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Comparing Windows and Ubuntu On Netbooks 317

Barence writes "With the arrival last month of Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition, PC Pro has revisited a familiar question: which operating system is best for a netbook?. The magazine has run a series of benchmarks on a Asus Eee PC 1008HA running Windows XP Home, two versions of Windows 7 (with and without Aero switched on) and Ubuntu Netbook Edition. The operating systems are tested for start-up performance, Flash handling and video, among other tests. The results are closer than you might think."
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Comparing Windows and Ubuntu On Netbooks

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  • Can you even buy a netbook without windows?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      At least here in Asia they're widely available, and if you don't buy some known brand you can get them really cheap too.

      • by ottothecow ( 600101 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @12:15PM (#34255326) Homepage
        Yeah but do they come with some magic version of linux flash that is not terrible?

        I have atom based machines that can play 1080p video without a hiccup but try to make a 320p youtube video full screen and watch it stutter and spurt...

        • by John Betonschaar ( 178617 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @12:52PM (#34255906)

          I have atom based machines that can play 1080p video without a hiccup but try to make a 320p youtube video full screen and watch it stutter and spurt...

          Yes that really cracks me up with my Atom Ion-based HTPC as well. Watch a 1080p movie in XBMC with silk-smooth framerates, then open an SD Youtube Flash video in Firefox and the whole thing grinds to a halt. The best part of it is when you go back to XBMC and open the same video using the Youtube plugin, and all of a sudden everything is silk-smooth again, apparently the YouTube XBMC plugin rips the video out of the flv or uses the HTML5 source and pipes it through its own codec. Which goes to show how much Flash actually sucks for delivering web video.

        • by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @06:02PM (#34261376)

          I run flash on many a linux desktop and the performance is fine. Full screen and windowed, and in HD. I read the article and they really were just playing games. There was no real analysis done. Launching programs? Boot up? That's not a measure of the full OS. I took it with a grain of salt, as they just want web hits for advertising.

      • by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @12:29PM (#34255542) Homepage Journal
        Well, here in the states you pretty much have to bite the bullet and pay Microsoft's ransom and get your netbook pre-loaded. Some manufacturers used to install a little application that asked you to agree to Microsoft's EULA before the starting the desktop, which you could then deny and have a chance at getting your license money back, but I've purchased three netbooks from various manufacturers in the last few years and none of them had the app. I just grit my teeth and blow Microsoft away. Anyone who says Microsoft doesn't have a monopoly is blind.

        A few years ago I stumbled upon a web site that sold ultra-light laptops that specialized in linux on their machines but were still much more expensive than I could afford, I think they were in the realm of $800-1000 so I never purchased and I've forgotten their url, some kind of letter-number combination, like or something. I wish I still had that url so I could see what they are charging for those machine today.
        • by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @12:50PM (#34255852)

          The same is true in Canada.

          I just bought a new Samsumg NF-210 and it came with Win7 Starter. The manufacturer has a splash screen to start up either normally or with recovery mode, and with Ubuntu installed it still has that screen. It can't be disabled.

          Ubuntu Netbook doesn't work right. There are some great features, like taking advantage of virtualization to keep it at four cores all the time. (It's a dual-core N550 processor with hyperthreading).

          Out of the box, the Fn keys don't work. If you download an add-on from a different repository and tweak some config files, they can be fixed but it's a deal-breaker for anyone who's a casual computer user. (Which would, of course, be 95% of the netbook market, [citation needed]) That's because the keys don't send a release, they expect a release from the OS. That OS is MS... and it's BS. It is workable but it's not very easy to do.

          Networking Manager does not recover from sleep or hibernate. There are two ways to get it to work afterwards: reboot or ctrl-alt-t; sudo rmmod ath9k [pw]; sudo modprobe ath9k. Don't answer "just edit acpi-support" because that's deprecated and power is handled now by a daemon that doesn't read the acpi configuration.

