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The latest Windows 7 6965 build has been tested by ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, and his results show that Microsoft’s promise of a vastly improved Windows experience in Windows 7 is coming true – despite 6956 not even yet at official “beta” status.

As the clock ticks ever closer to the official Windows 7 beta, due to be showcased by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the January 7 pre-CES keynote,  the word is spreading that Windows 7 looks like rocking in every way that Vista didn’t.

From low memory usage, fast boot times, an improved GUI, fewer services on startup, longer battery life, speedy operation and more, users of Windows 7 pre-beta 6801 and the unreleased (but available anyway) 6956 builds are impressed.

Kingsley-Hughes (K-H) didn’t say how he managed to get his hands on 6956, but seeing as it is available from torrent sites as an ISO (converted from the leaked Chinese VHD), you can decide for yourself what the source may, or may not, have been.

K-H has written two blog entries over at ZDNet, with the first post comparing Windows 7 6956 to Windows Vista RTM and SP1, and the second post also adding Windows XP SP3 to the list.

In all cases, bar the Cinebench test, Windows 7 whoops Vista and XP SP3’s binary backsides, a fantastic performance benchmark that simply makes users expect even better from the final release code. Given the beta nature of the WDDM 1.1 graphics drivers, the Cinebench test will hopefully thrash Vista and XP when the final code is released.

Given that 6956 is being touted by bloggers as being close to the final “beta” build, there is the question of what additional Windows 7 surprises Steve Ballmer will unveil at the pre-CES keynote event.

This is especially so due to the “other Steve”, Steve Jobs, rumoured to be unveiling much more information about Snow Leopard OS X 10.6 at the Macworld 2009 event, starting January 5th.

What about the new Blue Badge tool for 6801 users, and where’s Office 14? Please read on to page 2.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

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One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks, including stints as presenter of Ch 10’s Internet Bright Ideas, Ch 7’s Room for Improvement and tech expert on Ch 9’s Today Show, among many other news and current affairs programs.

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