Prizefight (week of October 22)
Microsoft Windows 7 vs. Apple Snow Leopard
Microsoft Windows 7 vs. Apple Snow Leopard
Microsoft's severe stumble with Vista aside, Windows 7 clearly positions the operating system for the future, with a new look that integrates heavily with the new features. Snow Leopard, too, is geared toward the future, saving you space on your hard drive and including some useful new tricks that Microsoft still lacks.
The judges for this Prizefight hardly shy away from telling you what they think about software, Webware, and the operating systems you need to get to all those goodies. Now, everybody has their opinion on the great Apple versus Microsoft debate, but for a few minutes, suspend your disbelief as they explain which operating system is better and why.
Round 1: Interface and designRound 1: We start off by checking out the layout, look, and feel of each operating system. Microsoft's come a long way with Windows 7, even when compared with Windows Vista. But how do the great strides it's made hold up against Snow Leopard, which tweaks an already baked and well-received GUI?
|Microsoft Windows 7 (Professional)||4In many ways, Windows 7 still looks a whole lot like Vista, but the new Taskbar with its jump lists and pinning make the OS much easier to use if you've got less screen real estate (like on a laptop). This is especially true if you like to keep a lot of applications running.||4Windows 7 has major improvements over Vista, like a new icon bar and more flexible window management, but still feels a little cluttered in comparison to the Mac. It hurts to use Aero Shake. While both are really good OSes, personally I am more productive on Windows than on a Mac.||5Although the Aero theme is from Vista, the features are almost entirely all new. Aero Snap, Aero Peek, and the previews in the touch-screen-friendly Taskbar make this the best-looking Windows yet. However, if you're stuck with Windows 7 Starter, you're going to wonder what all the fuss is about.||4.3|
|Apple Mac OS X 10.6.3 Snow Leopard||4Like Windows 7 is to Vista, Snow Leopard is simply an evolution of Leopard. The best new feature is Dock Expose, which has drastically improved how easy it is to move files between folders and applications.||4Gorgeous and fluid, although a bit inconsistent. The basics are very straightforward and there are lots of slick and useful UI extras, like Expose and Spaces. Cover Flow for pictures is great. But many of the coolest desktop features aren't obvious. You need a guru by your side to get you beyond beginner level.||5Just focusing on what's new in Snow Leopard, it's hard to argue that improvements made to Expose, the Dock, and Preview are anything less than cool. Windows 7 could use a large-preview option, especially on laptop monitors.||4.3|
Round 2: Reliability and stabilityRound 2: Is your operating system more than just a pretty face? It's a close call here, with Windows facing an uphill climb against the ghost of Vista. The judges look at crashes, lags, hanging network issues, and data loss. This matchup is definitely Apple's to lose...
|Microsoft Windows 7 (Professional)||4In my month or so of using the RTM build of Windows 7, it hasn't had a system crash once. Like any other version of Windows though, this varies depending on the the software you're using and what kind of hardware you're running it on.||5Sturdy, reliable, hasn't crashed on me or hiccuped once. It also updates itself when needed.||4After 10 months of playing with the beta, release candidate, and release to manufacturing versions of Windows 7, I've not had one crash or data-loss experience. However, that's not to say it's not possible.||4.3|
|Apple Mac OS X 10.6.3 Snow Leopard||4I've been using Snow Leopard since it was released, longer than I've been using Windows 7. I've had three crashes, but traced them all to a beta driver for a new gadget I was testing. I still get spinning Beach Balls of Doom, mostly when trying to access networked drives.||4Have not had a single OS crash, but the Beach Ball of Wait pops up more than I would like.||4Snow Leopard's launch hiccups, most notably related to guest account data loss, were quickly fixed. But you can't ignore that they happened.||4|
Round 3: Performance and compatibilityRound 3: The most technical round of this Prizefight, Dong Ngo from CNET Labs has provided us with extensive benchmarking on both operating systems. Judges also looked at the kinds of hardware that supported the OS.
