Windows Vista Service Pack 1 RC 1 vs. Shipping Vista

Microsoft just rolled out the first publicly available release candidate for Service Pack 1 of Windows Vista, and we snapped it up, eager to see if it's faster than the currently shipping version of Vista. To test its speed, we ran a series of benchmarks on exactly the same machine, first with the original version of Vista, and then with Release Candidate 1 (RC1) of the upcoming Service Pack 1 (SP1). For comparison, on exactly the same machine and on an identical hard disk, we also tested those benchmarks using Windows XP. From the perspective of sheer speed, has Microsoft improved Vista with this first iteration of a service pack? Yes and no.

First, we'll briefly describe the monster machine we used for testing. We'll give you the full scoop with pics of this machine tomorrow, but for now, salivate over these specs for a while: It's a dual quad-core Penryn HP xw8600 PC with workstation-class NVidia Quadro FX 4600 graphics, all eight processor cores running at 3.16GHz, a 15,000rpm SAS hard drive and 4GB of RAM. For our testing we had an identical 15,000rpm disk at the ready, that one with Windows XP loaded, which we swapped out and plugged into the same SATA port to compare the two OSes. Anyway, I guess you could say this well-equipped workstation will qualify to run Windows Vista. It's probably the fastest production PC you can get your hands on, and we'll show you pics, compare it to its predecessors with more benchmarks, and describe its superb goodness tomorrow.

Did Vista have speed trouble? Well, yes and no. When we ran the industry-standard PCMark05 benchmark on both Windows XP (SP2, we hear SP3 will be faster) and Vista, Vista came out ahead by a sizable margin on exactly the same machine, scoring a 10,403, compared to XP's score of 9024, a 15.28% speed increase for Windows Vista. That's a noticeable difference. How did Vista feel, speed-wise? We immediately realized we were dealing with increased speed over XP, over a long weekend of mousing around the PC, running Photoshop and Adobe Premiere, running benchmarks and browsing websites.

The only downside we noticed with Windows Vista was when we tried to transfer a large folder full of files over our 100Base-T network. While XP was able to transfer the 1.37GB folder containing 2606 items in a quick 3:37 (minutes/seconds), the Vista transfer seemed to hesitate at the end, taking a leisurely 12:58 to perform exactly the same copy from one PC to another over our network.

Then when we compared the current shipping version of Vista with its upcoming service pack, there wasn't much difference, with the Service Pack speeding things up by 0.865% in the PCMark tests. The only part of it that's bugging us is the network file transfer speed got even slower in the SP1 release candidate. Also continuing that bothersome disk speed problem is the way Vista couldn't read and write on that speedy 15,0000RPM anywhere nearly as fast as XP did

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