Last weeks “interesting” Gartner report on Windows reminded me I had some unfinished business. I’ve actually been waiting for Windows XP SP3 to release before I ran some tests, but I decided to go ahead and have some fun today while watching the Masters.
Round One – Cold Boot Timings
Round one goes to OS X and the Apple MacBook Pro. Surprised I said that? Well, it wouldn’t be a very credible blog post if I lied, and frankly I wasn’t really surprised at the result. The MacBook Pro is well known to boot, suspend and resume very efficiently and quickly. I haven’t yet tested the suspend/resume timings. That will come later. One thing before we get to the details of the cold boot test, the MackBook Pro didn’t spank the Lenovo ThinkPad T61p with Windows XP or Windows Vista.
I set each OS to boot and automatically login to an ID. As soon as the desktop was displayed and the browser icon was visible on an application bar, it was launched. Each of the browsers were set to hit my blog homepage. IE7 was the browser used for Windows XP and Vista. I tested both Firefox and Safari on OS X. The OS X Safari combo was the fastest combination. The MacBook Pro averaged right at 60 seconds for this test. But the ThinkPad T61p with Vista and IE7 was right behind is with an average of 1:10. Windows XP with IE7 followed that with 1:15. As you can see, there was no earth shattering difference. So the bottom line on cold starts is that if you are really worried about 15 seconds each day, you have too much time on your hands. Hit the power button and get your coffee. Each of the machines will be ready when you get back.
Round Two and Three – File Copies
Round two goes to the ThinkPad T61p. The second and third round of tests were file copies. I had heard so many stories that Windows XP totally kicks Windows Vistas butt, that I really wanted to see for myself. Unfortunately I waited until after I had already installed Vista SP1 so I don’t have RTM test results. The SP1 test was interesting though. I have seen reports SP1 is actually slower than Vista RTM.
For the file copy test, I decided again to use something real world. I copied my documents around. I was careful to shutdown the machines and drives in order to flush any cache after each copy. The block of data (my documents) amounts to 7366 files, 1537 folders, clocking in at a whopping 42.7GB. Not huge, but enough to be annoying for file copies. The files are a healthy mix of big, medium and small files of all sorts.
I did some tests on the T61p that isn’t possible on the MacBook Pro because the MBP doesn’t have the ability to have two internal SATA drives. Not surprisingly, the T61p internal SATA to SATA file copy with Windows Vista SP1 x64 was the fastest copy. It accomplished the copy in a little over 19 minutes. As with the cold boot test, it wasn’t an earth shattering difference in my opinion from the fastest file copy test to the slowest file copy test. You might note here that Windows XP Pro x86 took 30 minutes to complete the internal SATA to SATA copy. 11 minutes longer than Windows Vista x64 SP1. It’s pretty clear to me from that test Vista is holding it’s own nicely.
The next round of copies involved an external SATA enclosure using USB 2.0. Enter from stage left, the MacBook Pro. The MBP won this round, but it didn’t best the 19 minute test above. I don’t have a 34mm eSATA ExpressCard to use in my Mac, so I couldn’t test using that interface. The first test I did was to copy the files from the external SATA drive to the internal MacBook Pro hard drive. I have the 160GB 7200rpm drive in my MBP. The MBP did that in short order taking only 22 minutes. From there, I did copies from the internal drives back out to the external SATA drive. I did that from Windows XP, Windows Vista and OS X. For the OS X test, I reformatted the drive with the native journaled OS X file system. OS X took 30 minutes. Windows XP took 36 minutes. Windows Vista took 40 minutes. As you can see, significant differences but hardly time enough to kill a cold beer.
Lenovo ThinkPad T61p with 4GB of memory, NVIDIA Quadro FX 570m, Intel T7500 Core 2 Duo. The MacBook Pro is nearly identical from a hardware standpoint. Same CPU, same GPU and the same amount of memory. The T61p has one thing that the Mac doesn’t. The T61p has a multibay drive bay that allows my to insert a second hard drive and test SATA 150 to SATA 150 file copy performance. All of the drives used are 7200rpm SATA drives. The external SATA enclosure is a Vantec 3.5″ eSATA enclosure and contains a 500GB Hitachi Deskstar SATA 300 drive. The USB 2.0 connection was used, not eSATA. eSATA could only have been tested with Windows because I have a 54mm ExpressCard which is incompatible with the Mac.
I learned something by doing these tests. The main thing I learned is that the performance of the three operating systems is closer than I thought. In fact, it’s really a waste of time to debate it. In this busy age, a few minutes here and there aren’t worth having the holy war I see waged when the various camps talk about the Mac and OS X, Windows XP and Windows Vista. Now granted we aren’t testing applications here, and the tests above were really simple, but I’m comfortable with the results.
It used to be that day that you could point at the price of Apple hardware and software and question the premium they used to charge. Apple has smartly lowered those prices and removed that argument from the equation. Apple is also holding the Windows OEMs to a high standard by having a highly tuned platform. By owning both I can tell you there isn’t a big difference in the performance and stability of the two platforms, if you are running hardware that is properly designed for Windows Vista, and the Vista installation is properly installed and configured.
The next few comparisons I plan to make will compare the ThinkPad to the MacBook Pro from a hardware perspective, then some of the features of the three operating systems. When we get to the user interfaces and features, we’ll crank up the war of words. Who knows, you might be surprised what I write.