September 30, 2009, 10:45 AM — Windows Vista never was particularly speedy in most people's eyes. Whether it deserved the reputation or not, the word on the street was that Vista was both slow and bloated.
Given that, it's no wonder that improving performance was one of Microsoft's design goals with Windows 7. Many reviewers have said that the new operating system feels faster than Vista. In our extensive PC World Test Center evaluations comparing the two, we found an increase in speed, though the overall improvement wasn't dramatic.
We installed Windows 7 on five computers (two desktop systems, two laptop PCs, and a netbook), and put the systems through our WorldBench 6 benchmark suite, which consists of a number of tests that assess a machine's performance in popular, real-world applications. We also ran timed tests to measure how the two OSs affected boot-up and shutdown times, laptop battery life, and launch times for several common apps. (For more information, see "Windows 7: How We Test.")
The verdict? Windows 7 makes some performance strides over Vista, though in some cases we saw no clear-cut winner, and in one area Windows 7 lagged considerably behind its predecessor.
For more of PCW's Windows 7 coverage, read our in-depth Windows 7 review .
WorldBench 6 Test Results
Overall, Windows 7's performance improvement over Windows Vista is slight--but the important thing is that there is an improvement at all. For a breakdown of some of the performance scores, see the chart below.
On our E&C Black Mamba desktop (with a 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 processor, overclocked to 3.8GHz), Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit earned a WorldBench 6 mark of 144, edging out Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit, which scored 139. Here Windows 7 was roughly 3.6 percent faster than Windows Vista.
When comparing the two versions of Windows on the HP Pavilion a6710t desktop (with a 2.6GHz Pentium Dual Core E5300 CPU), we tested both the 32-bit and 64-bit editions of Windows Vista Ultimate and Windows 7 Ultimate. Running the 32-bit versions of Vista and Windows 7, the a6710t saw its WorldBench 6 score increase only a little, from 104 on the former to 106 on the latter. But on our WorldBench 6 tests comparing the 64-bit versions, it enjoyed a somewhat larger boost with Windows 7, going from a score of 96 on Vista to a mark of 103.