How does Windows 7 beta 1 compare to Vista and XP in terms of performance? That's a question that's been hitting my inbox regularly over the past few weeks. Let's see if we can't answer it!
Important note: Before I go any further I feel I need to make a point, and make it clear. The build I’m testing of Windows 7 (build 6.1.7000.0.081212-1400) is a beta build, and as a rule beta builds are usually more geared towards stability than performance. That said, the performance of this build should give us a clue as to how the OS is coming along.
Rather than publish a series of benchmark results for the three operating systems (something which Microsoft frowns upon for beta builds, not to mention the fact that the final numbers only really matter for the release candidate and RTM builds), I've decided to put Windows 7, Vista and XP head-to-head in a series of real-world tests to find out which OS comes out top.
There are 23 tests in all, most of which are self explanatory:
- Install OS - Time it takes to install the OS
- Boot up - Average boot time to usable desktop
- Shut down - Average shut down time
- Move 100MB files - Move 100MB of JPEG files from one hard drive to another
- Move 2.5GB files - Move 2.5GB of mixed size files (ranging from 1MB to 100MB) from one hard drive to another
- Network transfer 100MB files - Move 100MB of JPEG files from test machine to NAS device
- Network transfer 2.5GB files - Move 2.5GB of mixed size files (ranging from 1MB to 100MB) from test machine to NAS device
- Move 100MB files under load - Move 100MB of JPEG files from one hard drive to another while ripping DVD to .ISO file
- Move 2.5GB files under load - Move 2.5GB of mixed size files (ranging from 1MB to 100MB) from one hard drive to another while ripping DVD to .ISO file
- Network transfer 100MB files under load - Move 100MB of JPEG files from test machine to NAS device while ripping DVD to .ISO file
- Network transfer 2.5GB files under load - Move 2.5GB of mixed size files (ranging from 1MB to 100MB) from test machine to NAS device while ripping DVD to .ISO file
- Compress 100MB files - Using built-in ZIP compression
- Compress 1GB files - Using built-in ZIP compression
- Extract 100MB files - Using built-in ZIP compression
- Extract 1GB files - Using built-in ZIP compression
- Install Office 2007 - Ultimate version, from DVD
- Open 10 page Word doc - Text only
- Open 100 page Word doc - Text and images only
- Open simple Excel doc - Basic formatting
- Open complex Excel doc - Including formula and charts
- Burn DVD - Win 7 beta 1 .ISO to disc using CDBurnerXP
- Open 10 page PDF - Text only, using latest Adobe Reader 8
- Open 100 page PDF - Text and images, using latest Adobe Reader 8
These series of tests will pitch Windows 7 build 7000 32-bit against Windows Vista SP1 32-bit and Windows XP SP3 32-bit. The scoring for each of the tests is simple. The winning OS scores 1, the runner up 2 and the loser scores a 3. The scores are added up and the OS with the lowest score at the end wins.
The test systems
I've used two desktop systems as the test machines:
- An AMD Phenom 9700 2.4GHz system fitted with an ATI Radeon 3850 and 4GB of RAM
- An Intel Pentium Dual Core E2200 2.2GHz fitted with an NVIDIA GeForce 8400 GS and 1GB of RAM
Here are the results of the tests for the two systems:
The bottom line is that the more I use Windows 7 the more I like it. Sure, we're looking at a beta build here and not the final code, so things could change between now and release (although realistically final code ends up being faster than beta code). Also I still have some nagging issues relating to the interface, and some concerns that the UAC changes will break applications and other code, especially installers, but overall Windows 7 beta 1 is a robust, solid bit of code.
Sure, Windows 7 is not XP, and never will be (thankfully). And if you're put off by things such as activation and DRM, then Windows isn't the OS for you (good news is there are others to choose from). But if you're looking for a solid OS then Windows 7 seems ready to deliver just that - a fast, reliable, relatively easy to use platform for your hardware and software.
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