UI responsiveness: OSX vs. Windows, iOS vs. Android

Posted: March 30th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: iOS, UX | 76 Comments »


I started using Apple products since 2007, when I started college. I used all my savings to order a custom 15″ Macbook Pro mid 2007 model with glossy screen (back then it was default to matte). And I then adopted iPhone trend beginning with iPhone 3G. Before that I had been a long time Windows user, starting all the way from 3.1 til XP. On the mobile side, I tried all kinds of smartphones including S40,S60,WM6.0,WM6.5,WinCE, even Linux phone.

For a very long time before the Mac and iPhone, I have never had the feeling of “this is it” for any laptop or phone that I owned. But once I embraced Apple product, it just felt right. And I always find it’s hard to explain or convince someone with simply “just right” reasoning.

A few weeks ago, I came across a post on Engadget and that really helped me to put all the pieces together and explain this phenomenon. The video in the article shows a vast difference in the user experience between a 100ms and 1ms lag time. That sparked everything else in my mind for this post.

Windows vs Mac OSX, the keys

Coming from a long history with Windows, I was very surprised to see how fast OSX was. Not in term of very demanding task but in term of extremely simple and common daily tasks such as opening a folder, file, copy, moving stuff around the screen. My very first impression was that the interface never freezes on Mac. Compare that with the infamous ‘cloned dialogs‘ bug on Windows.

So I did a bit of research, trying to understand why. Turned out the problem is much deeper than I thought: Fundamentally, Windows is meant to run on as many combinations of hardware as possible, while Mac was only meant for Apple hardware. I’m not an OS-engineer but my guess is that the number of abstraction layers in Windows has to be a lot more than in Mac. Because of that the overhead is a lot more for simple tasks like user input. And so that could have lead to more processing cycles.

Until today, having to switch daily between Win and Mac on the same machine running SSD, I still feel the lags of immediate responses in Windows UI. I’m a power user, doing stuff mainly with shortcuts and seldom with mouse. Many of the times the OS couldn’t keep up with quick window switching, key presses and sometimes typing ‘stucked’ for a few seconds and then the letters just spit out all at once. It doesn’t mean these don’t happen in OSX, they do, but much less frequent and the ‘freezes’ are much shorter. That brings me to the next point.

I do think that this is extremely important because on Windows, I always have that feeling “what I typed did not seem to be registered” and makes the whole OS seems to be unreliable although it is not. However, on OSX, I don’t have this same feeling of uncertainty, instead, I have a great feeling that no matter how fast I typed or used the shortcuts, they are always executed correctly. This is partly why I always felt ‘just right’ working on Mac.

iOS vs Android, the touches

iOS was built with all the principles of OSX and back in 2007 when the original iPhone was launch it created such a long-lasting wow impression for any one coming in touch with it. While Android was introduced not really long after but the initial impression was not as successful.

There are many reasons to that but personally I would love to credit that success to how responsive the UI on the device was compare to others at its time. As I mentioned, I was early adopter for many mobile platforms and the common (bad) trait of all of them was the huge delay of the interface, from the time you touch the screen to the time something happens.

Despite being a now-dead-slow device, the original iPhone has two extremely important features that are still very fast compare to today’s standards: touch response and responsive scrolling. The device immediately shows something, either a change of color or a glow effect when you touch the screen; and continuous dragging on the screen maintains the same pixel position relative to the finger. Both of these were poorly implemented in other mobile platforms and I would say in the early Android 1.x platforms as well.

That’s why I think Apple nailed it and started the mobile device revolution that are easy to use and great to the touch.

My UX principle: show something, anything

Among many UX principles that I derived from years of using Apple products, there is one that is directly related to this post and it’s not very hard to do: Show something, anything!

What that means is for any user interaction event, on web or mobile or desktop app, you need to show a change in interface. Anything. As long as it gives the instant feedback to the user that their action has been acknowledged and the system is processing the request.

