Windows 7 is capable of delivering better performance than Windows Vista. However, the last three Windows operating systems—Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7—produce quite different results when used on upper-mainstream notebooks, such as our Dell Latitude 630.
We used identical hardware and had three identical 2.5” Momentus 7200.2 160GB drives by Seagate. Even the firmware was the same. We aligned the power scheme settings as much as possible to allow for a straight comparison. The performance result isn’t surprising, as Windows XP with Service Pack 3 delivered the highest application performance. If you want your apps to execute at their fastest then Windows XP still is the best choice. Since it will still be supported for a while, the choice is rather safe.
Windows Vista did better, despite its its poor reputation; performance and battery runtime were rather balanced. You get less performance than on Windows XP, but slightly better battery runtime. Windows 7, which has received laurels pretty much everywhere, loses the performance battle, although the difference will not be noticeable in everyday life. In exchange, you get by far the best battery life of all three operating systems. While the Windows XP installation forced a shutdown after 5 hours and 50 minutes, Windows 7 allowed for 28 minutes more. That’s 8% more battery life.
The results and especially the 8% difference won’t be fully applicable to different system configurations, but they help to make a general decision on the operating system. If you’re considering buying a new notebook, your best choice is probably going to be Windows 7. The performance is close to XP, but you get that extra battery runtime as a bonus.