Performance Results Mixed with Vista Service Pack 1

File Copy: Performance Notably Improved

I performed a series of tests before and after installing SP1. The first test was a file copy test, identical to the one I performed on the beta last fall. I did three passes, copying 1.9GB of files (562 JPEG images) from a 2GB Kingston SD Card to the PC.

Pre-SP1, the file copy averaged 384 seconds; post-SP1, the copy process showed a noticeable improvement, averaging just 348 seconds to complete the same task. That's a 9 percent improvement, a difference you're likely to notice.

I'm encouraged by that improvement. It's not life-altering when you're talking about just 2GB of data, but if the performance improvement holds across larger data sets, that will be a big boon to anyone copying data in the Vista environment.

Some Results Slower

In addition to the file copy test, I timed several passes of system startup and shutdown, with a waiting period of at least five minutes prior to shutdown. Here, I saw virtually no change in the system's pre-SP1 and post-SP1 performance. Pre-SP1, startup time averaged 58 seconds, and shutdown time averaged 8 seconds. Post-SP1, those times were virtually unchanged: Startup time averaged 55 seconds, while shutdown time averaged 7 seconds.

Finally, on two additional systems, I tried some extra informal tests, to get a feel for whether the performance boosts were pervasive. Both tests--neither of which are conclusive--actually showed the opposite, unfortunately.

The first test was on an Acer VM460-UD2180C system running a 2-GHz Pentium Dual-Core E2180 CPU, 1GB of memory, and Windows Vista Business: In two passes of copying five 500MB files into a .Zip archive using WinZip 10 (a third-party compression app), the pre-Vista SP1 result was actually slightly faster than the post-SP1 result: 372 seconds to 386 seconds.

The second informal test--copying multiple files into a disk image file using Nero 7 Ultra--was on a Gateway GM5632E running a 2.4-GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU, 3GB of memory, and Windows Vista Home Premium. This time around, too, the machine took about 3 percent longer after I installed SP1 than before.

UPDATE--Benchmarks: Minor Improvements

(Updated 2/11/2008) From our testing so far, the Vista SP1 update won't necessarily have a dramatic impact on your daily computing experience. The PC World Test Center has completed running its PC WorldBench 6 benchmarks on five systems upgraded with Windows with SP1, and the results were very close to those systems' pre-SP1 scores. The systems--a mix of notebooks and desktops--improved by an average 2 points on the WorldBench 6 tests.

Of the two notebooks we tested, the Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2-GHz Core 2 Duo T7500 with 2GB of memory moved up from an 83 to an 85 on WorldBench 6. Similarly, the HP Pavilion dv9500t (2.2-GHz Core 2 Duo T7500 with 2GB of memory) moved from a 73 to a 75.

The three desktops saw a slightly wider spread. The HP Pavilion Slimline s3300z (1.9-GHz Athlon X2 BE-2300 and 2GB of RAM) went from 62 to 63; the Acer VM460-UD2180C (2-GHz Pentium Dual-Core E2180 and 1GB of memory) went from 66 to 68; and the high-end Polywell Poly P3503-3DT (3-GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6850 and 4GB of memory) went from 111 to 114.

We could discern no clear trends when we dissected the WorldBench 6 results into to examine the 10 tasks that comprise the WorldBench 6 score. The one observation we could make was that SP1 helped boost some task performance times, and it slowed others--and that it wasn't consistent across the systems (for example, on our Adobe Photoshop CS2 file opening and manipulation test, performance improved on three systems, but lagged slightly behind on two others). In all cases, the differences were small--less than 3 percent.

More Testing to Come

Based on my informal tests conducted in the first hours of having Vista Service Pack 1 in hand, it's hard to draw any hard and fast conclusions. However, these mixed results do show some promise--and also show that your experience with SP1 may vary depending upon the system configuration.

Our Test Center will continue to perform further, more in-depth testing of Vista Service Pack 1 to determine to what degree Microsoft has succeeded in fixing some of the flaws and frustrations in its operating system. We'll keep you posted on the results (updated 2/11/08).

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