          Multitouch is also not supported in ubuntu nor is the edge scrolling. That's another thing that works great in Win7 but doesn't work at all in U:NR 10.10. Yes, I've read the link on how to create a new file and hal restart and enjoy mutlitouch BUT there's no HAL in U:NR or if there is it's not in a documented location.

          If it doesn't work for me, good luck getting the rest of netbook users to even bother trying it.

          One interesting thing to note is that the performance in U:NR is about the same even though there's 500 MB more RAM free. (Win7 had 750MB used sitting at the desktop; U:NR has about 256 used.)

          I'm still keeping U:NR because it's a nicer looking OS with a better interface and works better with the way I want to use my computer. I also cut a lot of slack because there's a good chance there's a dozen or less of these books with U:NR.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Could be any more like Chandler from friends?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Haedrian ( 1676506 )
      Dell used to offer them, but they stopped.

      I saw some for sale in Europe, but its usually a brand-made operating system based on Linux .

      You could always install your own if you really want it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Trelane ( 16124 )
        The non-MSFT-beholden vendors (e.g. System76 and ZaReason) still have Linux netbooks, notebooks, desktops, and workstations. Oddly, given economies of scale, in much, much wider variety than the big, MSFT-beholden vendors. I dunno about you, but I've taken my money to the Linux-supporting little guys (who have better service anyway).
    • Not anymore. Oh, you can buy them over the web, but I would never do that. A few years ago, netbooks with Linux were for sale in the shops. That was when I bought an Acer Aspire One (with the worst possible Linux distribution, but that was easily fixed). Alas, no Linux-based computers are sold anymore in regular shops.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Not so much any more. When netbooks were new, they all had linux - largely because they were low-spec enough that even XP wouldn't run, back in the pre-atom days. Once the hardware improved, manufacturers switched mostly to windows. Many (including me) suspect that Microsoft is making OEM licences for netbooks available at a next-to-free discount in order to prevent linux becoming established in the sector and possibly spreading from there into low-budget desktops.
      • When netbooks were new, they all had linux - largely because they were low-spec enough that even XP wouldn't run, back in the pre-atom days.

        Windows XP runs fine on a PII 866 with 384 MB of RAM, made in 2000. My Eee PC 900 (on which I ran Ubuntu) had a Celeron 900 with 512 MB of RAM. Add a competent SSD to that, and in my experience, it isn't too much slower than the early Atom CPUs.

        Many (including me) suspect that Microsoft is making OEM licences for netbooks available at a next-to-free discount in order to prevent linux becoming established

        This is in fact the explicit purpose of Windows XP for ULCPCs and Windows 7 Starter.

      • Do any of these modern laptops come with modems for those of us stuck on dialup (mainly in hotels)?

        • Here you Go [] friend. I've had to pick up a couple of these for customers who bought laptops without realizing they don't come with modems anymore. I don't use Linux so I don't know if it will work there (probably not, funky USB stuff I never had luck with) but on XP and Win7 it works just fine and will easily give you the same speed (ha ha) as you'd get on a built in.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gad_zuki! ( 70830 )

        I dont think hardware was an issue. Its surprising how well XP runs on old hardware. Well, not too surprising when you remember its release date was 9 years ago.

        I think the issue was that these manufacturers needed to hit a very low price point and that $40-60 bulk OEM license raised the price too much. With linux you could sell a machine for $249. With XP you're now at $299.

        On top of that, there's real consumer demand for Windows. When I bought my gf a Lenovo netbook with Win7, her coworkers were really im

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by somersault ( 912633 )

          Consumers like what they know and demand massive amounts of backwards compatibility. A decent linux distro can handle 80% of their needs, but not getting that 20% is unacceptable

          Yet many people bought these Linux netbooks and are happy with them, and many people are happy with their iPads etc. These things are all in a really similar price range with overlapping functions, and different intended uses.