This is even more essential in mobile app or handling network requests because they are always slow. Changing button color, showing an animated indicator, faking partial result list, … are all interface tricks that gives the impression of a fast application.

In one of my applications (Denso), I did use a lot of these tweaks to make the app feels a lot more snappier. Being an internet app, it has to make many network requests to different servers, no matter how fast the device could get, network latency is always a tough issue to handle.

Windows 8 could be something

I’m not bias against Windows or any OSes, I’m just stating my observations as a power user.

In fact, the Microsoft prototype video above was very impressive, not only that, just a day before this post, another Microsoft video became trending : Microsoft explains why Windows 8 touchscreens will be better. It is definitely a great showcase and I think Microsoft, with Windows 8 coming soon, is getting somewhere this time.

Also, Windows Phone 7 is a big step up for Microsoft’s mobile platform. I was very impressed with the responses of UI on the Lumia 800. I have not been using WP device extensively but I think finally MS got it right to the touches.


  • zach_phillips

    Couldn’t agree more. I need to trust my devices. Running with a small lag should be the exception, not the rule.

    I am highly impressed with WP7 responsiveness. I fear though that they’ll drop the ball on this as well. (They already named the platform DEAD wrong and that is irrevocably damaging. How much remains to be seen)

    • I’m also very impressed with WP7, especially on the new Lumia devices. It’s a big step up from WM6.5 but agree with you that they shouldn’t be using the number 7. The naming makes it inherit the bad traits from the previous platform although it has nothing to do with that.

      • zach_phillips

        I suppose the numbers are bad, but I was referring more to the “Windows.” The touch OS has nothing to do with Windows. And people who use Windows generally don’t even know what it is, and if they do, they don’t feel very positively about it.

        • Yeah, you know…I’m a little fed up with people not knowing the basics of things they use literally hundreds of times a day at work or at home. I think it’s an incredible failure on our educational system that people don’t even know what an OS is at the most basic level. Frankly, it’s as upsetting to me as when surveys are done of Americans who don’t know where France is, or how many branches of government there are in the USA. It’s that embarrassing.

          I know some people may think that this is a snobby attitude to take, but I disagree completely. There was a time when people were proud of their education and strove to learn more – and for good reason. It’s not a bad thing to know things and encourage others to learn as well. I think people should be taught, at the very least, the basics about computing before going out into the world today. It’s as horrifying to me when people don’t know a thing about Evolution and graduate from a school as when they don’t know a thing about computers and go out into the workforce. Frankly, there isn’t anything in our lives which isn’t governed by computers anymore and people should start learning the basics.

          If somebody is above seventy years old, I can understand their difficulty with such things (although there are many older people who do understand these things very well). But as for the rest of Western society at least, we need to get them up to speed. And when people say “I’m not good with computers”, please don’t let that slide. People weren’t good with lots of things which changed the world when they were in the midst of the change, but it didn’t mean that they didn’t have to eventually learn it on a practical level.

          BTW, I know you weren’t really going on about that. Your comment was right on the mark, but I just had to respond to the underlying cause of it. =)

  • Lionel

    “sometimes typing ‘stucked’ for a few seconds and then the letters just spit out all at once”
    “what I typed did not seem to be registered”
     Are you using a wireless keyboard? It happens all the time for Windows with wireless keyboard. Mac & its wireless keyboard is not the case, but this can be solved easily using a wired keyboard. Last time I get myself a razer keyboard and I thought it will be nice but turns out it’s super less responsive than my $10 Logitech wired keyboard.

    • i have always been using wired keyboards and mice

  • BlogReader

    If you want to say that Mac, iPhone, or any other Apple products, are always the best, just go ahead and say it. No need to write a full article just to demonstrate a biased point view.Windows and Mac (and iPhone and Android) co-exist for different purposes. They are just different species in the computing world. Any better-than-average users with ONLY Mac (or iPhone) for a while will be frustrated with the lack of applications, flexibilities, among other things. Not to mention the over-inflated price tag. Not a good bargain for perhaps a few hundred microseconds of UI response time.

