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Leopard vs. Vista: feature chart showdown

Ryan Block
October 27, 2007

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There's no doubt, Vista and Leopard are both extremely advanced, feature rich consumer operating systems. But way back in January when Vista launched knew we had little choice but pit the two in a head to head chartngraph Thunderdome competition. We know we're not even going to be able to stop the epic fanboy arguments about break out over this one, so we just ask that you try to keep it fair. Leopard vs. Vista: it's on.

NOTE: This chart is only for out of box features, and does not take into account 3rd party software. We realize that with a few choice apps this chart would look completely different -- but that's not what we're after here.

  • Green indicates a category with more and/or better features, and generally a better user experience.
  • Red indicates that a category not quite up to snuff. Either it doesn't yet exist in the OS or it just sucks more than the alternative.
  • † (dagger) indicates a category we think are too subjective or not similar enough to judge. These do not have any clear winner.
  • ‡ (double dagger) indicates a category that is in many ways subjective, but that we feel one category is still ahead. Your own tastes may vary.

  • Notes help out with a little background, where appropriate.

Leopard Vista Comments / notes

Integrated Braille input / output, voice synthesis, high contrast interface, etc.

Voice synthesis, high contrast interface, etc.
Fancy file browsing Cover Flow, Quick Look

Preview pane, extra large icon view
Find windows Exposé

Flip 3D
Indexed search † Spotlight

Instant Search, Search Folders
Shell / window environment † Aqua ("Illuminous" / unified) Aero ("Glass")
Tablet and touchscreen Nope

Yep We know Apple has Ink, but that doesn't exactly make your Mac a tablet computer

Virtual desktops Spaces Nope

Time Machine

Backup and Restore Center, ShadowCopy, Previous Versions

Whereas Time Machine may be easier to use than Windows Backup and Restore Center, Vista does feature all the same (if not more) backup features
Browser † Safari 3

Internet Explorer 7

What can we say, we like Opera!
Calendar iCal Windows Calendar
Collaboration Screen sharing from Finder or iChat

Windows Meeting Space This one's hard to call; Apple has better ease of use, but Windows Meeting Space is more powerful -- so both win

Contacts Address Book

Windows Contacts
Email ‡

Windows Mail

File manager

Upgraded Finder

Upgraded Explorer The new finder is great, no doubt, but it lacks the raw power of Explorer
Faxing and scanning CUPS + location aware printing

Windows Fax and Scan It's arguable that Windows may have more powerful printing capabilities, but OS X is far better at printer plug-and-play
Legacy app support † Rosetta WOW64 (32-bit emulation in 64-bit Windows) More info on WOW64 here

IM iChat Windows Live Messenger Whether or not you like iChat, you can't deny it supports more protocols.

Preview files Quick Look Preview pane
RSS / feed reader In Safari and In IE7
Speech recognition Yep Yep
Text editing TextEdit WordPad Apple included Word 2007 and OpenDocument support in the new TextEdit -- WordPad still doesn't support Word 2007
Transfer Mac Migration assistant, Back to My Mac (with .Mac)

Windows Easy Transfer We might have tied this one despite Back to My Mac, but WET just doesn't work very well.
Video calling Yep Yep
Widgets † Dashboard*

Windows Sidebar

*Now with .Mac sync and Dashcode
Media interface Front Row

Media Center (only in Home Premium or Ultimate Edition)

Media hardware support

Apple TV

Media Center Extenders, Xbox 360

Yeah, the Apple TV's good and all, but MCEs and Xbox 360 have a lot of features that ATV just doesn't have (HDTV streaming, video downloads, etc.)
Record TV Nope Yep
NTSC and ATSC tuners


CableCARD / DCT tuners

Nope Yep (x4)

DVD authoring † iDVD

DVD Maker
DVD playback (out of the box) Yep (DVD Player)

Some versions of Vista (but not all)

