I wrote this in response to an article I saw regarding the relative speeds of Windows 7 and Vista.
I have a venerable 2.8GHz P4 with Intel RAID on 2x160GB HDD and a gig of RAM which I bought in 2003 or something… I only upgraded it once to a 256MB NVIDIA 7600 as I was running it as a Tiger Hackintosh for a couple of years. It really flew on Tiger, but I had a real Mac (albeit a G4) which was slower but much less flakey and so went back to the trouble free XP.
I then made the mistake of BUYING A BOX COPY (sheesh) of Vista Ultimate. My first ever Box OS purchase. My poor machine really felt its age since it would no longer play back HD videos smoothly, so the box went back to XP again and served as my main Playback device for my Projector for a couple of years.
On hearing all the Windows 7 brouhaha I decided to retry Vista with SP1 and about 75 incremental upgrades and put office 2003 and Zend Studio back on.
To be frank, It wasn’t as slow as I remembered it. It was as if the patches were just enough to allow my old faithful to climb back on to its feet.
And Aero’s 3D surfaces for each application actually meant the interface was MORE responsive and Mac Like since each app didn’t have to redraw when brought to the front. With the RAID disks, even 1Gb of RAM was usable (although multitasking slowed it much sooner than in XP).
I found myself honestly enjoyin using Vista for the last month or two and not missing XP, even when I had to really struggle to find any of the randomly shuffled functions.
Last month, I forced myself to make what I promised is the last upgrade to this machine and got 2GB RAM. My old faithful suddenly sprang to life… After a couple of days of heavy use, the memory was full, but it appeared to be about 1.5GB of cache! Office opened instantly (once I turned off min/maxing animations) ! I mean that literally. It was definitely faster than XP in general use and although 1080P HD Vid playback still stutters, my Leopard C2D Intel iMac w/ 4GB of DDR2 can’t match it for general interface response speed!!
So, to cut a long story medium, I installed the Windows 7 RC on the 2nd of May(!!!) expecting wonderful things… Firstly, the interface and colours remind me of a certain open source OS. Light, simple, breathy. Everything is simpler. I haven’t scratched my head as much as I got accustomed to with Vista, for sure.
However, I NOTICED NO SPEED INCREASE for my particular workload of Zend, Office and a Trial install of Illustrator CS4, indeed Office felt marginally slower which corroborates what was mentioned in the article. Instantaneous was replaced with a slightly annoying Almost Instantaneous, but not quite sort of feeling.
Still, benchmarks aside W7 is definitely less offensive to use than Vista.
In conclusion, then, I think it’s all about expectations. I was expecting molasses for Vista and got syrup – It felt good. i was expecting water for W7 and got slightly warmed syrup – I felt cheated and actually missed Vista’s moody dark interface.
Windows 7 is not much faster than Windows Vista but of course, YMMV.
Disclosure: I’m a “slider” rather than switcher, finding my Windows use fading out since 2005 on the release of the Mac Mini. My SOHO now consists of 6 Macs and only 3 PCs (one of which is a netbook). I now basically use Windows for Office 2003 compatibility and a label printer that refuses to talk Mac.
BTW, Vista Boot Camp on an Aluminium Mac 24″ w/ 4GB of RAM is THE FASTEST Office 2003 machine I have ever used. It’s shockingly instantaneous! If I had time, I’d install W7 on it, but I can’t be bothered.
Here are the X Bench results, for what they’re worth. They are quite variable, but this is the average from about four or five runs.
X Bench Benchmark Results (Taller is better)
The results show Gains across the board, with, as expected the major gains shown in CPU and Thread performance.
Interestingly, since the graphics card is the basic ATI 16MB Rage Pro, the graphics are majorly CPU dependant and those too showed major gains.
In fact, as expected only memory and HDD showed no real gains.
These facts bare out well with the actual usage as shown here:
Boot Up time (Shorter is better)
The above chart shows the waiting time until the specified event occurs.
Up until the Apple logo appears, the two machines behave identically. From that point on, the 1.5GHz CPU pulls ahead significantly. If one starts timing from when the what Apple appears, the 1.5GHz Cube is approximately twice as quick.
Login Time (Shorter is better)
My login is packed with various applications and I think is a reasonably good test of overall system performance with a bias towards uncached disk access. The above chart appears to bare this out with an approximate 40% speed boost.
Application Launch Times (Shorter is better)
Here you can see with application launch times that most launch speed is doubled. And, where there is a low dependancy on the hard disk (i.e. relaunching) then the speed advantage is treble in the case of Microsoft Word and Photoshop CS3.
One pontential issue is the temperature.
With the old 450MHz CPU, the Cube would show the internal HDD’S SMART temperature reading Idling around 37C in a temperature controlled 24C room.
Due to complete lack of any power saving facilities, even at full CPU load with moderate disk access, the active temperatures rarely rose above 39C.
Now, with the 7447A 1.5GHz CPU and NAP activated, it idles at 38C but quickly moves up to 42C or 43 when using iWork.
I’m concerned about the extra heat, so I may replace the currently silent fan with a more robust 12V 80mm effort!
So, overall this upgrade, an incremental investment of $250 half paid for by my employer has brought my computer forward one or two generations. It’s moved from a usable but ultimately frustrating computer to one which can be used heavily for numerous office and browser tasks without getting bogged down.