updated 10:45 am EDT, Fri October 16, 2009
Snow Leopard and Windows 7 benchmarked
A comparison test today revealed that Mac OS X Snow Leopard is faster than Windows 7 in common tasks. Benchmarks run on a 2.53GHz MacBook Pro by CNET show that Apple's own operating system is about 38.5 percent faster in multitasking with media apps than Microsoft's platform and is also more responsive as a whole, taking less time to start up or shut down. iTunes audio encoding is also faster, though as an Apple program it's expected to run faster in its native operating system.
No direct explanation is given, although Snow Leopard's Grand Central Dispatch feature is tailored to better juggle tasks across multiple cores. Windows 7 is multi-core aware but isn't as specifically optimized so far.
Battery life is also much longer in Snow Leopard and lasts up to 111 minutes in a stress test versus 77 in Windows, though here it's believed a lack of battery driver optimizations on Apple's part has hurt performance more than the operating system.
Mac OS X lags only in its historically weaker 3D graphics support. Without software drivers as optimized for the tasks, the platform is noticeably slower than Windows both in professional modeling tests such as Cinebench R10 or gaming tests like Call of Duty 4.
The combined results lead to a suggestion to buy a Mac when possible to take advantage of its extra speed and battery life while still having the option of Windows 7 when necessary.