 8600 GTS, on more than one occasion.

Based on Microsoft’s promises for Vista Ultimate, and their description on what customers can expect from its extras, I’d have to say that either these features have fallen by the wayside while the boys in Redmond ready SP1, or they seriously exaggerated what they would deliver. One would hope that more substantial content will be delivered in the future.

Please note that I love Vista. It’s easier to use, more stable (in general), more intuitive for novice users (like my wife), and generally makes using my computer more enjoyable. However, if you are planning to build a system this Christmas and are making the jump to Vista, you have a choice as an average home user: Vista Home Premium, or Vista Ultimate. As of right now, there’s no real reason to shell out the extra $100 for Ultimate, unless you are a Texas Hold’em junkie, a foreign-language speaking American, or you just can’t wait to put your home videos (or other, less appropriate matter) into motion on your desktop, of course.

Geeks are Sexy needs YOUR help. Learn more about how YOU can support us here.