|Microsoft Windows 7 (Professional)||4Windows 7 is still Windows, which means you can run a giant catalog of software. It's definitely a leaner beast than Vista was, which is most prevalent when it comes time to start up and shut down. For me, both of these were noticeably faster than the similarly used build of Vista that came on the same machine.||3Feels snappier than Vista, but in my testing, that might just be due to the Windows 7 installation being newer. Start-up is not even close to as fast I hoped it would be.||4Starting up and shutting down is faster on Snow Leopard, according to our benchmarks. However, wake-from-hibernation times have been nearly identical, and gamers will appreciate Windows 7's strong gaming support.||3.7|
|Apple Mac OS X 10.6.3 Snow Leopard||4Snow Leopard doesn't feel any faster than Leopard, but some of the improved apps like Mail and Finder are much snappier. I had many problems getting some older apps to work with the new OS--something that's become less of an issue as developers update their apps.||4Can't argue with the numbers. In a fresh install, OS X is faster to do most things. Historically OS X installations don't suffer performance degradation as badly as Windows setups do.||4It's hard to argue with those faster boot and shutdown scores. Snow Leopard feels faster than Leopard and the Boot Camp drivers let you run Windows 7. Legacy users are not likely to be thrilled to have to get new hardware to run the new OS, but Apple's hardware path is nothing new.||4|
Round 4: Unique featuresRound 4: What's it to you? Despite the similarities, Windows 7 and Snow Leopard both do things that the other one can't. The judges take a look at what those things are and make a good-faith effort to compare them as fairly as possible.
|Microsoft Windows 7 (Professional)||4The new window-pinning feature is the cat's meow. It's a nice alternative to giving applications the entire screen, and the way you invoke it is fast, simple, and intuitive. The Aero Shake feature is pretty neat, too, although I prefer just keeping all my windows maximized.||3Improved Paint app and new .DOCX-writing WordPad are nice. I like the screen clipping and recording tools. Home Group fails, since it's limited to Win 7 PCs, and I miss Windows Movie Maker--so sue me.||4Windows 7 is so much better than XP and Vista, it's actually fun to use. Aero Snap, the new theme packs and customizations, and the seriously robust desktop search that finds the search terms in your documents are standouts.||3.7|
|Apple Mac OS X 10.6.3 Snow Leopard||5Dock Expose is just plain useful once you know how to use it. It's also really nice to get a full-size preview of each window while it's in Expose by using Quick Look. I'm awarding Snow Leopard a bonus point, too, since it actually gives you back hard-drive space if you're upgrading from an older OS. For me that number was 6GB, which on a laptop is a big deal.||4QuickTime has basic editing features now--very nice. The screen-recording app is also good. Safari is a slicker browser than IE. Mail.app is very good, and works with Exchange now. Biggest difference: a Mac can run Windows, via Boot Camp. Your move, Microsoft.||5Snow Leopard comes with more tools out of the box: MS Exchange compatibility, iTunes, iPhoto, Mail, and iMovie. These are high-quality tools, too; if they sucked, Windows would have the edge here.||4.7|
Round 5: Value, value, valueRound 5: Going into our final round, Apple has a slight edge over Microsoft. The judges are looking at price, but also at how that price reflects the features, performance, design, and stability you're getting.
|Microsoft Windows 7 (Professional)||3Windows 7 is a great OS, but its pricing model continues to be overly complex and expensive. Users who shelled out the full or upgrade price for Vista just a few years ago need to pay anywhere from $120 to $260 for a license, depending on when they bought Vista and what version of Windows 7 they want. It gets even more spendy for people who are buying the full version.||2If consumers didn't have a bad taste in their mouths from Vista, Windows 7 would be called Vista SP2 and priced like it: free or really cheap. It is a fine product, but it's overpriced for what it really is.||5I disagree with Rafe that what you get out of Windows 7 is merely "Vista done right." There's a lot going on that couldn't come with Vista, such as multitouch support for touch screens. However, it's not cheap unless you look for deals. Students can get it for as low as $30.||3.3|
|Apple Mac OS X 10.6.3 Snow Leopard||4If the price of admission were $129, I'd be giving Snow Leopard a 2 here, but since Apple is letting those who had the previous OS (and secretly Tiger, too) upgrade for just $29, it's a no-brainer. It has enough little tweaks and improvements to warrant the price tag.||3Unlike Windows 7, you cannot buy OS X Snow Leopard as a standalone product. And as a consumer upgrade, Snow Leopard doesn't offer users all that much over Leopard. But just $29? It's a small price to pay for a performance boost.||4Snow Leopard costs $30 for one computer or $50 for five, and all new machines come with Snow Leopard. I disagree with Microsoft's assertion that Snow Leopard is nothing more than a service pack, but it's definitely not a fully new operating system, either.||3.7|
The winner is...
Apple Mac OS X 10.6.3 Snow Leopard (4.1 pts)
Microsoft Windows 7 (Professional) (3.9 pts)
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