Windows 7, though still in beta, is already the darling of the technological elite, and users are dumping Vista left and right to install Microsoft’s latest incarnation. I will agree that Windows 7 feels snappier on my computer than Vista did, and I certainly like its featureset more than XP’s (now) sparse nature.
Despite all of this, it’s coming out that XP, while really starting to show its age, manages to surpass both Vista and Win 7 in terms of raw performance. Someone at Infoweek threw together a few varied tasks and ran them on a computer under Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. Unsurprisingly, the XP install ran the fastest. Surprisingly, it outpaced the others by a factor of two on dual-core systems and a factor of over 0.5 on quad-core systems.
So clearly XP, being the leanest of the bunch, runs the fastest on current generation hardware. It won’t always be that way, though, and you can see the trends starting now. Microsoft took great steps toward improving multicore support in Windows Vista, and these refinements were improved upon when Windows 7 began. While XP is winning now, the drop in multiplier from dual-core to quad-core benchmarks shows that Vista and later OSes can gain better performance from multicore comuters than XP (otherwaise, there would be no difference in results).
Is your new quad core desktop pointless, then, since you’re running Vista or Windows 7 on it instead of XP? No, not at all – the new operating systems offer features that Windows XP just can’t hack. Moreover, as CPUs come out with more and more cores, the advantage XP maintains over its successors will drop precipitously.