Performance Comparisons between OS X versions

Discussion in 'OS X Mountain Lion (10.8)' started by TheBSDGuy, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. macrumors 6502

    Jan 24, 2012
    Has anyone done any performance tests between Snow Leopard, Lion, and Mountain Lion? Both Snow Leopard and Lion seemed like they were quick OSes. They seemed to respond quickly and they weren't memory hogs.

    Mountain Lion seems quite the contrary to me. I wouldn't call it slow, but at times it seems a little too sluggish. Memory use, compared to the other two is also considerably higher.

    I was wondering if anywhere on the web there are performance comparisons between these.
  2. macrumors 6502


    Jul 17, 2005
    Mooresville, NC
    I tend to use Macs for an extended period of time, so here's my experience from my late '06 C2D MacBook:
    • Leopard: Kinda sucked.
    • Snow Leopard: Huge improvement.
    • Lion: More glitchy, a little slower, but not as bad as Leopard.

    Unfortunately it won't run ML. On my new MacBook Air, ML is noticeably faster and more reliable than Lion. Maybe not as good as SL, but newer features trump marginal performance gains for me.
  3. macrumors 601


    Feb 19, 2008
    The Finger Lakes Region
  4. macrumors 603


    Jul 11, 2006
    I haven't done any specific tests, but just based on how things seem I had Snow Leopard for a long time and it worked well, probably a bit more stable than Mountain Lion. I skipped Lion and eventually upgraded to ML, I didn't notice any speed decrease, but that may be that things sped up a bit with the fresh install of ML and it would have been faster with a fresh instal of Snow Leopard.
  5. macrumors P6


    Jan 24, 2010
    On my iMac7,1 this is what I think of 10.4.11 through 10.8.2:
    10.4 - fast with quick loading times and small overhead, stable
    10.5 - slightly bloated and seemingly slower overall load times than with Tiger
    10.6 - fast, but not as fast as Tiger, not bloated like Leopard
    10.7 - slow with odd UI performance that fluctuates with usage, unstable
    10.8 - fast, not as fast as SL, most stable and consistent that Lion

    In over personal speed, stability, and performance of each OS, I'd rank it as follows: 10.4, 10.6, 10.8, 10.5, and 10.7.
  6. macrumors regular


    Jan 3, 2013
    OS X 10.7 was the slowest version of OS X according to me. I don't have a clue how they made it run perfectly at the keynote, but i detected staging.

    10.8 is actually very snappy and enjoyable, altough 10.6 was much quicker.
  7. macrumors 65816


    Oct 3, 2010
    North of England
    Here's my experience:

    10.5 - fast (I just came from a 5 year old clunked out PC though, so maybe it was actually slow, just much much faster to what I was used to)

    10.6 - supercharged

    10.7 - slow, laggy, beach balls

    10.8 - I'd say it's somewhere in between 10.5 and 10.6. Safari is the fastest it's ever been though, I love it on ML. It's reason alone to upgrade in my opinion.

    But I guess if you were running OS X on a new Mac, it would be lightning fast anyway?
  8. macrumors 65816

    Nov 19, 2005
    My experience based on hardware:

    10.4 --> iMac 17" iSight and Mac Pro 2007 - Stable and fast despite on 7200-rpm drive. Multiple-CPU processing is good, especially on the first 8-core Mac Pro (despite the power consumption). :eek:

    10.5 --> Mac Pro 2009 - Slow and bloated by the new features. Sluggished graphics when all 8 cores are maxed out. Problem alleviated with 10.5.7 update. :confused:

    10.6 --> Mac Pro 2009 and MBP 15" 2010 - The epitome of Mac OS X after they got rid of support for PowerPC-based hardware. The entire OS feels lightweight. Runs even faster on SSD with my MBP. :D

    10.7 --> MBP 15" 2010 with SSD - Hell all over. Graphics memory leakage even until the latest iteration of 10.8.2. Takes a whole lot more RAM even on basic tasks. Buggy as hell. :mad:

    10.8 --> MBP 15" 2010 with SSD - Better and faster than Lion, but still overall slower compared to SL, and graphics memory leakage still persistent. Browsing is faster than SL no doubt. Graphics is faster, but the cost of memory leakage, I need to constantly reset VRAM by flip-flopping GPU once in a while, which is tedious. :rolleyes:
  9. macrumors 68000

    Mar 6, 2008
    No question that Snow Leopard is the fastest OS available from 10.5 - 10.8.. If the ML features don't really matter to you I'd say Install Snow Leopard.. The only downside I've found is some games from Mac App Store require OSX Lion or higher..
  10. macrumors member

    Mar 6, 2012
    Snow Leopard - the biggest overall improvement
    Lion- only better graphic driver in contrast to Snow Leopard
    Mountain Lion - graphic similar to lion but memory management improved in contrast to Lion
  11. macrumors 68030

    Krazy Bill

    Dec 21, 2011
    Those older OS's were also developed with slower hardware in mind. As hardware get's faster, coders get sloppier because there's simply no need to optimize for speed. (Diminishing returns).
  12. macrumors 68000


    Nov 15, 2012
    Is it.. Snappy??
  13. macrumors 601

    Mr. Retrofire

    Mar 2, 2010
    Mac OS X 10.1.x - pretty fast (faster than 10.0.x)

    Mac OS X 10.3 - Is this a new Mac OS 9.1 (the fastest “classic” Mac OS, besides Mac OS 7.6)? Insanely fast (on a G3, 300 MHz).

