8 weeks. 5 PCs. Countless tests. The team at TuneUp has been working with the RTM version of Windows 8 ever since it was built, We’ve put the new operating system (OS) through all of our benchmark hoops to see what Microsoft has done in the performance department since the stable and popular Windows 7.
A leap in performance?
On October 26, 2012, Microsoft will release its “biggest bet“. And while you’ve all heard a lot about Windows 8′s feature set and drastically redesigned user interface, it’s time to take another look at how the OS fares in terms of performance and battery life. Over the course of the last year or so, Microsoft’s vice president of Windows, Steven Sinofsky, blogged about the performance and power consumption benefits of the new OS. It was all very theoretical, so we wanted to put his claims to the test and see how Windows 8 really handles CPU, RAM, GPU and the hard disk and how this translates into real-life performance.
Our Test Beds: A Broad Range
To get comparable results, we put Windows 8 through a variety of tests on several very differently equipped systems. We used:
- Two desktop PCs: We installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on a desktop PC (Core 2 Duo, 2.66 GHz) from 2007 and a recent Alienware gaming rig (Core i7 930, 8 GB RAM).
- Two laptops/tablets: We used a low-powered Core i7 1.8 GHz, 4 GB RAM 13” laptop, which includes a 256 GB SSD, and a Samsung Series 7 tablet sporting a Core i5, 4 GB RAM and a 64 GB SSD.
We didn’t install any tools on these machines except for the applications I frequently use for benchmarking. As usual, I performed all of the tests three times and measured boot time analysis, raw processing power, and application launch speed. How do you think Windows 8 stacked up against its predecessor?
#1 – Boot Time Performance (Windows Logo to Desktop)
Early in the game, Microsoft promised to significantly reduce boot time in Windows 8. The new OS needed to go in and out of the “off” in seconds in order to feel more like the OS of your typical tablet or smartphone. However, Windows 7 was no slouch in that regard either.
Stunning! Even on the older machine with a traditional HDD (Hard Disk Drive), boot time dropped from about one minute to 33 seconds with Windows 8 RTM. And on our high-end gaming rig (which still features an HDD, albeit a pretty fast 10.000 rpm one), the OS booted in about seven seconds – compare that to the 21 seconds Windows 7 used to take, and we’re seeing a clear winner here. The results on both the SSD-based portable systems didn’t surprise us—we saw improvements of up to 50% when compared to Windows 7.
#2 – Startup Time – Applications
Application startup requires the HDD to read small file chunks quickly and the CPU to process a lot of information simultaneously. I tested this using Outlook, as it requires both smaller files (the Outlook program files) and chunks of a larger file (the OST data file) to be read and processed.
I used AppTimer to see how the application’s startup fared on the Core i5 Samsung Series 5 tablet. I also wanted to see if there was a difference when doing “cold” and “warm” startups—”cold” refers to the first startup of the application right after boot, and “warm” refers to subsequent launches, which are all completely loaded from memory and thus faster.
The results? A change in application performance was hardly noticeable when I actually started the program, but AppTimer (which I used five times in a row and averaged the results) showed a different picture. Windows 8 was able to reduce boot time significantly when compared to Windows 7 SP1. Whether this was due to improvements in the memory management or a more advanced chipset/HDD controller driver is unclear. What is clear is that Windows 8 showed some improvements.
#3 – PCMark7 – Office + Day-To-Day Performance
To test day-to-day performance, I used the latest version of PCMark 7, which automatically performs tasks such as website rendering, virus scans, photo manipulation and video editing. It should demonstrate how well Windows 8 handles these CPU and hard disk heavy tasks.
In all four tests, Windows 8 fared better than its predecessor—on most machines, performance increased by about 10%! I’d say this is quite an achievement given that it’s just the kernel, memory management and drivers co-existing better.
#4 – Gaming Performance
Now what about the gaming department? For that, I performed some of the benchmarks I recreated specifically for my gaming series a few months ago. Microsoft promised to make some changes in the DirectX and graphical capabilities of Windows 8. That, plus the optimized resource management should prove to be beneficial for games, right?
Let’s see how Windows 8 stacked up against Windows 7 when I conducted our favorite gaming benchmarks on the Core i7 gaming PC.
A mixed bag! While Windows 8 managed to squeeze a couple of additional FPS out of the system when Max Payne 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV were running, it didn’t boost performance ( even suffered a little performance loss) with Diablo 3 and Unigine Heaven. This might be caused by the early Windows 8 drivers, but this situation should definitely improve over time.
#5 – Copying Files
Let’s turn our heads to pure file transfer speeds. For that, we measured the speed when copying a folder (100 files, 1 GB) from partition C: to partition D.
The result: while the new Windows Explorer copy screen looks more professional (with a fancy copy graph) and allows you to pause/resume copy operations, it was only marginally better – but even an improvement of one second is an improvement, right?
Overall Verdict: Good Improvements, Some Losses
Windows 8 performed extremely well on all of our test systems (even the older one) and better than Windows 7 in most cases. Overall, we’ve experienced a performance increase of up to a solid 10% and a boot time improvement of 50%–which is insane.
Up until Windows 7, performance of a new OS was generally lower than that of its predecessors. The Vista/XP comparison comes to mind, and the same happened even back with Windows 98 and 95. The added feature set, immature or unstable driver set and often-times so-called performance-optimized “improvements” have resulted in a drastic loss of performance. This, however, is not the case with Windows 8.
On the contrary, the soon-to-be-released OS managed to not just be as fast as Windows 7, but also exceed its already rock-solid performance in many areas, especially boot time and CPU- and RAM-intense operations. Also, the driver situation is excellent—all of the major OEMs (Intel, AMD/ATI, nVidia, Broadcom or Realtek, to name a few) have specific, and final) Windows 8 drivers already ready weeks before the official release.
I can’t wait to see what Microsoft has in store for its next “service pack” or 0.5 release, which usually focuses on improved performance and reliability. Overall, I’m extremely happy with Windows 8 in the performance department. Unfortunately, it still has one major drawback that has plagued all Windows versions—it gets slower and slower over time. Let’s see how “resistant” Windows 8 is when you use it for weeks and install dozens of applications in next week’s blog post.