    • Vlb321

      what’s wrong with writing down? Write once for 1000 ppl to read or talk 1000 times. Think abt efficiency plz.

      To compete is to make things better. I bet if tmr there is one crappy cheapy phone entering market, of which every func can be done by others, you still say “it is there for its own purpose”

    • Gusta

      Competition breeds excellence, I guess.

    • Thatguy

      “Any better-than-average users with ONLY Mac (or iPhone) for a while
      will be frustrated with the lack of applications, flexibilities, among
      other things. Not to mention the over-inflated price tag.” Any better than average user would prefer a superior OS. Sorry, but I’m not frustrated with lack of applications, flexiblity or any other “things” on a Mac. That’s what running a VM for Windows only tasks is for. And honestly there aren’t many times I need to do that. Every Microsoft application I use that is a Mac version is superior as well. Be it Outlook, Office products, etc. The interfaces are so much cleaner designed for a Mac than on a native Microsoft OS. I’ve used Windows for years and just in the last year switched to a Mac workstation at my job. I used to be, and still am a Linux guy for our web servers and applications. So I am right at home on Mac. I love Linux but the support for most applications suck. OS X is way ahead in support for the applications I use. I can fire up a terminal and get shit done. While OS X has plenty of great GUIs for doing system tasks, I’d much rather open up a terminal and get it done faster. I’m a software engineer and yes I am biased to a point just like most everybody is, but I will never pick Windows over OS X for any thing. It just doesn’t compare in speed and efficiency. Windows does have some good features and fits the bill for most general users and gamers(Windows is still far ahead for most high-end gaming, I will give it that). But if I’m trying to get some real work done, I know what I’m using.

    • Welcome to 1995, when much of this would have been true. I an a better-than-average user, I tinker with computers and operating systems for fun, and I managed PC support areas since well before Windows was first introduced and know Windows quite well.  Application software is an argument in favor of Mac, not against them,  While there are fewer Mac apps, in many cases the apps are FAR better than similar Windows apps anywhere near their price range – examples include Boinx TV, Pixelmator, ScreenFlow, etc. Mac software also behaves in a far more consistent fashion in terms of user interface, and, my favorite, there is a  good virtual desktop system built into the OS. It has reached the point where the only reason I need to run my Windows desktop at all is Microsoft Access, which I use maybe a few times a year – and, of course, Windows (I run 8 Consumer Preview) and Linux run just fine on Macs if you need them.

      Also, the price tag is not overinflated.  If you think that a Windows machine with the same specs as a Mac will perform equivalently, think again.  Windows is a much more resource gobbling OS. Netbooks exposed this quite nicely. They ran Linux, and could be hacked to run OS X, quickly, but attempts to run a modern version of Windows – Vista or 7, failed so badly that even today most Windows netbooks use XP.  Windows is badly in need of what Apple did with OS X, blowing it up and starting with a small, fast core, and dumping the Registry for good.

      Macs also have other advantages – better build quality and reliability (check out the surveys in PC (not Mac) magazines each year), better hardware, like the MagSafe adapter on laptops, a FAR better OS (even compared to Windows Ultimate), better support, including lots of free classes as Apple stores, the ability to move apps from one folder to another or one machine to another without reinstalling them, buying apps from the Mac App store and automatically being able to use them on multiple Macs without having to key in 50 digit serial numbers, far cheaper OS upgrades, etc.

      There are reasons why tech-savvy podcasters and journalists overwhelmingly use Macs.  Even CNET’s Molly Wood, a long time Apple hater, is admitting that Macs work better.  The more you know, the MORE likely you are to use a Mac – and, if your aim is to tinker as much as possible, Windows isn’t the best choice there either, Linux is.

