I downloaded the pre-RC1 Vista 5536 build yesterday, and since then, I’ve installed it on three different systems, with some interesting results. The install succeeded on all three systems, and the install process is much more polished and faster than previous builds that I have tried. Microsoft has only released a 32-bit version of Build 5536, so these were all 32-bit installs.
The first system was onto a VirtualPC 2004 SP1 guest image, running on a pretty decent host machine. The host machine in this case was a Dell Precision 470, with a single 3.2GHz Xeon with 2MB of L2 cache, 800Mhz FSB, 3.0GB of RAM, a NVidia Quadro video card and an 80GB SATA drive with 8MB of cache. I gave the virtual machine 2.0GB of RAM, but despite this, the performance of the Vista guest OS was pretty miserable.
Next I decided to try a native installation onto a slightly newer and better host machine, which happened to be a new Dell Precision 490. This box has a single, dual-core Xeon 5050, with 2x2MB of L2 cache, 667Mhz FSB, 2.0GB of RAM, a NVidia Quadro FX-3450 video card and a 250GB SATA drive with 8MB of cache. This system ended up having a Windows Experience Index of 3.0 (because of the video card), but even so, it had the full Aero Glass interface, which looks very nice. Performance on this system was great!
Finally, I tried a native installation on an old white box Pentium 4 system. This system has a 2.0GHz Northwood A Pentium 4, with 512K of L2 cache, 1.0GB of RAM, a NVidia GForce4 Ti4400, and a 80GB IDE drive with 8MB of cache. This system ended up having a Windows Experience Index of 1.0 (because of the video card), and it does not have the Aero Glass interface. Overall performance on this system was acceptable, but I sure noticed the lack of the full Aero Glass UI.
I guess the moral of this is that you need some pretty decent hardware to get the Aero Glass interface and good performance with Vista. I recommend at least 2.0GB of RAM, and the best video card you can afford to take full advantage of Vista.