Windows 7 Versus XP: Which Belongs On Your Netbook?

Test Hardware And Notes

We wanted to use a current netbook as our test platform for this review and settled on Acer’s Aspire One D150. Although it is still built around Intel’s aging 945GME chipset, it does use a slightly faster version of the Atom processor, namely the N280 running at 1.66 GHz.

Beyond that, the Aspire One D150 is a pretty standard netbook. It features a 10” display, integrated Intel GMA 950 chipset graphics, 160 GB of hard drive space, 1 GB of RAM, LAN, WiFi, Bluetooth, and the usual complement of USB ports. It comes with Windows XP Home Edition SP3 pre-installed. During testing, any tools and utilities installed by Acer were disabled or uninstalled. After ensuring the drivers were up to date, we put the little Acer through its paces in a number of benchmarks.

System Properties a la 2001…System Properties a la 2001…

Next, we performed a clean install of the 32-bit version of Windows 7 RC1 from an external optical drive and repeated the benchmarkds. Since Microsoft provides a wide variety of drivers right on the installation disc and via Windows Update, we originally intended to perform testing using those versions. However, it turned out that some of these drivers were badly out of date and were holding back performance. Installing the most recent Vista drivers greatly improved the situation, which is why they were used for testing instead.

                …and 2009, compared …and 2009, compared

There is one drawback to this approach, though. With Windows 7, Microsoft has continued tweaking its Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) originally introduced with Windows Vista. Compatible drivers enable certain desktop effects and acceleration features, even providing the basis for GPGPU computing (assuming the GPU features such functionality). Windows 7 uses the most recent version of this driver model, WDDM 1.1. The latest graphics driver available on Intel’s support and drivers page during testing only supports WDDM 1.0.

From a performance standpoint, we therefore recommend installing platform and graphics drivers manually and not relying on the versions provided by Microsoft. As newer performance-optimized releases become available for Windows 7, you can always switch to that version. 

Windows 7 Performance Check
Model
Aspire One D150
Manufacturer
Acer
Display Size (Resolution)
10.2" glossy (1024 x 600), LED backlight
Hard Drive ( Capacity, Manufacturer, Model)

160 GB, Western Digital WDC1600BEVT-22ZCT0, 5,400 rpm

Battery Capacity
59 Wh / 5,800 mAh
CPU (Code Name)
Intel Atom N280 (Diamondville), 1.66 GHz (HT)
Chipset
Intel 945GME
Memory (Number of Modules)
1024 MB DDR2-533 (1 x 1024 MB)
Graphics
Intel GMA 950 integrated
Audio
Realtek ALC272X
Webcam (Resolution)
1.3 Mpixel
Connectivity
USB 2.0 (Number and Location)
3 (2 right, 1 left)
Display Connectors (VGA/DVI/HDMI/S-Video)
1/-/-/-
Networking
Atheros AR8121/AR8113/AR8114 10/100 PCI-E
WiFi
Atheros AR5007EG 802.11 a/b/g
Card Reader (Formats)
SD, xD, MMC, MS, MS Pro
PC-Card/ExpressCard-Slot
-
Bluetooth (Generation)
2.0
Operating System And Drivers
Operating System
Windows XP Home (SP3)
Windows 7 RC 1 (Build 7100)
Platform Driver
Intel 9.1.0.1012
Graphics Driver
Windows XP: Package 14.32.4
Windows 7: Package 15.8.3.1504
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    Top Comments
  • harshavardhanr
    Windows RC1 installs the ULTIMATE edition by default whereas netbooks that come installed with Windows 7 will have the STARTER edition installed. The Starter edition should be able to perform better and last longer on netbooks because it is (supposedly) optimized for them. Also, it will have far fewer services running in the background compared to the Ultimate edition.