    • actual_it_guy

      lol, if you want to say you don’t like apple products, just say it. Don’t make up lame false excuses about software availability (hint, i can run IE 7 & without windows all together:D)

      also, iOS products cost about the same as their android counterparts. 

      Not to mention the things i can do on no other platform. for iOS this is easy because of the application quality and #’s advantages. 

      for OS X it’s more subtle. Compare core audio for example, to 7’s audio management tool’s. 

      There’s a reason people like apogee and metric halo (some of the best audio I/O makers in the world regarding a to d’s and h and pre amps, 

      don’t even have windows drivers. 

      le sigh

    • Ex2bot

       You know iOS has more apps than Android, right?

      (Now I know Android has plenty of apps, but look carefully at his message.)

      Also, Mac OS X is UNIX, a very, very flexible and powerful operating system. Saying Mac users will be frustrated by lack of flexibility is inaccurate, too.

      (Now I know Windows is very, very powerful and flexible, too. But come on, think before you post people.)

  • 5 years ago. The OSX vs Windows is valid. Now, it doesnt even matter. If not for developing  ios app, I wont bother getting a mac.
    With today’s hardware, esp SSD. You get kick ass PC with the same bucks you’re getting your imac. 

    • actual_it_guy

      you can also hackintosh if you wanted to. 

      apple makes good products tho. I feel bad for people who think they are too cool to try them out. 

  • Yabbkuja

    Somewhat biased, ‘Somewhat’, yes. But meh, I don’t care which as long as it does my job right. I don’t know about WP 7 though, seeing its future as somehow bleak though way better than any version of WM (hey, I had a Dopod U1000 for years now, running WM 5, slow as hell xD, but pretty fun while it lasted, as in, not having a more powerful smartphone).

  • someguy

    Sorry, the osx vs. windows part is a fairly poor comparison, on an 800$ windows desktop with windows 7, it responds instantly, key presses are instant, etc. I know what you’re talking about, as I’ve experienced it, but it isn’t a problem on a decent modern pc, it’s a problem of the past. 

    • Justin w

      Are we supposed to take people who have never opened more than one browser tab seriously? On the latest hardware I frequently have bouts of 10-15 seconds for a File Save As dialog to give the slightest inclination it intends to draw itself.

      • Foljs

        Are we supposed to take people who have never opened more than one browser tab seriously?

        Of course. It shows that they focus when they read something.

    • Pat

      Great!  So how do I make my $1500 Windows desktop perform as well as your $800 one?  It’s still a huge problem for me at work.

      My Mac laptop at home has 1/4 the RAM, 1/2 the CPUs, and 1/2 the disks, and still feels more responsive.

      Seriously, there seem to be a small but vocal set of Windows users who pop up in these threads and say “It’s not a problem!”, but they never say what magic trick they have up their sleeves for the rest of us.

      Every modern system is fine out-of-the-box, but install a database on a Windows system and suddenly performance is very uneven, while installing the same database with the same data on my Mac or Linux box doesn’t hurt the UI at all.

      • Melanie

        Bullshit, you loser.

  • “The lag of a Mac OS X cursor is at least twice bigger than Windows’ cursor and yes, a human eye can surely notice that.” http://d43.me/blog/1205/the-cause-for-all-your-mac-os-x-mouse-annoyances/

    • Polimon

      There is no cursor lag in Mac OS X. None. I have owned 4 Macs in the last 13 years, and maintained numerous other Macs for friends, and have never observed the slightest cursor lag on any of these machines. The article you link is nothing but made up propaganda.

      • Dae

         Maybe the double click bug is also a propaganda:
        http://d43.me/blog/1059/mac-os-x-occasionally-ignores-clicks/

        Or the fact that Mac OS X for at least 6 years had a bug with jumping cursor (which was more obvious with high precision mice and less obvious with cheap mice):
        http://d43.me/blog/476/mouse-cursor-skipping-jumping-bug-in-mac-os-x/

        I’ll quote yourself, “help yourself to some knowledge”.

