Ubuntu faster than Windows 7? Not So Much
If you’ve ever listened to the debates of whether Linux of Windows is faster on equivalent hardware, you’ve probably heard Linux fans claim Linux is lighter weight, and faster, than its Windows counterpart. While this might be true in servers (and may have been true on the desktop previously), this time around, I am not seeing the difference. Frankly, Windows seems to run better. Here is what I used to compare, and the approach I took:
I put together a small machine, with the following hardware:
- Intel D510MO Motherboard
- Intel Atom Dual Core 1.6GHz Processor
- 2GB DDR2 Memory
- 500GB Western Digital hard drive
- DVD/CD Drive
I decided that this would be a good comparison of speed between modern operating systems. It has plently of memory for basic tasks, the processor is very entry level, and the onboard video is comparable to many inexpensive laptops and desktops.
I chose to run the following tests:
- Open and use Firefox
- Open and use email (Outlook 2007 on PC, and Evolution on Ubuntu)
- Stream a 1Mbit flash encoded video
The two operating systems being compared were:
- Windows 7 Enterprise x64
- Ubuntu 10.10 x64
*I updated both systems, to be current on all patches.
My comparison was based on user perception of how each operated, and looking at resource monitors. I chose Ubuntu, as I see it as the most real competitor moving into the Desktop space (other than OS X). Also, I ran Microsoft Security Essentials on the Windows 7 installation. I did this to make it a more “real world” comparison.
I found that Firefox was simply better on Windows 7. The time between clicking the browser icon, and having a loaded page was noticeably faster in Windows 7. This was true when first launching Firefox after a boot, and after having launched in previously (cold/warm). Clicking through pages, and scrolling down through them all seemed much better in Windows 7, on this machine.
This comparison was the most apple’s and oranges, as the two applications are very different. However, as a user looking for a full featured email/contact/calendar application, these are the two most well known. It’s important to note, Evolution doesn’t support a modern Exchange server, which I use. It’s not necessarily a fault on their part, but it added to the frustration of trying to use Linux.
The win here went to Windows and Outlook 2007. Irrelevant of the Exchange support, the application itself performed much better. Short load times, less lag working in the application. Frankly, I am really unimpressed with the Evolution client. I don’t know the root cause of the slowness (if it’s an Ubuntu issue or Evolution), but in the user’s eyes, it’s irrelevant.
For this test, I used Firefox to watch http://live.twit.tv. I looked for two things:
- How smooth the video played
- How much processor was being consumed during playback
Video playback was about the same on both. Ubuntu and Windows seemed to use a similar amount of processor, as well. I suppose this confirms that Flash works similarly on both OS’s.
I noticed a few other things of interest.
- The UI animation was smoother and less quirky in Windows. When using menus in Ubuntu, it occasionally had lag, and stuttered through. (Note: I did not set Ubuntu for the fancier UI options) This may be a driver issue?
- Most built-in applications also ran faster in Windows. This includes the built-in updaters, menus for adjusting preferences, and other utilities.
- The Atom processor is a decent little workhorse. I wouldn’t want to use it as a video editing system, but for day-to-day work, it’s really ok.
- The onboard graphics are OK, but nothing like an NVidia or ATI card.
- Windows used more ram overall. This never caused any issues, even with multiple applications going at once.
I’ll stick with Windows 7 x64 on this little machine. It was a noticeably better experience than Linux right now. I will try again when Ubuntu 11.04 is released.
There are still reasons for some to consider a linux desktop. The biggest one is cost. Ubuntu is free to use. Windows is most certainly not. There are many ways to get discounts on Windows, but none equal free. You also don’t have to buy or use antivirus software on Linux right now. Those differences might be enough for some.