Leopard on an 867 MHz G4 Trounces Vista on a 2 GHz Core Duo Notebook

2008 – You might think this is a rather old topic to examine, but with recent movements in both the Mac and PC worlds, it is more relevant than ever. OS X 10.5 Leopard is the Mac equivalent of Windows Vista. How do they compare?

Also, I have not had a chance to test out Vista to any degree until now, and I believe reviews should be from hands on experiences.

As Mac users we have had a long time to get used to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard – over a year – and most initial worries and bugs have been ironed out. Leopard is becoming the standard version of Mac OS X: Since it’s delivery 14 months ago, it has shipped with every new Mac.

But it was not the only new major release of an operating system that year – January 30, 2007 saw Microsoft released Windows Vista, the long awaited successor to Windows XP.

Being a Mac-only user, Vista didn’t place very important in my life at the time, but my wife has recently switched to the dark side, and I have had my first real hands on in the Vista world. To put things straight, I was a Windows devotee until the turn of the century and have an in-depth knowledge of every version from 3.11 to XP, but I saw the light and haven’t regretted it since.

Armed with a PowerBook G4 running Leopard and a Toshiba Satellite Pro running Vista, it was time to put the two operating systems to the test.

System Requirements and Speed

Let’s first look at the hardware requirements for both of these. Leopard requires an 867 MHz G4 with 512 MB of RAM, 9 GB of hard drive space, an optical drive compatible with DVD-ROM, and a decent video card capable of supporting Quartz Extreme and Core Image. Vista has a minimum of 800 MHz, 512 MB of RAM, 20 GB hard drive space, DVD-ROM, and a 32 MB video card capable of DirectX 9.

Straight away you will notice where the two operating systems differ. I am writing this on my PowerBook G4 867 MHz with 768 MB RAM, and Leopard runs lovely, even though it is – almost – a bare minimum machine. My wife’s 2 GHz Core Duo Satellite Pro with 1 GB of RAM just about copes with Vista, yet it is way above the minimum specs, into the high-end realm of the notebook PC world.

Microsoft has always understated the requirements needed by Windows. While Apple may have annoyed a number of low-end G4 users (and some G3 users) with its high requirements for Leopard, at least it does mean a G4 that meets the base requirements of Leopard will run it to a very useable degree. If you tried running Windows 2000 on a 133 MHz PC, ME on a 150 MHz, or XP on a 300 MHz, then you will know what I mean – and Vista is no different.

An 800 MHz PC with 512 MB of RAM makes your PC “Vista Capable”, but 1 GHz with 1 GB of RAM makes it “Vista Premium Ready”. However, you could easily double that for proper usability.

In both OS booting times and app loading times, my PowerBook wins hands down. Vista is very slow to boot. Run Firefox 3 and Skype 3 on both platforms, and they will both open considerably faster on Leopard.


Any Mac user who has used a previous version of Mac OS X will notice the similarity when using Leopard. Yes, you can tell the difference, but generally speaking it is OS X 10.4 Tiger with an overhaul and some graphical updates. What goes on underneath might be different, but to the average user it is very similar on top.

With this in mind, Leopard is a joy to use: clean, neat, fast, and very easy to learn.

Vista, on the other hand, is very different. Windows 95, 98, ME, and 2000 all followed a similar styling with minor differences in user interface (UI) for the general user. Windows XP changed the theming but still had the classic look and feel of previous versions of Windows. I have a number of friends who are PC users with varying degrees of knowledge, from standard users to technicians, and they agree that Vista is a whole different kettle of fish.

The interface is cluttered, slow, ugly, and presents a learning curve for previous Windows users. It’s ghastly colour schemes, horrible menu styling, and sluggishness even on a fast machine make Vista the worst version of Windows I have used. The sheer annoyance at moving or renaming almost every element of what was have been standard features of previous versions is just irritating. Try finding the Screen Savers option in Control Panel, and you will know what I mean.

No way should a 2 GHz Core Duo machine with 1 GB of 800 MHz RAM be as sluggish as this. When doing processor intensive tasks, you can see the sheer power under the hood, but it is clunky and damn right annoyingly bad when doing OS tasks and navigating.

My PowerBook is five years old, has a single-core CPU running at 43% of the Toshiba’s clock speed, only has 768 MB of 133 MHz RAM, and is by no means top of the class anymore, but it does not choke as much as this Vista laptop. Even Cover Flow and Stacks are as smooth as anything, and navigating around the Finder is a dream.

The Future of Microsoft

It is no secret that Vista hasn’t been the success Microsoft expected it to be, and sales are nowhere near what they wanted them to be. The fact they have had to extend the life of XP being shipped with PCs didn’t help, and with the sudden rush of low powered sub-1 GHz netbooks not capable of running Vista (and therefore being shipped with XP) has not helped.

Some people will take this as a biased article, as I am Mac user, but I wasn’t always one. The reason I switched to the Mac world was because of the poor results I was getting from Windows. In my eight year absence from using Windows at home, I still have to offer support to those not brave enough to step away from the Redmond giant.

For any Mac user sitting on the fence and questioning their loyalty to the Mac brand or the reason they use a Mac, I suggest you spend a few days – or even hours – using Vista and remind yourself why you are a Mac user.

Microsoft is hoping to redeem itself with the future release of the mysterious Windows 7 – currently in its early stages of development – and time will tell whether they have learnt from their mistakes with Vista. Apple is to release Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard in a few months, and while it is nothing more than a Service Pack, it is going streamline the already smooth experience with Leopard.

By the time Microsoft releases Windows 7, Apple will be firmly into developing Mac OS X 10.7, which has some interesting ideas surrounding it.

Microsoft may still be king of the operating system market, purely by market saturation, but its crown is slipping. With Mac OS X bringing more switchers than ever before and even Linux gaining some commercial ground, Microsoft really has to pull its socks up to keep its crown.

Would I swap my aging PowerBook G4 for a super powerful Vista laptop? The answer is definitely no, there is no question of it.

As for Vista, Microsoft should sweep it under the carpet as a bad job.

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