        Speaking of lag. We’re not 100% sure about the reasons for it. That’s why my article is vague. But we know, however, that Mac OS X filters mouse movements and it does it in correlation with screen refresh rate. Is it an effect vertical sync? I’m not sure. But if you somehow manage to disable GPU acceleration (QuartzExtreme/CoreGraphics) there will be no lag, and it’s pretty much noticeable.

        Another option: when booting your Mac, hold Option. A boot menu will appear. While I believe there is another bug with mouse movement in boot menu (subpixel movements are discarded), you can still feel that the cursor movement is somewhat more responsive.

        Another option. Try Synergy with mouse connected to other computer than your Mac.
        http://synergy-foss.org/download/

        If you tried all above and still don’t see the difference, congrats – thats some peculiarity (or a problem) of your eyesight.

        • actual_it_guy

          lol Dae, does it actually make you sleep better if you feel your machine is better than his based on brand? 

          must be a tough life then, Mouse acceleration is different, gratis, it’s not broken on either system. 

          how stupid do you have to be? 

          • Dae

            Mouse acceleration is not broken.

            I use Windows and OS X every day, and like them both.

            And I fail to see your logic.

          • actual_it_guy

            different =! broken

          • Auban80

            Dae is not talking about his machine being better than anyone elses.
            Dae is also not talking about acceleration.
            He is talking about a mouse delay/lag that many people will never notice because they are used to it. Does it make it any better? NO!
            There IS a delay and I had to install Windows just to be able to play Starcraft 2 at a higher level.
            If it wasn’t for this bug I would use OS X exclusively.

            So please stop with the flaming comments.

        • Polimon

          Hogwash. 100% B.S. I’ve used Mac OS X since the beginning on numerous Macs, with numerous mice, and never saw any of this. You’re just an Apple hater grasping at straws.

          • Dae

            Both lag and cursor jumping bugs have been confirmed by Apple. As for the latter, Apple even contacted me through BugReporter in July asking to check if I still experience the problem in Lion.

          • Polimon

            In any operating system, there are occasional combinations of hardware/software (usually 3rd party) that produce stray bugs. But it’s irresponsible to write about this as if the entire Mac OS X experience suffers from it regularly, because it does not.

          • Dae

            Your ignorance is amusing me.

          • Polimon

            Ignorance? I am reporting on what Ive seen in front of my face  on every Mac OS X system I’ve used for over a decade. There is no cursor lag. 

          • Auban80

            Please just stop. It has been confirmed whether you like to believe it or not. Have you played Starcraft 2 on a high level? It is impossible on OS X with the mouse lag. Gamers are a lot more sensitive to such issues.

          • Polimon

            Why don’t you tell Kent Nguyen to stop? He wrote the article, and he agrees with me. 

          • Auban80

            To write an article and to agree is not the same as being right. I USE OS X for everything except gaming, so I’m not an Apple hater.

          • Kristian

            Lol this discussion is amusing. Coming from a software engineer. I have played Diablo 3 beta on both Win7 (Bootcamp) and OSX10.7 and there is no difference at playability and lag. Both at maxed settings. Maybe its just my machine though, using Macbook Pro 8,2

          • hmmm

            yup. it’s a simple solution to all you mac dick-riders… think your OSX curve/lag is so dope? ok, prove it with a high score. so far, it’s pretty damn unanimous: OSX mouse SUCKS. now stfu & let us come up with a solution instead of going on about how there’s “nothing wrong with it”.

      • Dae

         By the way, they didn’t fix all the problems with high-precious mice in Lion. I still have to write about it.

      • Simon East

        I’ve noticed cursor and UI-lag on most of the Macs I’ve used, which is why I’m still a Windows guy (yeah, the opposite experience of the blog poster).  So I don’t think they’re completely making this up.