          How long does it take to start up Windows 7 on a netbook? Part of the reason I originally moved away from Windows was so that when I got home I could boot quickly into an OS for basic media playing and web browsing functionality. My laptop at the time had pretty poor battery life so le

      • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @12:04PM (#34255100)
        I think it's more that MS started leaning on the manufacturers to discontinue it and started to charge them royalties for their IP whether they used Windows or not.

        A genuine Netbook shouldn't be running Windows, it should use a specialty OS that's more appropriate for the form factor. And not just a neutered version either.
    • by Torvac ( 691504 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @10:52AM (#34254244)
      try macbook ?
    • One data point: The asus 1215T can be bought without an OS (through - but it's ATI graphics. Yuck.

      I just purchased the 1215N even though I don't want windows. . . the nvidia ION chipset + dual core atom has seduced me. I plan to get debian sid running on it. I have been happy - nay, ECSTATIC - with my eeepc 1000, so a larger screen and dual cores should be pretty sweet.

    • []

      In fact, unless there is some kind of ARM port of Windows, I doubt that you could get that model with Windows installed.
    • [] []

      Among many others, I'm sure.

  • Windows, no doubt. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by metrix007 ( 200091 )

    Some distros may be better than Windows, but not Ubuntu. It's a bloated buggy hog of a thing that is overkill on netbooks, and Windows will beat it everytime.

    Bye bye karma.

    • That'll be why a friend of mine has just uninstalled Windows 7 from his netbook, installed Ubuntu and saw an improvement in performance. Mm-hmm.

  • Given that they're the same hardware and both operating systems have gone through major performance improvements recently, I imagined it to be very close. How close did anyone else think?
  • by Haedrian ( 1676506 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @10:35AM (#34253988)
    Testing wasn't done very fairly in my opinion. On my netbook, Ubuntu works faster, probably because Windows is bogged down by a bunch of programs which open at startup.

    For a start, its not always the underlying operating system which makes the difference.

    They compared -

    1. Bootup (which is mostly fair)
    2. Opening using OpenOffice. I'm pretty sure that the Windows version of this program is not the exact same one as the Ubuntu version. So you're comparing two different programs on two different operating systems.
    3. Web performance - again, he used Google Chrome for one, and Chromium for the other. See above - the windows version is not the exact same one as the linux version.
    4. Flash performance - this part was very funny. Anyone who's used flash on linux knows how crap it is. When adobe start supporting it properly...

    So the testing wasn't very fair. It does not answer "but the key question is how each one performs on low-powered netbook hardware". If they wanted to answer that, they could have written a pair of programs in C to benchmark it - exact same code, exact same program.
    • by DWMorse ( 1816016 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @10:39AM (#34254062) Homepage

      You're right, the testing wasn't fair at all. It was on usability. These things are not equal.

      It wasn't supposed to be fair. It was supposed to see how close general equivalents perform, in a real world scenario, for the casual user. It's not perfect comparison because, as you indicated, that'd be impossible, and as I'm indicating, that's not the point.

    • by jefe7777 ( 411081 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @10:41AM (#34254092) Journal
      I heard that ubuntu lost horribly in the botnet performance test. They couldn't get it to join.... bada bum!!! thank you thank you.. be here all night..
      • I heard that ubuntu lost horribly in the botnet performance test. They couldn't get it to join

        Since when? In my experience, the client works equally well on Fedora and Windows XP, and the BOINC client works equally well on Ubuntu and Windows XP.

    • by zlogic ( 892404 )

      Pure C benchmarks are meaningless. If you spend a significant amount of time on browsing, including Flash games, and typical office tasks, these real-world matter a low more than C performance.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      Opening using OpenOffice. I'm pretty sure that the Windows version of this program is not the exact same one as the Ubuntu version. So you're comparing two different programs on two different operating systems.

