Life with Linux: Let's Talk About Speed (Day 3)

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 2 min read

One of the things you always hear about Linux distributions is that they are super fast and can breath new life into older computers. This isn't something I've been able to test as my late-2012 Mac Mini is holing up just fine for most everything. Still, I wanted to see how Ubuntu feels compared to OS X.

I'm happy to say that Ubuntu flies on this machine. I never feel like I'm waiting for apps to launch, files move around quickly, and every action I've performed happens as soon as I ask it to. I can't say I've yet to notice anything slow me down.

But I could say the same about OS X running on this same computer. Apple has done really good work making their desktop OS run well on computers with even modest specs, so the difference isn't noticeable for me on my low-end 3.5 year old Mac.

There is one thing that's slower

The one thing that does seem to be a bit slower on Ubuntu than OS X is web browsing. I'm using the same version of Chrome as I am on my Mac, and yet the web just feels slower. It's not that anything is broken, but there is simply a noticeable difference in how quickly pages load.

To make sure I wasn't imagining things, I ran a couple browser benchmarking tests on both Ubuntu and OS X. Now I know that benchmarking tools aren't a totally fair way to measure performance, but it's the closest thing to an objective test I could do. If you know of any better benchmarking tools, I'd love to hear and add them to the data.

The difference isn't as big as the graphs make it look and it's not a deal-breaker, but it does make the web feel a little less enjoyable. And considering how few things have native apps for Linux, that's been a constant frustration for me.

Moving Forward

This series is proving to be a lot of fun to write and surprisingly popular for a typically Apple-centric audience. But I worry that I'm being too down on Linux overall. It's just more fun to write bad reviews, and I have a lot of things to nit-pick to death, but I'm going to try and find something more positive to write about tomorrow. Stay tuned!