      • Oh there is a lag and it is VERY problematic for design. I’ve work with every manner of computer and OSX mac based computers are the worst. Especially my Mac Pro. I assume the latency of the cursor does not matter to whatever field you earn a living off of.

        Model Name: Mac Pro
        Model Identifier: MacPro5,1
        Processor Name: 6-Core Intel Xeon
        Processor Speed: 2.66 GHz
        Number of Processors: 2
        Total Number of Cores: 12
        L2 Cache (per Core): 256 KB
        L3 Cache (per Processor): 12 MB
        Memory: 48 GB
        Processor Interconnect Speed: 6.4 GT/s
        Boot ROM Version: MP51.007F.B03
        SMC Version (system): 1.39f11
        SMC Version (processor tray): 1.39f11

  • So the cursor lag in OSX doesn’t bother you? 
    http://d43.me/blog/1205/the-cause-for-all-your-mac-os-x-mouse-annoyances/

    • Polimon

      There is no cursor lag in OS X. That article is a blatant lie. I’ve used Macs for the last 13 years, and the response of the cursor is always instantaneous, on every Mac.

    • actual_it_guy

      imo it’s more what you grew up with. There is no appreciable lag in OS X that you can compare to the click time android has vs. iOS. 

      that blog is just the opposite of this one. 

    • staraffinity

      I know this is an old discussion, but it’s important to remember that this about input lag (i.e. the delay from moving the mouse until the cursor reacts on the screen) depends on other things than just the operating system. Different displays seems to give different amount of latency for example.

      For some reason I have a noticeable input latency when moving the mouse in OS X 10.9.1 on my Hackintosh, but in OS X 10.9.1 at work on a MacBook Pro from 2010 it’s not like that at all. There the input response is very quick. So simply blaming only the operating system for this seems to be not taking everything into account.

  • What about Ubuntu?

  • ZoubIWah

    i disagree, windows ui is much snappier than osx
    and its been that  way in xp as well, and even with lower resources

    now android vs ios is another story

  • Matthew


    Many of the times the OS couldn’t keep up with quick window switching, key presses and sometimes typing ‘stucked’ for a few seconds and then the letters just spit out all at once.”

    That’s called “shit hardware / drivers”, and isn’t inherit in Windows 7.

  • Is this comparision about Windows being run in an emulator or virtual machine under OSX?

  • Pat

    “Windows is meant to run on as many combinations of hardware as possible, while Mac was only meant for Apple hardware. I’m not an OS-engineer but my guess is that the number of abstraction layers in Windows has to be a lot more than in Mac.”

    I’ve worked on operating systems before, and I don’t think any part of this is true.  Running on more diverse hardware doesn’t necessarily imply a greater number of abstraction layers, nor does Windows necessarily have more abstraction layers (depending on how you count), nor does having a greater number of layers necessarily make the user experience slower.

    Through version 10.5, Mac OS X ran on Intel and PowerPC, arguably a far more diverse set of architectures than any two machines you could run Windows on.

    • Anonymous

       I think he had no ideas what abstraction layers really mean when writing this.

  • MacGeek

    Mac interface is smooth (no “cloned dialogs”) because is double buffered.
    That means that the screen image is composed in a buffer outside screen, and only when ready copied instantaneously on the screen memory. This removes flickering.
    Of course this requires in total a little more time and memory (double memory and the time to copy the composed image between the two buffers), but the result is much better.
    But you have to have an optimized code to do it fast and smooth. M$ tried to copy that in Vista, but was too slow for them and reverted back to single buffer in seven.

  • Viswakarma

    I use Windows at work, it feels snappier but the edits don’t take immediately. One has to wait for a few seconds for the edits to show up. Specifically in Microsoft Exchange the e-mails I have sent out with out doing a “save”, always ended up as garbled messages at the receiving end!!!

  • Starman_Andromeda

    This is a brilliant, evidence-based, well-reasoned piece.  Thanks for writing it!

