Speed Proven Through Benchmark Performance
The only way to know how fast a PC, or an operating system is, is to use it; performance depends on what you’re doing as well as the specific hardware of the PC you’re doing it on. Windows 8 feels generally faster in use with apps, thanks to the memory improvements - and if you find the missing Start button slows you down, there are improvements like the return of the Up button in Explorer (to go up to the parent folder) to compensate.
Artificial benchmarks don’t give you the full picture but they are a good way to compare systems. The PCMark benchmark includes a mix of tasks from playing video and converting it (the way you would if you wanted to play it on a smartphone) to importing photos and changing the size of images to browsing the Web. Those are all things that should benefit from improvements like using less memory for Windows itself and copying files faster, as well as improvements in IE 10. Running PCMark 7 on our test PC under Windows 7 and Windows 8 again gave Windows 8 a small but noticeable advantage.
You’re not going to upgrade to Windows 8 just for small improvements in performance; you’re going to upgrade if you find the mix of tools and features worth having. As always, you’ll get the most of a new version of Windows 8 on a new PC with hardware that lights up features like the extra-low-power Connected Standby (like a smartphone, a PC with Connected Standby can get new email even when it looks like it’s turned off, without running out of battery the way a PC does today when it’s asleep rather than turned off. But it’s good to know that even this unfinished version of Windows 8 is faster and gets more out of the PC you already have than Windows 7 does, because that bodes very well for the final release later this year.