Although we've already covered performance in greater depth it's worth summarising here, too. Suffice to say that most of what you've heard about Windows 7 is true. Beyond raw number crunching, which is just fine, Windows 7 does have the responsiveness and zip to it that was missing from Vista. This is particularly true of native applications, like Windows Media Player, but the benefits can be seen in all facets of the operating system.
Boot times in particular are much improved, but if you're expecting a massive improvement over Vista (or XP for that matter) overall then you'll be disappointed. Windows 7 is, after all, closely related to Vista, bringing us back to the "Vista isn't as bad as all that" argument.
Chances are you've finished your tea, coffee and/or toast by now (you might even be on your second helping!) but despite the cynical view that Windows 7 is just a Vista service pack there's been plenty to get through. We haven't even covered everything we could have, omitting for brevity features like Federated Search (see our What's New? article for more on it), DirectX 11, Multi-Touch support, the improved Paint, Calculator and Word Pad applications or the addition of ISO burning support.
Clearly, then, such cynicism is well wide of the mark. While Windows 7 is based on the same codebase as Vista, it brings plenty to the table to justify its existence. Whether it's worth an instant upgrade isn't quite so cut and dry an argument, though. Unless, that is, you're still on Windows XP. For those brave warriors it's definitely time to make the jump. Not only is Windows 7 not going to impact your system performance too negatively, it'll enhance your general computing experience by an order of magnitude.
As for Vista users, unless you're sick to the hind teeth with it, it's safe to take a relaxed attitude to upgrading. Yes, Windows 7 is evidently a superior operating system and we'd encourage and recommend everyone to try it and eventually upgrade, but the cost is no trivial matter and Vista is for the most part as stable and usable, just less polished.
For once we've got a product that more or less lives up to the hype. There are still issues with Windows 7, particularly with its patchy NAS integration, but it's hard to deny its greater benefits. If nothing else Apple (and Apple fans) can no longer use the 'Mac OS just works' argument with the same gusto. Windows 'just works' too and it 'just works' with style to boot.