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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [03.05.08]


SP1, we need you!

It's certainly been a rocky start for Microsoft's latest OS, which has had its ups and downs since launching a little over a year ago. Despite the fact that most of these people have never actually used it, there is still an overwhelming number of detractors. Many people see Vista as sluggish and bloated.

After a year, the market share for Vista has barely reached 12% (source), with most people preferring to stick with XP. Looking at this site's visitors' stats, it appears to be true (about 11% of the readers of this site use Vista).

It appears that Microsoft have a lot of work cut out for them in order to convince the majority of the public that they should upgrade to Vista. Personally, I have been using it since about Day 1, and have nothing but good things to say about it. Assuming you have a decent computer (anything built in 2007 or later will be fine) and enough ram (with today's prices, there really is no excuse to have less than 2GB installed) it is quite snappy. The extra features and gadgets are nice, and stability is rock solid. I am writing this on a PC that hasn't been rebooted in over 6 months.

Still, there is a lot of work to be done, and this month Microsoft is releasing a huge Service Pack that contains fixes and updates that range from important performance issues to deep-down functionality tweaks. SP1 is already available to MSDN subscribers, and will be made available to the public within a few weeks. For an insane amount of details, feel free to take a look at Microsoft's SP1 whitepaper. It will tell you everything you need to know, and more. SP1 also includes all the fixes that have been released since launch.

Performance Boost?

One of the most crucial points the anti-Vista crowd makes is that Vista is much slower than XP in anything from copying files to web browsing. Again, I think that with a modern PC this is barely noticable, but there are definitely some issues with Vista's performance. I have noticed that copying files and folders can sometimes take longer than expected as Vista seems to just sit around doing nothing after the transfer appears to be done. And if Microsoft wants to squeeze out some extra performance from Vista, who is going to argue against that?

I decided to benchmark Vista SP1 against the retail release of Vista with only the current updates installed (as of March 1, 2008). In addition to standard file transfer tests that we know will see some improvements, I also used benchmarking applications that use real-world software that you might use at work or at home every single day. After all, we know that SP1 will probably copy files a bit faster. But how will it affect your Windows experience overall?

The following software is tested throughout this article:

Integrated Vista components:

  • Windows Photo Gallery
  • Windows Movie Maker
  • Windows Media Center
  • Internet Explorer 7
  • Windows Media Player 11
  • Windows Defender
  • Windows Live Messenger
  • Windows Mail
  • Windows Contacts
  • WordPad
  • Vista's integrated compression API (FSCTL_SET_COMPRESSION)
  • Vista's integrated decompression API (LZRead)
  • Vista's integrated cryptography API (Next Generation)

External Applications:

  • Microsoft Word 2007
  • Adobe Photoshop CS2
  • Microsoft Outlook 2007
  • Adobe After Effects 7
  • Adobe Illustrator CS2
  • Adobe Photoshop CS2
  • AutoDesk 3ds Max 8
  • Macromedia Flash 8
  • Microsoft Excel 2003
  • Microsoft Outlook 2003
  • Microsoft PowerPoint 2003
  • Microsoft Word 2003
  • Microsoft Project 2003
  • Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9 series
  • Sony Vegas 7
  • SketchUp 5
  • WinZip 10.0
  • dbPowerAmp
  • LAME MP3 Audio Codec
  • WMA 9.2 Audio Codec
  • WMA 10 Professional Audio Codec
  • VirtualDub
  • DivX 6.8 Video Codec
  • XviD 1.1.3 Video Codec
  • CineBench R10
  • Call of Duty 4
  • Crysis
  • Unreal Tournament 3
The Specs

I decided not to use the latest, fastest, most hardcore PC you can build today to perform these tests. Instead, I put together a decent system that can be built for well under $1000.

  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 6700 (2.66 GHz, 1066 FSB)
  • Memory: 2GB A-Data DDR2-800 5-5-5-18-2T
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 (Intel P965 Express chipset, ICH8 Southbridge)
  • Hard Drives:
    • Install Drive: WD Raptor 36GB 10K RPM SATA
    • Benchmark Drive 1: WD Raptor 36GB 10K RPM SATA
    • Benchmark Drive 2: Seagate 120GB 7200 RPM SATA
  • Video Card: Nvidia GeForce 7950GT (ForceWare 169.25 WHQL)

The following settings were used in Vista:

  • Windows Sidebar disabled
  • Aero Enabled
  • Display Resolution: 1440x900
  • Performance: Best Appearance
  • Power Plan: High Performance
  • Screen Saver: Disabled
  • Sleep: Never
  • Monitor Off: Never

The version of Vista used was Home Premium 32-bit edition.

With all that out of the way, let's see how much (if at all) Vista improves performance!

Next Page: (File Copying)