Windows 7 vs. Snow Leopard: Benchmark performance showdown

Windows 7 vs. Snow Leopard: Benchmark performance showdown

Summary: CNET's Dong Ngo decided he wanted to pit Windows 7 and Snow Leopard against each other to see which operating system has more horsepower. The results may surprise you.


CNET's Dong Ngo decided he wanted to pit Windows 7 and Snow Leopard against each other to see which operating system has more oomph. The results may surprise you.

With both Microsoft's Windows 7 and Apple's Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard arriving this fall, never before has there been a better time to try a new operating system.

Dual-boot systems are becoming more popular, and more users than ever are using both OSes in their homes. Boot camp has made Apple's MacBook Pro a good, if ironic, choice for a Windows 7 machine.

But Ngo decided he wanted to pit Windows 7 and Snow Leopard against each other, mano e mano, tit for tat, to see which operating system has more horsepower. So he took a 2008 vintage MacBook Pro (15-in. unibody; 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT), a stopwatch and his eyeballs and got to work.

To get started, Ngo installed Mac OS X Snow Leopard on a stock 320GB hard drive (Hitachi model HTS543232L9SA0) and Windows 7 64-bit, a 320GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue (model WD3200BEVT). Both hard drives are nearly identical, and support a SATA 3Gbps interface, offer 8MB of cache memory and spin at 5,400rpm. This way, he could swap the drives and avoid bothering with partitions and Boot Camp.

The apps he installed on both systems included:

  • iTunes 9
  • Cinebench R10
  • QuickTime (7 on Windows; X on Snow Leopard)
  • Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare

The first two are 64-bit applications.

So how'd it work out? In time-based tests, Snow Leopard "consistently outdid Windows 7."

His results on the basics (graph for this test at top of post):

  • Snow Leopard boot: 36.4 seconds
  • Windows 7 boot: 42.7 seconds
  • Snow Leopard shutdown: 6.6 seconds
  • Windows 7 shutdown: 12.6 seconds
  • Snow Leopard "wakeup": 1 second
  • Windows 7 "wakeup": 1 second

Then Ngo began benchmarking multimedia performance. The results this time:

  • Snow Leopard iTunes conversion (17 songs, MP3 to AAC): 149.9 seconds
  • Windows 7 iTunes conversion: 161.9 seconds

But the tables turned with Cinebench R10, which showed that Windows 7 was "noticeably better than Snow Leopard in 3D image rendering."

Scores for 3D image rendering (higher is better):

  • Windows 7: 5,777
  • Snow Leopard OS X: 5,437

Windows 7 also trounced Snow Leopard in gaming, offering higher frame rates.

Scores for Call of Duty 4:

  • Windows 7: 26.3 fps
  • Snow Leopard: 21.2fps

"Consistently, Snow Leopard was always 5fps to 7fps slower than Windows 7," Ngo writes.

Finally, Ngo measured battery life, and received results that contradicted his expectations.

He writes:

"[Previously,] I said that Windows 7 offered about the same battery life on the MacBook Pro as Snow Leopard. Well, I was wrong. While it was indeed better compared with what it was with Boot Camp 2.1, Windows 7 on the MacBook Pro still has a significantly shorter battery life than Snow Leopard."

The proof? Ngo tested the OSes using his extreme-use "performance" settings -- display and keyboard lighting at their highest setting, speakers turned to the maximum level, Wi-Fi connection active, high-definition movie clip on loop playing in full-screen mode -- and Snow Leopard blew away Windows 7.

  • Windows 7: 78 minutes
  • Snow Leopard: 111 minutes

Ngo writes that he believes drivers are to blame for the discrepancy, but the differences are clear: If you've got a MacBook, run OS X; if you're a gamer, use Windows 7, even on Apple hardware; for basic users, you'll be happy with either system; if you've got money to burn, buy a Mac so you can run both OSes.

To get the full story, read Ngo's full benchmark results and explanation here.


Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Microsoft, Software, Windows

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • iTunes? Quicktime?

    Let's see--- his tests were largely based on running two Apple apps. And imagine this! The Apple apps did better on Apple hardware. What a surprise!


    Come on, guys. That's not a benchmark. That's an ad.

    • Of course it is an ad

      what else did you expect from a fan boy?

      Seriously, iTunes is proof positive that Apple sucks at writing software for Windows. To use it in any 'test' is complete BS.

      But the author wanted a specific outcome, so I guess setting up the 'test' to get the numbers he was looking for is to be expected.
      • C.O.D. says it all...

        ...and, since it's generally acknowledged that a GAME will suck as much out of a machine as it will allow, it appears Mr.Mac's Sno-Leper runs at 75% the rate of "Windoze", the made-for-mac programs are simply irrelevant.
        Feldwebel Wolfenstool
        • drivers and hardware are tuned for DirectX

          The slowness problem may be software tuning or the fact that Apple uses a 9600M GT in that mac and that is a consumer grade graphics card tuned in hardware for DirectX performance, not OpenGL performance. nVidia (and ATI) release OpenGL hardware tuned cards, but they jack the prices way up for the smaller but more lucrative CAD market.

          An apples-to-apples performance comparison isn't really possible due to the card tunings - it puts Apple at a disadvantage from the beginning. The same could be said in reverse - I remember the FX560 got 2-3 more FPS than a 7300 in OpenGL (that also happens to be the GPU in my work machine, which is why I looked it up once).
      • Of course it is an ad

        Hey Microsoft FAN BOY. If Microsoft is SO GOOD at writing their own software..... then Vista wouldn't have been such a dog!!!

        Typical Microsoft wanna be fan boy!!!

