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Snow Leopard performance improvements are there, but small

Casey Johnston

Snow Leopard is purported to provide many small but much-needed tweaks to its predecessor, Leopard. One oft-touted tweak is a speed boost, but according to tests by Macworld the performance and speed of a few different computers improved only slightly with many native tasks, and some took even longer.

Macworld installed Leopard and Snow Leopard on even-sized partitions on the drives of three different configurations: a 20-inch 2.66GHz iMac Core 2 Duo with 2GB of RAM, a 3GHz Xeon 5300 eight-core Mac Pro with 4GB of RAM from April 2007, and a 15-inch 2.8GHz MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo with 4GB of RAM. They charted simple tasks like start up, shut down, PDF scrolling, and more complicated ones like iMovie import/export and Photoshop CS4 filters. You can see the final results here.

The chart is a bit confusing about the actual speed improvement, and it is important to note that a mark of 100% on the chart indicates that the task performed was the same on both operating systems; likewise, a mark of 103% means it the task was 3% faster with Snow Leopard, and so on.

The improvements were small on most fronts, and the only significantly improved tasks were shut down, JavaScript, and Time Machine. The MacBook Pro with Snow Leopard inexplicably saw a huge improvement of 42% over Leopard when it imported movies into iMovie, while the the other two computers barely budged. A few of the benchmarks were even slower with Snow Leopard, such as waking the computer up and opening duplicate Finder windows. While the tested computers only represent a small part of the spectrum, it appears that now Leopard's speed improvements for native applications are there, but not mind-blowing.

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