Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system is receiving raves in its pre-release testing. While much of the kernel that lies at the heart of the operating system is based on Vista code, several key advances have been made that get rid of Vista annoyances and greatly improve the user experience. Inside the kernel, one important change centers on how multithreaded applications are run. The threading advances provide benefits in energy reduction, scalability, and, in theory, performance.
To check out the benefits on the desktop, I ran tests that reflect the most common use case for heavily threaded desktop apps — namely, graphics-oriented software. Programs such as Adobe Photoshop and other graphical applications query a system’s capabilities at startup and self-configure workloads accordingly. They typically use all the processor cores and as much RAM as they can get away with monopolizing. This approach enables them to provide the fastest performance. So I checked how such programs perform using the Viewperf benchmark (an omnibus graphics benchmark from SPEC, the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation) and Cinebench, which is a pure rendering benchmark from Maxon Computer. Both benchmarks follow InfoWorld’s tradition of using benchmarks that you can download and run on your own systems to see how your mileage varies. Both benchmarks can be obtained at no cost.