Windows 7 vs Ubuntu 10.04: Performance & mobility

On the face of it, there’s little to choose between the system requirements of both OSes. Ubuntu claims to run on PCs with 1GHz processors, 512MB of RAM and 5GB of hard disk space. Windows 7 is more demanding, requiring a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of hard disk space for the 32-bit version of the OS, as well as a DirectX 9 graphics card.

Windows 7 vs Ubuntu 10.04: Performance & mobility

Ubuntu was booted and ready to go in 32 seconds, and that includes the time it took us to enter the obligatory password

We installed Ubuntu 10.04 on a six-year-old VAIO laptop with a 1.6GHz Pentium M processor and 1GB of RAM, and it ran perfectly well. What’s more, Ubuntu booted and was ready to work within 45 seconds on the ageing hardware – faster than the machine’s original Windows XP operating system was ever ready for action. It was impressively responsive in day-to-day use, too.

But how do they compare on modern hardware? On an HP laptop with a dual-core Pentium T4300 2.1GHz processor and 4GB of RAM, Windows 7 was ready for action in 36 seconds, while Ubuntu was booted and ready to go in 32 seconds, and that includes the time it took us to enter the obligatory password.

When it comes to file transfers, there’s nothing to choose between the two OSes. We copied a 3GB file from a USB hard disk to the desktop of both using the same laptop, and Windows 7 was just a second quicker on average. There was virtually no difference in the time it took to copy the 3GB file from one part of the hard disk to the other.

What about on the road? Ubuntu 10.04’s default power saving is pretty aggressive when running on battery, darkening the screen after only a few seconds of inactivity, and failing to return it to its original brightness when you resume typing. This is easily tweaked by ticking on the battery icon, but we found we had to switch off screen dimming completely to reach a workable level.

Our light-use battery test failed to split the two OSes either. Windows 7 lasted 4hrs 3mins on our test laptop, while Ubuntu ran for 3hrs 59 mins.

Ubuntu: 9/10

Ubuntu’s ability to run on the most parsimonious of hardware and its Windows-equalling performance give it the edge.

Windows: 8/10

Windows 7 is less of a resource-hog than its predecessor, but it can’t quite match Ubuntu’s ability to run on practically anything.

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