Windows 8 vs. OS X Mountain Lion

Windows 8 vs. OS X Mountain Lion Performance Tests     

The two latest and greatest desktop operating systems are now ready to go head-to-head against each other in performance tests.

 Mountain Lion vs Windows 8 3

Windows 8 has finally reached its “release to manufacturing” (RTM) status, and Apple’s Mac OS X Mountain Lion has been out for a few months.  It is now time to pit the two new operating systems’ performance against each other. There are a few things to keep in mind for these performance tests:


The tests were run on an Apple laptop, since it is not possible to install Mountain Lion on anything but Apple hardware. This means that Apple gets the advantage of tuning the OS exactly to the hardware configuration. Windows, on the other hand, must run on a huge array of various different hardware combinations from many vendors.

The two operating systems were tested on a13-inch MacBook Pro (a 2012 2.9GHz Core i7 with 8GB RAM) using Boot Camp. The Windows 8 RTM 64-bit setup process should be uneventful, however it is likely that not all the Windows hardware drivers were perfectly tuned for the MacBook Pro. Nevertheless, after installation the Windows 8 system was snappy and responsive.  See the performance results below.


Mac OS X Mountain Lion Windows 8 RTM
Startup (seconds, lower is better) 26.9 19.6
Shutdown (seconds, lower is better) 5.5 11.9
CD Ripping in iTunes (min:sec – lower is better) 3:42 3:47
Geekbench 2.2 64-bit score (higher is better) 8706 10068
Geekbench 2.2 32-bit score (higher is better) 7918 7549
SunSpider in Firefox 15 (ms, lower is better) 167 158
SunSpider in Safari/IE10 156 105
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 in Firefox 15 (ms, lower is better) 2510 2301
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 in Safari/IE10 (ms, lower is better) 2427 4352
Psychedelic Browsing in Firefox (RPM, higher is better) 1062 5709
Psychedelic Browsing in Safari/IE10 (RPM, higher is better) 3645 7224
Large file folder copy (seconds, smaller is better) 23.2 26.6

Starting Up and Shutting Down

One of the most important gauges of speed for a computer is the time it takes to start up and fully boot.  Also, this is not as critical, but nevertheless important is the time it takes the computer to shut down.

The surprise here is that Windows 8 starts up significantly faster on a MacBook Pro than OS X Mountain Lion does, although the Mac’s OSX shuts down in half the time of Windows 8. However note that hitting the power button puts Windows 8 almost instantly into sleep mode.

iTunes Ripping Test

iTunes a popular app used in both OSs, was used to measure how long ripping a CD took in each OS. This test did not show much difference between the two Mountain Lion or Windows 8 with the Mac OSX coming in a mere 5 seconds quicker. It took Windows 8 3:47 to rip a 60-minute disc to 256Kbps M4A tracks, while Mountain Lion took 3:42. On this test OS X gets a tiny advantage.

Synthetic Benchmark: Geekbench

Geekbench 2.3, from Primate Labs, is a cross-platform benchmark that runs a series of tests like text compression, image sharpen and blur, and memory stream tests.

Both the 32-bit and 64-bit tests for each OS were run in Geekbench three times and the average for each OS was taken. Though Geekbench is mostly designed to test hardware, it can at least show whether the OS is preventing fast access to the hardware. The result for this benchmark was surprising, Windows 8 in 64-bit mode performed better, delivering a score of 10068 compared to Mountain Lion’s 8706. In the 32-bit version of the test the Mac OS, Mountain Lion, was actually faster, with a score of 7918 compared with 7549 for Windows 8.

Web Benchmarks    

To test with a few popular Web browser benchmarks Mozilla Firefox was installed on both operating systems so that the browser engine would be less likely to determine the results. But since a case could be made for using the native browser for each OS, the benchmarks were run in Safari on OS X Mountain Lion and Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8, too.

The SunSpider JavaScript benchmark is a heavily used measuring tool of a browser’s JavaScript performance, put out by the WebKit organization. Results on this test showed that it consistently stayed in the high 150 milliseconds—with one big exception, it was significantly faster on Internet Explorer under Windows 8, which consistently delivered results closer to 100 milliseconds.

Mozilla’s Kraken 1.1 is another JavaScript benchmark, which the open-source browser maker says represents a more realistic workload. Both OSs were close when running Firefox, with a slight advantage to Windows 8. But when running the native browsers, Windows 8’s IE10 fell far behind Mountain Lion’s Safari 6.

A final browser benchmark, Psychedelic Browsing, from Microsoft’s IE Testdrive site, is designed to test graphics hardware acceleration of Web content. Microsoft has done a ton of work on this acceleration technology, and it shows in the results, using both Firefox and the native browsers.


File Copy Test

For this one, a folder containing 20 files weighing in at 636MB was timed how long it took to copy it from a fast USB thumb drive (a 16GB Corsair Flash Voyager GT) to the MacBook Pro running Windows 8 and then Mountain Lion. As when Windows 7 was compared with Windows 8, the operation took a few seconds longer in Windows 8. A Microsoft representative explained that this is because “in Windows 8, each file transfer is scanned to ensure there is no malicious code, which takes a little longer but is a better and safer experience for users.”

Windows 8 vs. Mountain Lion

This is not an exhaustive comparison of every kind of performance measurement you could use to compare operating systems. And indeed with (in most real life cases) different software running on each OS, it is hard to make direct, like-to-like comparisons. But the results do show that Windows 8 can stand up next to Apple’s newest operating system when it comes to performance. In particular what is impressive is with how quickly Windows 8 started up on the test MacBook Pro, and also with its faster Geekbench (64-bit) and SunSpider (in IE10) performances.

Mountain Lion, as you would expect, does not feel like any kind of slouch running on a Core i7 MacBook Pro, either. And you could argue that you would expect the rich environment of OS X to require more processing than the primary-color simple interface of Windows 8. This is especially true for startup, which has to load more of the rich OSs features. Mountain Lion’s shutdown time is half that of Windows 8 running on the same machine, and on an independent JavaScript benchmark, Mozilla Kraken, its Safari browser beats Windows 8’s IE10. Finally, Mountain Lion’s faster file-transfer time is magnified for large amounts of data, too.