      Had the tester used for Windows on Wine on Ubuntu, people would be whining about using software that runs on a non-native toolkit. (The popular conception is that GTK+ is non-native on Windows, and Wine is non-native on GNU/Linux.) If OOo makes up a large portion of why one would use GNU/Linux, and Oracle has done a poor job at making OOo efficient on GNU/Linux, it drags down the value proposition for GNU/Linux.

    • by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .werdnaredne.> on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @11:49AM (#34254880) Homepage Journal

      Windows and Linux bootup tests are rarely fair. They typically test the time to display the desktop from the time you press power. In Windows they display the desktop well before the computer is done booting, where as in Linux, displaying the desktop is all but the final task.

      If you're using a netbook with limited memory (most ship with 1GB or less) I'd like to see how much memory is consumed by the base OS.

  • Last week I tried installing Netbook Remix 10.10 on my mom's IdeaPad S10. No particular reason, WinXP worked ok on it, but I had previously installed Netbook Remix on a friend's Acer One & she loved it & said it seemed to start up & run much faster than XP used to. Mom isn't particularly attached to her netbook, so she said sure, you can have it for a week to do whatever you need to. So, I put Netbook Remix on a thumbdrive go to town. It installs just fine, all the hardware but the wifi is d

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Poorly configured DHCP server that doesn't relay DNS servers?

      Ping is your friend, usually the following three step process will tell you:
      1. Can I ping the internal network by IP? If not, there's something wrong with hardware/cable.
      2. Can I ping an Internet server by IP? If not, there's something wrong with the router setup.
      3. Can I ping an Internet server by name? If not, there is a DNS problem.

      Never had a problem with this myself. By the way, regarding wireless you may want to try installing a newer kernel

      • by Jaysyn ( 203771 )

        The Internet connection seemed to work fine. Ping worked fine. I was able to ping the software repository just fine. I was able to update another Ubuntu PC on the same network. It was something localized to the Netbook that I just couldn't figure out.

        There were Broadcom drivers available for the wifi via the Hardware Update applet that were also refusing to update.

    • I assume with your comment 'Ethernet works fine' that you can browse the net with no problems. What does it say when you try to update?

      As well, have you tried the Ubuntu Forums []? They are simply awesome when trouble shooting.

      • by Jaysyn ( 203771 )

        I no longer have the Netbook but if I remember correctly the error message was along the lines of can't connect to the software repository. However, I could ping it just fine.

        I searched the Ubuntu forums, but didn't actually log in an ask any questions. By the time I had reached that point I was fed up & ready to give the thing back.

        • Were you going for the main Canonical (Ubuntu) repositories? I know sometimes the secondary repositories are hit & miss.

          I won't lie - that's a bizarre case. Too bad it didn't work for you though. I've used different flavors of Ubuntu for 4 years and I can't imagine returning to Windows.

  • Eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @10:38AM (#34254048) Homepage

    The way I read the graphs is: XP and Ubuntu win on almost everything (Ubuntu loses once on Flash on iPlayer but that's hardly surprising), maybe only by a small margin by they do, and Windows 7 takes twice as long to boot as they do. The article doesn't recommend bothering to upgrade to Windows 7 if you already have XP on it, and suggests that Ubuntu would be just as good.

    Now, let's look at *value*: Assuming you can get them all for the same price, they all provide roughly equal value (it could be argued that 7 is worse value but only by a small way). However, if you have to pay *any* extra for XP or 7, then you're just as well off with Ubuntu. So, it's all back to the old question: who wants to sell me a netbook with an operating system that's just as good as the others but which is FREE for life? In the early days, that's how netbooks became so cheap and so popular - I know, I worked with the original EEEPC's because a school could afford them but MS wanted about £50 a license to "upgrade" them to XP. Now it seems either Microsoft are giving people Windows for free, or Microsoft are stopping manufacturers from supplying netbooks with only Linux on them. I vote for the latter given previous history.

    All this article confirms is that, basically, all the OS's are roughly the same now. A bar chart here or there but on average there is no winner. Thus, the free ones should represent infinitely better value. Strange how the manufacturers don't reflect that in their pricing / OS availability any more.

