I recently mentioned how impressed I was with the speed of my MacBook, even when running Windows in Boot Camp. Of course, this was a subjective feeling, so I decided to try timing some events to see if the clock agreed with my brain. Sure enough, the Mac is faster than my Dell XPS M1330 by a good margin. But I was surprised to learn that Vista, even in Ultimate guise, wasn’t half bad, either. The root of my performance gripes seems to be what happens after Vista is booted – after the desktop appears, all OSes spend time doing something in the background, but Vista spends much more time.
- The Mac Gong or disappearance of the PC or VMware BIOS screen
- The appearance of the login box (I paused the timer at this point to give me time to enter my password)
- The appearance of the desktop
- I then clicked on the icons to launch my mail and web browser apps, assuming this would be the first thing most people would do on startup, and timed how long it took for each to load and present content
- Finally, I stopped the clock when the system appeared usable – hourglasses disappeared, the disk stopped chugging like crazy, and all background apps had loaded and were running
- I also timed how long it took for the system to power down after ordering a shutdown
Not surprisingly, the MacBook with OS X was fastest, though it took a surprisingly longish time to get Mail and Safari launched compared to Firefox and Outlook in Windows. OS X also excels at knocking off the backup tasks and giving a stable, ready-to-use system.
Booting Windows Vista Ultimate in Boot Camp was surprisingly speedy, too, and this was the core of my test. The Mac gave me a working Windows environment in just 2:15, compared to 1:40 for OS X and 3:10 for my Dell XPS M1330. I’m not sure exactly what the Dell is doing, but it churns and chugs for quite a while on bootup, even after I stopped the clock, and it’s got a nice clean install with few apps running.
Finally, I timed my Boot Camp volume in VMware Fusion (1.1.3) and found that, although it was speedy enough when it was running, it took 30 seconds longer to get started than booting natively. But even Fusion was quicker than the Dell.
My feeling is that Microsoft has spent some time optimizing the startup experience in Vista, trimming the time it takes to get a login window and desktop by shifting some work to background tasks that interfere with usability once the system appears to be running. A clever trick, that, but one that frustrates me on a daily basis as I stare at a desktop full of icons that I can’t use quite yet.
Once again, this is not the most scientific test ever, but it helps to show what I feel about the Mac:
- It’s quicker when I want to sit down and start working
- Windows is much quicker on the Mac than the Dell, despite only slightly better specs (2.2/4 GB vs. 2.0/2 GB)
I ran each test a few times, and although they varied by a few seconds they were fairly consistent.