Windows 7 may not be much of an advance on Vista after all. Tests of the new operating system at the PC World Test Centre appear to suggest that while Windows 7 was slightly faster, the difference would be barely perceptible to users.
The PC World tests were carried out on three systems (two desktops and a laptop) and then ran on a WorldBench 6 suite. Each PC was slightly faster when running Windows 7, but in no case was the overall improvement greater than 5 percent, our threshold for when a performance change is noticeable to the average user.
The largest difference was 4 points - 102 for Vista versus 106 for Windows 7 on an HP Pavillion a6710t desktop. Our other two test machines showed similarly minor performance improvements: A Maingear M4A79T Deluxe desktop improved by 1 point (from 138 on Vista to 139 on Windows 7), and a Dell Studio XPS 16 laptop improved by 2 points, from 97 on Vista to 99 on Windows 7.
WorldBench 6 consists of a number of tests involving ten common applications, including Microsoft Office, Firefox, and Photoshop. On the individual tests, the benchmark results were generally within a few percentage points of each other.
One notable exception, however, was Nero 7 Ultra Edition, where Windows 7 made significant improvements, ranging from a 12 percent speedup to a 26 percent speedup, depending on the PC used in our tests. PC World Test Center Director Jeff Kuta suggested that this difference could be due to updated hard-disk drivers in Windows 7. Any improvements to Windows 7's disk support would be more noticeable in an application like Nero, which uses the hard drive heavily. The test involving WinZip, another hard-drive-dependent task, also showed marked improvement under Windows 7.
There was also a noteworthy 7 percent speed increase in the Autodesk 3ds max 8.0 SP3 (DirectX) test on the HP Pavillion desktop, which had an nVidia GeForce 9300GE graphics board. nVidia's drivers appeared to have been better optimised for Windows 7 than Windows Vista.
In contrast, however, each of the systems took slightly longer to perform the tests in Microsoft Office and Firefox when they were running the new operating system than when they were running Vista.
PC World Test Center pointed at it was using Windows 7 RC but said that if those test results remained consistent with those for the final version of Windows 7, the news would likely be disappointing to many Windows users. One of the major complaints about Windows Vista was the fact that it was consistently slower than Windows XP. If Windows 7 doesn't significantly improve that situation, it may fail to convince people to move away from Windows XP.