- Jul 16, 2004
In time-based tests, Snow Leopard consistently outdid Windows 7. It took only 36.4 seconds to boot up, while Windows took 42.7 seconds. In a shutdown test, Snow Leopard took only 6.6 seconds, while Windows needed twice the amount of time: 12.6 seconds. Both computers, however, took just about 1 second to return from sleeping. For this reason, I didn't actually test the wake-up time as it was too short in both operating systems to produce meaningful numbers or even allow me to measure the difference.
In an iTunes conversion test, where I timed how long it took iTunes to convert 17 songs from the MP3 format to the AAC format, Snow Leopard took 149.9 seconds to get the job done. Windows needed 12 seconds more for the same job.
The last time-based test was the multimedia multitasking test, where I measured how long it took QuickTime to convert a movie file from the MP4 format into the iPod format while having iTunes converting songs in the background. This is sort of an unfair test as I had to use QuickTime 7 for Windows 7 and QuickTime X (which Apple claims to have much improved performance over the previous version) for Snow Leopard. The result: Snow Leopard beat Windows big time, taking just 444.3 seconds to do the job while Windows 7 dragged with 723 seconds.
So Snow Leopard took the lead in booting up, shutting down, and running Apple's software. It was a different story, however, with other third-party benchmarking software.
Cinebench R10 showed that Windows 7 was noticeably better than Snow Leopard in 3D image rendering--with a score of 5,777 vs. 5,437 for the OS X (higher is better). In gaming, Windows 7 also offered higher frame rates. In our Call of Duty 4 test, Windows 7 scored 26.3 frames per second while Snow Leopard got only 21.2fps. Joseph tested the game with a few different maps and we picked one that registered the highest scores for both operating systems to report. Consistently, Snow Leopard was always 5fps to 7fps slower than Windows 7.
The last test--which took the most time and probably will prove the most controversial--measured battery life. In a blog a while ago, 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.
As I needed to fully charge the battery before each test to make the tests go faster, I decided to test the battery life with the same settings as the performance tests, which drain the battery much more quickly than in normal usage. These settings include the computer's screen, as well as the keyboard illumination, being set at their brightest; the speakers being turned all the way up; and the Wi-Fi connection being turned on. After that, I made the computer play a high-def movie clip on loop and in full-screen mode until the computer died.
The results? Windows 7 lasted 78 minutes, while Snow Leopard managed to stay on for 111 minutes. These numbers are, of course, the worst case scenario--in real life, you'll get much longer battery life for each OS with regular usage. Personally, I could easily get about 3 hours with Windows 7 when running the MacBook Pro using the operating system's recommended "Balanced" power management scheme. Nonetheless, it's obvious that Windows 7's battery life is just about two-thirds of Snow Leopard's on the MacBook Pro.
By now, more than anything, I believe drivers are the culprit for this discrepancy, as with Boot Camp 2.1, I was able to get just around an hour and a half with Windows 7 with general usage on the same machine. I've also seen many PC laptops where Windows 7 also offers much longer battery life.
The conclusion? First all of all, you'll get much better battery life running OS X on Mac laptops than running Windows. Secondly, performance-wise, Windows 7 is probably a better choice if you are a gamer (there are more games developed for Windows, anyway), even on Mac hardware.
Third, if you can get by with just software designed by Apple and if money is not a big issue, you will be happy with a Mac. Examples of these software choices are iTunes, iLife, QuickTime, Safari, iChat, and so on (and you probably won't need much more than those for daily entertainment and communication needs). Finally, if money is not an issue--and it definitely is for most of us--you should get a Mac anyway. It's the only platform, for now, that can run both Windows and OS X.
Note that this article touched the two operating systems only from the performance point of view. (Mac is also really pretty and Windows offers a lot more options and compatibility.)
It's also worth keeping in mind that both operating systems were tested in their "clean" state (fresh and with a minimum number of apps installed) and using Mac hardware, which is naturally optimized for Snow Leopard. As you use them, the performance will change, most likely for worse because of software clutters gathered over time. It's hard to measure which one gets more affected by this than the other. However, when Apple allows installing OS X on PC hardware, I'll for sure run the same tests again.