        • re: Typical

          [i]If Microsoft is SO GOOD at writing their own software..... then Vista wouldn't have been such a dog!!![/i]

          hmm, Vista works fine for me... What problems have you had with it?

          Careful using that Snow Leopard though, I hear it's one hungry kitty... eating data and all.
          • I recall Windows having the same issue a few yeas ago.

            Look at all these silly MS fanboys whining. GO to your corners & lick your
          • I experienced it too

            Happened twice with xp,I would log in normally only to find out that my computer had been rest to fresh install settings, all the apps, documents,etc were gone. Thankfully I was able to use Windows restore for the apps and I had regular backups of my data.
          • BS

            LOL rubbish typica Apples Fanboy.Never happened I have had xp on 7 different computers 3 of them laptops and never a problem!
          • Got a link to that?

            [i]I recall Windows having the same issue a few yeas ago.[/i]

            Got a link to that? I don't recall reading about it.

            As far a licking wounds, yeah I'd say those who lost data due to the SL upgrade are doing exactly that. ;)
          • Vista 64 browsing issues

            Having recently picked up a Vista 64 machine, the only issue I've been hung on is that browsing comes to a halt after 20 minutes or so when both MSIE and Firefox refuse to connect to any more web pages, requiring a reboot to continue. Other functions seem to continue to work, tho'. What's up with that? I haven't found a fix yet.
            Elwood Diverse
          • Vista 64 browsing

            Sounds like a driver issue to me; you may want to go to the mfg website and look for updated drivers.
        • Errm

          Vista works fine.. A tad heavy but then aggain, they did add alot of new features... and that takes alot of ressources if it's not optimised.

          PS: Vista from SP1 has little to no BSOD.
          • I almost can say I had no problems with Vista...

            I ran Vista on my homebuilt computer from Beta 1 through RC and it worked like a charm. Vista on a cheap e-machines POS, however, was a dog. But that's more because of the crap that it was running on-- not Vista.

            I'm one of the people who will say that I love Vista. And I was one who recommended a lot of people to upgrade to it. Some had good results-- some had bad. But it definitely wasn't as bad as people make it out to be.

            Have a great day:)
          • Re: Vista

            using vista isn't so awful after disabling UAC, and i've not found it to be particularly buggy. the problem with vista is that it's performance is simply unforgiveable. what was the emachines "POS" you installed it on?

            if it was at least 1 GHz and the OS wasn't responsive enough that's a serious issue, imo. windows XP (even even more so, win2k) is substantially faster on a lowly 550 MHz pentium 3 than vista is on a 1 GHz pentium 3. even if the vista 1 ghz P3 has 2 GB of RAM and the 550 MHz WinXP P3 has 512 MB.
          • XP, W2K, ...

            Yes, and MS-DOS just [b]BLAZES[/b] on that P3! C'mon, get into this century, already!
          • Old vs New Complainer.

            And I guess you're using Voice recognition and cursor control from brain waves or eye tracking. Some things are just solid and hard to shake. Take BSD for example, which Mac OS uses as a base, is great security wise. It was a brilliant move by Apple.

            Personally I like Windows/Linux because I can choose more variations of hardware. And I'm still using a keyboard, Mouse, and XP.
          • Vista, 7 and Snow Leopard

            Its all good. I use Snow Leopard on my MacBook Air and love it. It is fast, stable and does everything I want it to except offline file sync (have to use a clumsy 3rd party utilitiy for that). Suspend and resume are FAR better than its ever been in Windows, as has been the case since at least System 7.

            I use Windows 7 on my ThinkPad T400, and used Vista before that. Both are fast, stable and do everything I want them to do except for reliable and fast suspend/resume (which never was reliable in Windows except for the slow hibernation, which is super-stable). Offline file sync is awesome and power management is terrific (11 hours with 9 cell and ultrabay battery).

            OS X doesn't do file sync, Windows sometimes can't wake from sleep. Neither is perfect, both are very, very good.

            If I had to choose only one, it would probably be Windows 7, but only because I enjoy gaming in what little off-time I have. Take gaming out of the mix and I'd probably favor OS X for the suspend/resume, which is a godsend in a busy courtroom.
        • Wow, great redirection their... you should be a politian. (nt)

        • Microsoft Fan?

          I would much rather be labeled a Microsoft Fan than be a card carrying member of the Apple Cult, where anything without the logo of a partially eaten piece of...fruit is simply not acceptable.

          Other terms that make people MS fans:

          <b>1) Thrifty</b> - would rather not dump over 2 g's on a laptop. The economy is booming, why not?

          <b>2) Multitasker</b> - if Apple could be competitively priced, the limitations of software availablility still makes them a poor decision unless used for video editing or other very specialized things it does a little better than a PC.

          <b>3) Career-minded</b> - is it better to know more about an O/S in the business world that makes up around 10% of the marketplace or 88%?

          <b>4) Enjoyers of Choices</b> - How many products from a peripheral stand-point are there for add-ons to PC's to make them do more things that improve the user's experience versus Apple?

          <b>5)The self-confident</b> - plenty of folks do not mind that their equipment lacks a cute logo that screams, "PC's are so last week!" i-Pods, i-Phones, you name it, if Apple makes it, the perceived clout sells it more than the product's functionality. Partnering up with AT&T was BRILLIANT...

          Bottom-line, the Mac/Apple price tag is not worth it unless money is no object and THEN it depends on what your computing needs are. They are better for a small portion of the marketplace and, well, that is what they now have. If their delusions of adequacy are so high, why make machines that run MS O/S's in the 1st place?

          Either that or nearly 90% of people are cheapskates unconcerned with quality... Hmmm... Maybe.