This is going to be a three part piece because I have installed Windows Vista on three different machines with three radically different results... go figure right?
The first machine I installed Windows Vista RC1 (build 5600) on was my personal laptop, an HP Pavilion zv6000 custom. (AMD Athlon 64 3200+, 512MB RAM, 40GB hard drive, ATI Radeon Express 200M 128MB). Because of how I am, I installed the 64-bit edition of Vista, and I have to say, while it isn't fast, it has yet to cause me any problems with that install... just the hard drive going almost constantly... but here in a few months I will be upgrading the RAM to somewhere in the 1.5GB range (new optical drive too - from a dvdrom/cd-rw to a dual layer dvd-rw/cd-rw).
Driver support for Vista x64 still bothers me a lot, you must have signed drivers to load, and they have to be written for Vista. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, aka. pressing F8 and selecting Disable Signed Drivers Policy (I think...). This holds true for my desktop too, we need to get signed drivers out there, or reallow the option of the bcdedit /set nointegritychecks ON command! Thankfully if I don't do that step the only thing that isn't loaded is my sound card. I did manage to use Windows XP x64 drivers for the built in card reader, and modem. Somehow those are signed and work fine in Vista with no problems at all. To get the ATi southbridge soundcard working I had to search for the Audio64.zip file found somewhere on the www.planetamd64.com site. I'll find a direct link and post it here for future reference.
I don't remember the rating of my machine, but it isn't too bad for its setup, the largest limiting factor being the amount and speed of the RAM followed by the 4200RPM speed of the hard drive. One feature I can attest to working is their new ReadyBoost feature. Using the built in memory card reader (SD, XD, MMC, MemoryStick, etc.) I can use my 1GB SD card as extra RAM for its cache file. Let me tell you, once you say it can use it, it will... almost every operation I can see that little light blinking, and after a few minutes of it being loaded, I noticed a performance increase. I kid you not, totally awesome!
For those of you wondering, the Vista Aero theme (previously known as Glass) does run on the ATi Radeon Xpress 200M video card, but be prepared to wait for a bit. I will post an update to let you know if upgrading the hard drive to a faster speed will help, because I am sure that limits it as well. A few things I have tested with it are Visual Studio 2005 which runs flawlessly and Guild Wars which runs just like it did in XP. Guild Wars was always a little jumpy in areas, once again I am sure this is tied to my RAM so that will be the first component I upgrade.
The next time I use my laptop I will post its score, so you can see how it compares to other machines out there.
To wrap part one up, I am very impressed with Vista working on my laptop. The only problems I have had is it not going to Sleep or it not successfully resuming from Hibernate. Things that worry me include the lack of driver support, and the requirement to sign them... I don't know if this is a good move or not! HP isn't known for releasing new drivers (hell, the pricks don't provide drivers for my HP Color LaserJet 2600 for x64 edition! what the hell?) and I won't be surprised to need to hit f8 everytime my laptop boots to enable unsafe drivers.