    The “magic” that we experience daily with our iPads and iPhone is related to the responsiveness– the instant feedback and the smooth, silky smooth reactions and scrolling.  It makes them a treat, a joy to use.  I’d never switch even if the opposition (I mean competition) cost hundreds of dollars less (which, of course, it sometimes does)! (OTOH, the iPad came in hundreds of dollars less than expected and our first generation remains snappier and more fun to use than our a couple of years old Macbook Pro.

  • I don’t have a problem at all with my MacBook Pro. I absolutely love it. I find that Mac, overall, is much, much, better than the competition. It’s fast, responsive, and elegant. I have a terminal command line anytime I want with a real *nix core I can use like on any other Linux box.

    Before anyone says “fangirl” to me, I’ve mostly been on Windows in the last ten years, only trading in my beautiful gamer-level Windows laptop for a brand new MacBook Pro with an SSD in the last several months. I couldn’t be happier. I did have an older PowerBook Pro for a couple of years several years ago, but my main computer was a custom built PC with water cooling (which I installed and rigged up myself). While I’m not an uber-geek who tinkers too much, I at least have the bona fides of being somewhat computer literate.

    Overall, Mac apps work much more smoothly and are designed much more nicely than Windows apps. I do love Ubuntu for server work, and the desktop UI is much nicer the last few years. But Mac definitely remains my favorite.

    I do have VM installations of Windows and Ubuntu, but I almost never, ever, use them. Why would I feel the need? I don’t use IE, and I don’t use Access or any other “MS-only” products, so I don’t really need to fire up Windows for anything at all. I have Word on my Mac, but I prefer Pages by far. Linux is great on my server, and that’s all I really need it for. The only reason I have a Linux partition is as a clone of my server stuff to test on at times – rarely needed.

    Oh, and I’ve never noticed cursor lag on Mac. Dunno about that article which was posted in the comments here twice, but I, at least, haven’t had a single problem with cursor lag whatsoever.

    In the end, people should use what works for them and what they like. But I’m so sick and tired of hearing people bashing Macs as if they’re not for professional. As if. In my view, Macs are for professionals much more than Winboxes are. Again: I had Windows for years and years, and I switched. And with the way Microsoft is going, I’m not switching back anytime soon.

  • Anotherscott

    I completely agree about instantaneous response/feedback, and that it is an advantage of the Mac over some other systems. But the irony is, having come from “classic” Mac (pre-OS X), I have always found it to be one of my biggest frustrations of OS X. As responsive as it seems to be compared to what else is around, it’s not as responsive as Macs used to be “in the old days” even despite their much slower processors. I suspect it is largely a by-product of having switched from cooperative to preemptive multitasking, though I don’t think it’s the whole issue, I think it comes from other architectural differences as well.

    In fact, back when you could boot a Mac into either OS X or “Classic,” on any given machine, people always said Classic was faster… and my suspicion was that people were responding, not so much to greater speed, but greater responsiveness. That is, it wasn’t so much that tasks completed more quickly, but rather, the system “felt” snappier. (Though also, there was a time you could turn off virtual memory, and that can create real speed benefits as well.)

    Although this lag vis-a-vis “classic” has been overcome to some extent by ever faster processors since then, it’s still there with some frequency. 

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  • Jeffrey James

    I find that osx is much slower than windows 7. when I double click the icon to open microsoft word in windows it’s like… “BLAM! TYPE NOW BITCH, I’M READY!” when I click word or pages in osx (snow leopard) it’s more like “oh hi! I see that you clicked something. cool. let me bounce the icon up and down for a bit. did you like that? good. ok now I’ll kind of show you the interface but not let you type anything yet. I just have to do a few more things and then the program will actually be open and ready. dum de do de dum… ok, ready! you can start typing now.” 

    this comparison is all done on the same computer (a spring 2009 iMac).

