If your computer usage requires as much processing power as you can get, one of the factors that might be holding you back from upgrading to OS X Lion might be a possible performance drop. It now turns out that both Snow Leopard and Lion perform similarly on the same hardware, with irrelevant variations that should not greatly impact performance, for good or worse.
The tests were conducted on a brand-new 27-inch iMac with a 3.1 GHz Intel Core i7, which is the top-of-the line model at the moment. Performance was assessed by carrying out several resource-intensive tasks on popular applications and writing down how many seconds each one has taken on both Snow Leopard and Lion. As you can tell from the charts below, it was generally the same, with one slightly edging one over the other every time.
Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (smaller is better)
Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (smaller is better)
Apple iTunes encoding test (smaller is better)
Multimedia multitasking (smaller is better)
Cinebench (longer is better)
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Timedemo (smaller is better)
There seems to be a pattern in the numbers above: code that Apple fully engineers and controls, such as iTunes, works faster on Lion, presumably because it’s been optimized to work with the new operating system in advance. Third-party software, such as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Photoshop haven’t been updated ever since Lion was released a few days ago, therefore it’s likely not optimized yet. Developers will likely update their applications in the future in order to take advantage of Lion’s technological advancements.
Either way, performance changes are minimal, most likely unnoticeable to most users. It’s also important to keep in mind that these tests were conducted on a brand-new computer: older macs might see different results and maybe actual performance drops since some of Lion’s new features might require more system resources.
OS X Lion is Apple’s new operating system that replaces Snow Leopard. First announced last year and released earlier this week, Lion borrows certain features user interface paradigms from iOS, such as greatly enhanced multi-touch support and full-screen apps, making iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users feel right at home. Lion is available from the Mac App Store for $29.