As for shutdown times, in our tests we observed no significant difference between Windows 7 and Windows Vista. On our Gateway T-6815 laptop, the 32-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium shut down in 11.72 seconds on average. The 32-bit Windows 7 Home Premium took 11.57 seconds to shut down--an improvement of a mere 0.15 second. The results were just as tight on our HP a6710t desktop. The 64-bit Vista Ultimate shut down in 9.1 seconds on average, while the 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate took 9.0 seconds--a negligible difference of just 0.1 second.
To say that such results are too close to call would be an understatement: The difference between the two is so minor that you likely wouldn't notice it even if you had the OSs running side-by-side on identical hardware.
Granted, boot-up and shutdown times aren't as important today as they once were, now that many people use their computer's sleep or hibernate mode instead, but in either case you'll probably find only slight differences, if any.
Battery Life Tests
Another important aspect of performance for Windows 7 is energy efficiency. With the new operating system, Microsoft is introducing technology aimed at reducing the computer's energy consumption and boosting laptop battery life. For instance, in a procedure that the company calls timer coalescing, Windows 7 will simultaneously perform certain routine tasks that require the processor, which in turn allows the computer to spend more time in lower-power mode.
In our tests, the Gateway T-6815 laptop gained an additional 15 minutes of battery life on average with Windows 7. Running under Vista, the Gateway lasted 2 hours, 58 minutes on a single battery charge; under Windows 7 it ran for 3 hours, 12 minutes. Our Lenovo Y530, in contrast, eked out an insignificant 1-minute improvement with Windows 7.
Of course, your individual system-performance gain will depend to a large extent on your setup, but our results were still encouraging. At best, your laptop will gain a few extra minutes of run time; at worst, the battery life will be about the same as it was under Windows Vista.
Odd One Out: Application Launch Times
As our tests demonstrate, Windows 7 makes many modest performance strides beyond its predecessor. Our evaluations of the two OSs also uncovered one notable exception, however: Windows 7 is consistently slower than Vista at launching applications.
In every timed application-launch test we performed, Windows 7 took anywhere from a trivial 0.7 second to nearly 7 seconds longer than Vista to open a program. The biggest difference involved the launching of Adobe Photoshop CS4 on our HP Pavilion a6710t desktop running the 64-bit versions of Vista and of Windows 7. Under Windows Vista Ultimate, Photoshop CS4 took 2.7 seconds to open, on average. Under Windows 7 Ultimate, Photoshop launched in 9.6 seconds.
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