    Hence, the conclusion, THE ABOVE COMPARISON IS POINTLESS.
    18
  • Other Comments
  • apache_lives
    LMAO just as i thought - its a vista renamed and flashed up a bit more

    i know - BUY MORE RAM - just might help a little? who knew!
    -10
  • duckmanx88
    apache_livesLMAO just as i thought - its a vista renamed and flashed up a bit morei know - BUY MORE RAM - just might help a little? who knew!


    did you even read the article? look at the results. read Benjamin's conclusion. its the moder interface of vista with the functionality of xp. and this is only an RC. who knows what'll happen until the October release.
    3
  • l0st_ins0mniac
    vista sucked ill stick with my xp 02 and 05 till i hear a bit more about win 07
    -20
  • mitch074
    personally, I've found the solution:

    neither. I'm a running a Tux on me netbook. I pity da foo' running either da decrepit or da unwashed behind da ears OSes on them netbooks.
    -17
  • harshavardhanr
    Windows RC1 installs the ULTIMATE edition by default whereas netbooks that come installed with Windows 7 will have the STARTER edition installed. The Starter edition should be able to perform better and last longer on netbooks because it is (supposedly) optimized for them. Also, it will have far fewer services running in the background compared to the Ultimate edition.

    Hence, the conclusion, THE ABOVE COMPARISON IS POINTLESS.
    18
  • bigdaddycool
    Windows 7 is much improved on Vista. Using Vista on a laptop is ok if you have enough cpu power/ram mostly to back it up.

    Windows 7 on the other hand in a real world test, say opening up like 10 internet explorers, photoshop and other things....... windows 7 will be alot snappier then Vista, also it uses less ram and less gpu power.

    Ontop of that, by default Windows 7 selects the most appropriate power setting for the processor you are using.

    Take notice, low-mid range cpu's will be set to Balanced, where as high performance cpu's like quad cores will be set to High Performance by default.

    Microsoft took Vista (good gui product a lil run down running wise) and for a better word tweaked it out...... much like tuning a car.

    The result is impressive I say for notebook and desktops. However, they really do need to fix their minor network issues and IE8 issues.
    4
  • YGDRASSIL
    Ultimate edition on a netbook and then complain about battery life. Hmmmm. Tommy is really losing it now. Wonder why I still come back here after the old good Tommy was brutally murdered.
    2
  • empstar
    "after the old good Tommy was brutally murdered."
    wahahaha
    -4
  • Inneandar
    It would be nice to see some more 'practical' benchmarks like boot time, app launch times or media playback preformance imho... The conclusion already more or less indicates that win7 felt smooth, but this ain't something you're gonna prove running synthetics. I installed win7 recently on an old laptop (p IV, 512 Mb ram!) and to my opinion it is smoother than the xp previously on it (older install, admittedly). Together with the added functionality, this certainly tips the balance for me.
    6
  • pbrigido
    Very good article! I was wondering with regards to the battery life difference between Win 7 and XP if all settings were set to a similar mode. The huge difference between the two OSs seems to be much larger than it should, even without the most current drivers for 7.
    0
  • Anonymous
    I hope Tom's does another test on the SAME(!!) system, when drivers are updated and the completed version of Win7 comes out.

    The lack of a completed version of Win7 and un-optimized drivers makes this test more or less useless. Unless you factor in the obviously missing link in the test.... Windows Vista.
    1
  • Anonymous
    You shouldn't really get hung up on the idea that this is a beta of Windows 7. To all intents and purposes it is as close to final code as you'd need to get to benchmark. Take a look at paul thurrott's analysis of it to get a better understanding of just how far on Windows 7 is.

    While I found the article really quite useful, it answered some questions I had. What I'd really love to know is just what the differences are when running games, surfing and doing the kinds of things you'd really be doing on a Netbook. Photoshop is really a meaningless benchmark for a Netbook, while it may reveal something about multiple cores and a strained system, it isn't really reflecting how the vast majority of Netbook users will be using the system. How about streaming flash in HD on Youtube, these are the kinds of benchmarks that I'd like to see, even if they end up being subjective opinion from the reviewer.

