Windows 7 Performance
Battery Life Tests
Another important aspect of performance for Windows 7 is energy efficiency. With the new operating system, Microsoft is introducing technology aimed at reducing the computer's energy consumption and boosting laptop battery life. For instance, in a procedure that the company calls timer coalescing, Windows 7 will simultaneously perform certain routine tasks that require the processor, which in turn allows the computer to spend more time in lower-power mode.
In our tests, the Gateway T-6815 laptop gained an additional 15 minutes of battery life on average with Windows 7. Running under Vista, the Gateway lasted 2 hours, 58 minutes on a single battery charge; under Windows 7 it ran for 3 hours, 12 minutes. Our Lenovo Y530, in contrast, eked out an insignificant 1-minute improvement with Windows 7.
Of course, your individual system-performance gain will depend to a large extent on your setup, but our results were still encouraging. At best, your laptop will gain a few extra minutes of run time; at worst, the battery life will be about the same as it was under Windows Vista.
Odd One Out: Application Launch Times
As our tests demonstrate, Windows 7 makes many modest performance strides beyond its predecessor. Our evaluations of the two OSs also uncovered one notable exception, however: Windows 7 is consistently slower than Vista at launching applications.
In every timed application-launch test we performed, Windows 7 took anywhere from a trivial 0.7 second to nearly 7 seconds longer than Vista to open a program. The biggest difference involved the launching of Adobe Photoshop CS4 on our HP Pavilion a6710t desktop running the 64-bit versions of Vista and of Windows 7. Under Windows Vista Ultimate, Photoshop CS4 took 2.7 seconds to open, on average. Under Windows 7 Ultimate, Photoshop launched in 9.6 seconds.
In the other application-launching tests, the difference was no greater than 3.7 seconds on average--all in Windows Vista's favor. Keep in mind, though, that while the percentage difference is sizable, the actual difference is only a few seconds. You may notice the slowdown, but it isn't as big a deal as the numbers might suggest.
A Faster OS
Though Windows 7's performance improvements may not blow anyone away, Microsoft's new operating system proved speedier overall with every computer we tested it on. Of course, our tests were limited to five machines out of thousands of possible configurations available on the market, so your day-to-day results may vary.
Even so, the most important part of our conclusion stands: Windows 7 is faster than Windows Vista. In a world where upgrades are often performance downgrades, this may be the biggest Windows 7 feature of all.
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*Editor's Note: When this story was initially posted, the headers in the results chart were incorrectly labeled. The chart has since been corrected. We apologize for any confusion.