More info on Vista DVD playback.
HD disc playback (out of the box) Nope Nope Macs can play DVD Studio Pro authored HD DVDs, but we're not really counting that
Media player † iTunes, Quicktime Windows Media Player 11
Photos ‡ iPhoto Windows Photo Gallery
Stereo Bluetooth (A2DP) Yep Nope* *Vista CAN support A2DP, but only via 3rd party drivers
Video editing


Windows Movie Maker (with HD)
System tools



Windows Activation

Automation (user) Automator (with UI recording), AppleScript Nope
Data detection Address, phone number, etc. Nope
Remote desktop (host)

Yep (VNC and X)

Available only in Business and Ultimate
Screen capture Integrated Snipping Tool application

System registry Nope Unfortunately
To-dos (tasks) Yep (from Mail, iCal, etc.) Yep (From Windows Calendar)
Networking and connectivity



Networking tools Network Setup Assistant, Finder with AutoFS, Bonjour Network Center (Network Explorer, Map, Setup, Awareness, Projector), DLNA Both provide tools for different networking needs, and we feel both are strong for different uses

Self-tuning TCP

Yep Yep
Wireless WiFi with WPA 2 support WiFi with WPA 2 support Vista shows signal strength indicators for its available network list, why the hell can't Leopard? (OS X does organize available networks by signal strength, though.)

Antivirus Nope Nope
Encrypted, signed email Yep Yep
Email filtering Spam filter for

Junk and phishing filters in Windows Mail
Parental controls Time quotas, usage schedules, granular application permissions, log viewer, remote access

Windows Family Safety Settings: time quotas, usage schedules, log viewer, some app permissions, and ESRB game support
Library randomization Yep Yep
Malware Downloaded app tagging, signed applications, sandboxed apps

Windows Defender and Malicious Software Removal Tool, signed applications,

Smart Card support Yep Yep
VPN PPTP and L2TP over IPSec PPTP and L2TP over IPSec
Graphics core

OpenGL, Core Animation DirectX 10
Game network


Xbox Live Anywhere
Performance and hardware
Architecture 32 and 64-bit support 32 and 64-bit support* Windows in 64-bit may require different drivers to function properly, many of which haven't yet been ported; Leopard supports 64-bit transparently with no differences in drivers or software
Auto-defrag Yep Yep
Auxiliary display Nope SideShow
Drive encryption FileVault with AES256 support

EFS and Vista BitLocker While we're sure neither will be easily cracked, Apple gets extra points for using AES256
Drive partitioning BootCamp Disk Management Both work well, but Apple supports moving files between partitions

Multiple OS support Yep Yep
Network projector Nope Yep
Network storage AirPort disk Windows Home Server
Optimization The usual multitasking Windows SuperFetch and Windows ReadyDrive
Sync (device) iSync

Windows Mobile Device Center
Sync (network) Nope*

Windows Sync Center *We're not counting .Mac sync, this is more about machine to machine
Usage profiling Location awareness (network, power, printing)

Mobility Center (network profiles, sync, battery / power, etc.)

USB caching Nope Windows ReadyBoost
Domain support Active Domain, Workgroup Manager, External Accounts*

Active Domain (Vista Business, Enterprise, Ultimate only) *New feature that allows your system account / home directory to be stored on an encrypted USB drive
Integrated web server † Apache

IIS (Vista Business, Enterprise, Ultimate)

Presentation mode Nope Yep (Vista Business, Enterprise, Ultimate)
Upgradeable to different version † N/A Windows Upgrade Anytime

Final score
Leopard: 46
Vista: 41

So, did we forget anything? Let us know, this chart ain't static, and we'll be updating as necessary. (And don't say Ubuntu / Linux / BSD -- we'll save that for another time.)

Updated: Yeah, we've been reading the comments and have made some updates to the chart (as we said we would!). Vista's search and preview panes definitely deserve more recognition, which is now reflected. A2DP in Vista, however, is only via 3rd party drivers, so we're not counting that as an out of box thing. And yes, we know, iLife isn't included in Leopard, but it IS bundled with all Macs, so it's fair game.

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