    I'm lucky enough to have Ubuntu, XP, Vista and Windows 7 all running on same hardware to get a sense of what they all perform like, but this is on beefy hardware. Understanding what it's like on 1gb and a very modest processor is valuable stuff for those looking for that ultra portable.

    For me, it'd be a deal breaker if I couldn't stream Youtube and other higher res video on the web. But if I knew that with XP it just worked ok,but was a little glitchy under Windows 7, that would again be really valuable information about which OS I would want to put on a Netbook.

    I guess the best approach would be for people who already have XP to just slap it on their own Netbooks, run their own benchmarks that are meaningful to them and compare to Windows 7 and Linux. Time consuming and a shame tomshardware can't do it for us :)
    2
  • Anonymous
    Or.... You could get Linux, and get a full-featured and beautiful looking OS that comes with open-office, and pretty much anything else you could ever need via package managers and repositories. As much as Linux doesn't get a lot of help from the hardware vendors, you have to admire them, they can create a hacked hardware driver for a new device faster than most of the hardware vendors were able to create drivers for Vista.
    0
  • coolkev99
    linus_torvalds_fanboyOr.... You could get Linux, and get a full-featured and beautiful looking OS that comes with open-office, and pretty much anything else you could ever need via package managers and repositories...


    Speak for yourself
    0
  • Anonymous
    coolkev: Please explain what you need that Linux doesn't have, that you will be doing on a netbook? Please tell me you're doing video rendering, audio production, or some other number-crunching task on a netbook, please. Or better yet, games, tell me that Linux doesn't support your favorite game title that a netbook couldn't even run anyways.... Netbook aren't meant to be full-fledged computers, which means that Linux with it's outstanding web-browsers, office apps, and IM clients, is really all you need...
    1
  • Anonymous
    Linux users: if Linux is so great and secure and mighty, why is it that every few weeks a new kernel must be installed?

    The fact that drivers are "hacked" screams security exploit to me, hmmm. Maybe Linux coders should stop preaching a free government welfare style system and instead band together and do something like an "evil capitalist" and release a common commercial product. Maybe then Apple, Microsoft and hardware manufacturers might take you seriously instead of seeing you for the angry kids you truly are. Heh.
    -4
  • erloas
    techpopsYou shouldn't really get hung up on the idea that this is a beta of Windows 7. To all intents and purposes it is as close to final code as you'd need to get to benchmark.

    The point was mostly that while the OS might be almost done none of the drivers really are. Considering that so much that goes on with a computer is based on the drivers then having unoptimized drivers is going to make a big difference.
    3
  • aft_lizard01
    There is an install trick that will allow you to install starter on it. Either that or throw an extra gig of ram on it to help compensate for the extra services that are running in the background in Ultimate.

    FWIW I gain 50% battery life on my Fujitsu Lifebook with additional tweaking that XP simply doesn't have, which includes display dimming to a level where XP can't touch.
    1
  • Mikee99
    The battery life test was not very fair. Obviously, if you are running Aero, you are going to be using more GPU resources. That is going to reduce your battery life. XP does not use hardware acceleration in the same way, so unless Aero was disabled (and according to those screenshots, it was not), that battery test should not be viewed as a negative. I'm curious to see what the battery life would be like with aero disabled, and I'm suprised that Tom's Hardware of all places would not even try it.

    One of the major under-the-hood changes to Windows 7 was how it scheduled CPU tasks to improve battery life. If you're GPU is constantly processing data, it's going to offset any performance improvement you gain.

    Honestly, it doesn't matter whether you have Ultimate or Starter on it. The only performance improvement you would obtain would be from less services being enabled by default. However, considering that most of the benchmarks are very close, I think that speaks great volumes for how good Windows 7 is. Remember, you are comparing it to an 8 YEAR OLD OS.
    2
  • dman3k
    Linux on netbooks? What is this about some distributions such as Ubuntu being a battery vamp?
    0