    Mac OS X 10.6 - Obviously optimized for more than two processor cores. All system frameworks and applications (GUI and CLI) are optimized for Sandy Bridge, including AES-NI.

    (Mac) OS X 10.7.x - A disaster. Apples version of Windows Vista.
    (Mac) OS X 10.8.x - A bit better for normal users. Professionals do not like the new inflexibility and the GUI.

    A one year release cycle means more bugs, less time for development and more simple solutions like on iOS. Goodbye OS X.


    Read this:

    Thank you!
  14. macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    I have used osx from 10.2. I used to prefer 10.4 but once expose came around I enjoyed leopard and then preferred snow leopard once it came out the most

    I use 10.6 on my work machine and 10.8 on my personal. I much prefer 10.8 after long been an advocate of 10.6. Little things in 10.8 that don't exist in 10.6 make me like 10.8 more. I couldn't stand lion
  15. macrumors 601


    Jun 18, 2007
    I just upgraded my 2008 Macbook Pro (the one with the notorious NVidia 8600M GT that I've had no trouble with here) to Mountain Lion last night and after getting everything reorganized and updated (rid/replaced PPC stuff, etc.), it just seemed like the interface felt slower. Well, ML has more eye candy and I just got a 2012 quad-core Mac Mini a few months ago and it feels like lightning so perhaps it was my imagination?

    I realize XBench is ancient but it's still running the same tests between OS versions and identical OS machines to give a reasonable estimate of differences over several passes.

    I had to disable the "thread" test (now freezes in ML), but it was interesting to see the comparisons. I even compared regular Leopard results I had saved as well (10.5.6 version), although that was before my 2GB -> 4GB ram upgrade and the internal drive from its stock 5200 RPM one to a 500GB 7200 RPM Seagate.

    But here are the main Differences in order from 10.5.6 to 10.6.8 to 10.8.2 on the 2008 Macbook Pro (rounded):

    10.5.6: 162
    10.6.8: 170
    10.8.2: 172

    Mountain Lion wins for efficient CPU usage and OSX has improved steadily in this test.

    10.5.6: 162
    10.6.8: 174
    10.8.2: 184

    Again, Mountain Lion appears to use memory more efficiently, although the Leopard test had 2GB of Apple Ram whereas SL and ML had 3rd party 4GB ram.

    QUARTZ (2D Graphics)
    10.5.6: 220
    10.6.8: 208
    10.8.2: 270

    Once Again, Mountain Lion appears to show OSX improving over time on the same hardware.

    OpenGL (3D rendering)
    10.5.6: 160
    10.6.8: 157
    10.8.2: 96

    Here, we see continual drops in performance on the same hardware over time with a MASSIVE drop in Mountain Lion compared to either Leopard or Snow Leopard. I ran this test a few times and it varied somewhat, but ML just plain did horrible. Of course newer hardware would do better, but this is apples to apples using an older test software as well. Most older games aren't going to change so it seems valid to me.

    User Interface
    10.5.6: 340
    10.6.8: 295
    10.8.2: 245

    Once again, we see a continual drop in performance. This is real noticeable performance as well. I noticed a definite slowdown in the feel of Snow Leopard over Leopard and it's pretty clear that ML's eye-candy handling of windows and screens feels slower than Snow Leopard as well (although some of it's new so it's not as easy to compare directly). I'm not sure what's going on here and if it relates to all OpenGL stuff, but that's a pretty sad score given the same hardware.

    My Mac Mini has scores for OpenGL that are 2.5x higher, User Interface is 1.8x higher and Quartz is also 2x higher and that's with an Intel 4000 so clearly even Intel's integrated chips are over 2x as fast as the 8600M GT (which wasn't bad for its day for a mobile GPU).

    Disk Test
    10.5.6: 39
    10.6.8: 48
    10.8.2: 56

    The hard drive is different under 10.5.6 (5200 RPM Apple vs 7200 RPM Segate) so you'd expect the 10.6.8 score to improve, but 10.8.2 is clearly faster yet for getting the maximum out of the hard drive. I got 110MB/sec writes vs. a mere 80MB/sec in Snow Leopard with the same drive.