    • Ubuntu just loses on flash anything. It's not a linux problem - it's an Adobe problem. Because only a comparatively small portion of PCs run linux (It's behind OSX!), they just see no reason to invest the programmer-hours on properly updating and maintaining flash for linux.
      • The Gnash free replacment for Flash will hopefully catch up and be useful, which will solve this problem. Open source codecs or implementations of codecs can be just as good as the closed source ones, as Flac and Ogg have proved.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AdamThor ( 995520 )

      I'll "Eh?" because it looks to me like XP was the clear winner. It had the best startup time from cold by a lot (resume times = tie), best application open times also by a clear margin, and the only consistently good video performance. Other metrics were basically a tie, but that's advantage XP in 3 of 5 tests.

      "Closer than you might think" seems to be code for "Not the result we wanted".

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by devent ( 1627873 )

      Strange how the manufacturers don't reflect that in their pricing / OS availability any more.

      What a surprise, there is no open market in the operation systems anymore. It all locked down with MS dictating the prices and the hardware [].

    • Re:Eh? (Score:4, Informative)

      by nametaken ( 610866 ) * on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @12:07PM (#34255144)

      I think you're right to say they're basically all the same. These margins are pretty darn close.

      But on the issue of relative speeds, it would also be accurate to say that Ubuntu lost on nearly every test. Was not fastest in Boot, slow on suspend and wake up, much slower opening office docs, average on web performance, very poor on flash performance and poor on other video performance.

      As you mentioned, that's not a good indication of overall value, but useful for keeping everyones feet on the ground when it comes to espousing their favorite OS's. Ubuntu (my personal fav) is not always best at everything, and it's worth pointing out when it's not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by farble1670 ( 803356 )

      which is FREE for life?

      free would mean something if the manufacturers were giving discounts for an OS-less system. they don't of course. you pay for it whether you use it or not. even when you can find a linux-based new laptop, the discount is either negligible or non-existent.

      moreover, for most people, free doesn't mean anything. their time is more valuable then the $100 the might spend on an operating system that works for them.

      i try linux every couple of years. i want to run linux, i really do. the reality for me is that there

  • Comparing apples and oranges.
  • ...Win7 Aero does not like Slashdot. ;(
  • I'd love to see a comparison between some of the other linux based netbook OS's. I run Ubuntu on my netbook and really like it but some of the other offerings lately have intrigued me, like Jolicloud and meego. Also I wonder if google's chrome os will officially be released as a distro that you can install yourself. I tried out Hexxeh's version of it that he called flow and on a netbook where I pretty much only open a browser it really did make sense.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think the real test should be done after six months of regular use and service packs and updates installed. At this point the windows machine will have its registry so bloated that it will take twice the time for most operations. After one year to one year and a half, the best way to go is to reboot the machine.

    This doesn't happen to Ubuntu installations.

    Also, when your applications are fighting for CPU cycles with virus and malware, your machine feels much slower... and we know a hight percentage of wind

  • by Media_Scumbag ( 217725 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @10:49AM (#34254200)
    I bought an HP Mini that ships with Quickweb - a highly optimized Linux-based alternative to the Windows Starter also installed. It handles email, Skype, media, Web-surfing (Firefox "lite"), and it boots in about 10 seconds. It has a pretty painless "integration" with Windows too, so even novice users can choose what suits them best for a given task. For many netbook customers, all they really ever need is something like this. Supposedly, a ChromeOS netbook will drop any day, and Android tablets have been popping up on the radar. If HP gets its' act together and drops a netbook/tablet with an SSD and WebOS, it could undercut the iPad and the become the darling of the low-priced, entry-level set. Dual-boot takes care of any enterprise requirements, such as a Citrix client, W32 apps, etc.
  • It is about 1/3rd in size and runs faster overall, since it's optimized for sub-500 MHz processors and 0.2 gig RAM instead of Win7 or OS X's full-gig requirement.