    Overall, Mountain Lion appears to be genuine improvement in all the tests over Snow Leopard except OpenGL and User Interface. Unfortunately, these are two HUGELY important areas for a "snappy feel" to the interface and window drawing behavior along with potentially (depending on how it behaves with real world games) affecting OpenGL 3D games quite a bit to the negative on the same hardware. I'll have to try some games to be sure, though.

    Leopard was mostly a drop compared to Tiger as well on my PowerMac PPC machine in similar areas. In short, the interface/window/3D behavior appears to becoming BLOATED and relying instead of ever newer/faster GPUs to make up for it. Sadly, in some cases the newer GPUs are SLOWER than the last generation (e.g. Mac Mini's GPU on the model with the Radeon).
  16. macrumors 68040


    Feb 12, 2010
  17. macrumors 601


    Jun 18, 2007
    Mountain Lion (for the most part) is the only version of OSX to even work on newer hardware so I fail to see the conclusion. I'm comparing newer operating system versions on the same hardware, not how newer hardware compares to older hardware (almost always faster due to technological improvements).

    In other words, the question is whether Mountain Lion itself is faster and more efficient than older versions of OSX and that answer seems to be a mixed message.
  18. macrumors 68040


    Feb 12, 2010
    I edited my post in less than a minute. I misread the last portion of your post.
  19. macrumors regular


    Dec 26, 2009
    Nova Scotia
  20. MJL
    macrumors 6502a

    Jun 25, 2011
  21. macrumors 65816


    May 29, 2011
    East coast, USA
    On my old white MacBook (2009) which I no longer have

    - Leopard ran ok, but it was kind of a heavy OS
    -Snow leopard ran excellently
    -Lion ran badly, with choppy UI and bad RAM usage
    -Mountain Lion a lot ran better than Lion, but not quite as good as Snow Leopard

    On my MacBook Air (Mid 2011)

    - Mountain Lion runs very fast and very smooth, just as it should
    - Lion (which I installed just to get a speed comparison) was slow, choppy, and performed badly in comparison to ML

    just my 2 cents ;)
  22. macrumors 6502

    Jan 14, 2013
    Interesting resoults, maybe I should downgrade back to SL.

    I got the MBP with Leopard, skipped for fear to upgrade SL and just popped in Lion when a fried showed me his mac with Lion. Never really dared to use ML but given your scores my best bet would be to downgrade...!

    If I were not so used to Lion now I would do it with out doubts...
  23. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 24, 2012
    I would say that from my own personal experiences, the results that Stonefly posted on Feb. 5, 2013 correlate to my own experiences with the OSes.

    I was running ML but there were too many bugs, ironically in my case with some of Apple's own applications. I ended up downgrading to Lion. I would have preferred to have downgraded to SL, but I have to do development work and Lion can support the latest releases of Xcode 4 and Xcode 3, whereas SL can't handle XCode 4 at all anymore. ML won't even acknowledge some of the apps (like PackageMaker) from XCode 3 at all. There are hacks you can use to work around this, but they seem risky to me.

    Some of the things they've done with Lion and Mountain Lion just seem almost counter intuitive. Gray scroll bars, no scroll bar controls, all the icons in Mail and Finder being gray...I mean seriously, does Apple think color actually confuses people?

    I use a multi-boot system and every time I bring up Snow Leopard with full color icons and better scroll bar control, all I can think to myself is "Wow, doesn't this look better than Lion and Mountain Lion." If I had my way I'd be working in SL, but the reality of life dictates a newer OS, and I've encountered none of the bugs in Lion that I had with Mountain Lion, thus I use Lion. I can easily tolerate it, but IMHO it's not as good as SL.
  24. macrumors 68020

    Jun 15, 2012
    I've updated my 2009 MacBook from 10.5 to 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8.

    Subjectively, the only difference I've noticed was after installing 10.6, which was much "snappier" than 10.5.
    I can't say I've noticed Lion or ML being slower -- or faster -- at all in any way.

    As far as I can see, Stonefly's test results how that Lion and Snow Leopard are pretty much the same. The large drop in the results for ML makes me suspect that all is not equal and something else is going on.

    I can't see any reason why ML would be significantly slower than Lion. However, Lion was such a rubbish OS that I wouldn't downgrade to it even if it were faster.
  25. macrumors member

    Feb 15, 2013
    I have a strong suspicion that Apple optimises and tweaks the guts of the OS to run more smoothly with matching hardware:

    - Snow Leopard is vintage Core 2

    - Mountain Lion is Sandy/Ivy Bridge

    So if you run a newer OS on older hardware it will run horribly. I skipped Lion, as my mini came with mountain lion. Performance is fine, only beachballs when the 5400RPM disk is being heavily used and you load up more apps, but that's to be expected. Otherwise as stable as you expect Unix to be.

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