    Also comes with Chromium, a nice compact browser that is very responsive to web surfing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I'm with you on checking out LXDE-based Distros, although my previous experience with Lubuntu was not overly pleasent on my old laptop. Long story short it just wasn't polished enough and had stuff that just didn't work - namely wireless. I have found Kubuntu + LXDE pretty much the sweet spot between speed and usability. Although I will say I much prefer Opera to Chromium. Twice the features and just as fast.
  • by dbet ( 1607261 )
    I bought a Dell Mini about a year ago, came with Ubuntu. Haven't tried Windows, but I did try putting OSX on it (10.5.8 to be exact) and it out-performed Ubuntu in every area but start-up time. The especially nice thing was that it ran movies that were H264 720p without stuttering, under both Quicktime and VLC. On Ubuntu I couldn't get them to run that well no matter what video software I used.
  • by Mouldy ( 1322581 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @11:17AM (#34254530)
    ...but TFA fails to mention anything to do with user experience. How are well suited is the OS to small screen real estate?

    For example, On Ubuntu, ccsm, doesn't fit on the screen (Image []). Little like things like that crop up often with Ubuntu and it's really annoying.

    I've no idea of Windows has similar issues because I don't have it installed, so perhaps somebody else will comment.
    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      Dunno about 7 but XP is probably worse. An awful lot of Windows apps have a minimum window size and refuse to allow themselves to be shrunk. So you're into third party apps (strangley usually supplied with the touchpad drivers) to zoom apps (and thus have them unreadable), or perform ALT+click on the window makes it moves no matter where you click, which lets you move windows around even if they are mostly off-screen but steals a hotkey.

      In my opinion, Ubuntu etc. have always done a better job at this. At

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      I've no idea of Windows has similar issues because I don't have it installed, so perhaps somebody else will comment.

      From what I remember, when I booted XP on my netbook and ran Windows Update there were about two lines of useful text visible in the window between the huge expanse of IE crud at top and bottom and then the huge expanse of Microsoft crud on the web page it was displaying.

      I don't think either OS is really designed for small screens, and far too many application designers don't even think about how it's going to look on a screen that's at most 600 pixels high. For example, I seem to remember that using the Nv

  • Nowhere in the test could I find an extensive discussion of ubuntu's background colors.

    How can this be a fair test, if it doesn' t follow industry standards?

  • This anecdote isn't about netbooks, but rather a triple booted MacBook Pro. Nevertheless it is about the difference between Windows and Ubuntu. Performance is not all that matters.

    I managed to kill my laptop's ubuntu operating system yesterday and had to reinstall.

    Why it died: I did a "sudo apt-get install nvidia-current-dev" so I could build some 3rd party app, and then my OpenGL apps wouldn't run (some version disagreement on the nvidia driver). So I rebooted, expecting the versions to match upon resta

  • Antivirus inclusive? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by devent ( 1627873 ) on Wednesday November 17, 2010 @11:46AM (#34254846) Homepage

    Do they have included an anti-virtus application that needs to be installed and constantly running in the background for Windows XP and Windows 7?

    Do they have included in the benchmark that in Windows 7 Starter edition the user can't even change the desktop background and the Visual Styles? Furthermore, if you are a small business user you have to buy the more expensive Windows 7 Professional edition so you can use your Windows in your network.

    Not only you don't need the constant performance drain anti-virus but all Ubuntu versions are Enterprise versions.

  • Actually, they did. Windows is a virus.
  • Ubuntu uses Unity for its current (10.10) Netbook version of the main distro. This has a modified interface. It has a dockbar BUT has shifted it to the left. Since most if not all laptops and netbooks are widescreen, this means it saves space in the horizontal. More reading room.

    Netbook edition also maximized the fast majority of windows and the 10.10 introduces a new trick where the top bar (similar to OSX top/menu bar) integrates with the window top bar. So the Icon Program name and close buttons don't

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