  • Jeffrey James

    *edit*
    I don’t know how to delete this. but oh how I wish I could…

  • Eventually, iPad will use OSX. It’s due to current hardware limitation that prevents that from happening (slow ass ARM CPU). Future Intel CPU and OSX on the iPad will turn it from a superficial device to a full blown computer, or a next-gen Mac, if you will. OS X’s implementation of iOS features and Intel’s alarming progress in the low TDP field is proof to this imminence.

  • Maciscrap

    Mac OS X sucks big time. Hardly any apps and really basic for noobs. The iphone is even worse. Its basically just a number of pages of apps that you swipe between nothing more. Furthermore on IOS all u can do is share with twitter or email whereas on android you can share with whatever apps u have installed facebook dropbox etc. Also on android you can get AIDE which is a java integrated development enviornment allowing you to make apps directly on the phone. Oh yeah and no mac is as fast as my computer although i dual boot mac and windows and mac does run very fast on my pc.

  • Jo

    This is a good post. These are practices I was duely aware off even about 13 years ago when implementing software for a CAM platform. We migrated over to Java, and had a lot of complaints about how bad the new implementation was. We knew it was just perception, because all the core taks ran exactly the same speed, as they were implemented in C.
    After carefully touching up the GUI, and making sure the customer got immediate gratification by making sure some immediate response came back, our customers were raving how suddenly the software was faster than ever.
    Changes implemented were sometimes as subtle as making sure that a button got depressed after clicking it.
    I am not sure if this is all so much an issue still, maybe the whole event chain is running as a separate thread … I am a little out of what swing is.
    Anyhow, again, a good post.

  • Jo

    I assure you it is not a problem of the past.
    If you run a process so complex it takes up 30 mins to complete, you want to make sure 1./ it doesnt hog up the machine or program completely, and 2./ the user gets some immediate feedback that we are actually doing something with his request.

  • Jo

    Give your Windows laptop/pc to your companies’ IT department. A little virus scanner, a pinch of monitoring, a dash of inventory control trackers, turn up the notch on security, then let it settle in with an 8 hour burn in using internally developed tools that are full of memory hogging memory leaks and voila … huh all is blue. Can you believe that my windows VM on my mac performs several orders better than my company issued laptop?

  • Thomas C.

    Can I switch the Mouse Feel from Apple OSX to Windows?
    The Apple OSX Mountain Lion Mouse feel is just tedious compared to Windows ! 

  • Arthax

    Please. That crap about “mouse lag” is a non-issue – If it exists at all, it’s obviously resulting from vertical sync to completely eliminate tearing and frame skipping (which Windows is RIDDLED with) and you can see the same effect in many Direct3D games depending on your hardware.

    In the end while it may annoy some people it’s more pleasing to the eyes and therefore the overall experience feels better.

  • Iliescualex

    This seems to be the big difference in iOS vs Android:
    Android UI will never be completely smooth because of the design constraints I discussed at the beginning:UI rendering occurs on the main thread of an app
    UI rendering has normal prioritySource article here: http://www.imore.com/android-ui-smooth-ios
    and this http://androidandme.com/2011/12/news/android-may-never-be-as-smooth-as-ios-says-ex-googler/

    • jtroye32

      Use a Nexus 4 then throw away your iOS device. The Nexus 4 offers the smoothest mobile experience out there. I’m not saying this out of fanboyism or whatever.. use one and see for yourself. Welcome to project butter.

  • Eric Phoenix

    If you don’t mind crashes, unresponsive items and like to fix things rather than get things done –use Windows. Macs not so much. Androids so-so… That’s my experience.

  • I have a dual boot system with Mac Lion and Win 8 running on a Macbook. Lion seems way slower in responsiveness than Win 8 on the same hardware.

    • jeff

      lolz, thats like comparring mountain lion to Vista.

  • Maurice Kindermann

    Great article.

    Here’s a more up to date UX comparison between Android and iOS standard widgets, with links to the documentation on the relevant Apple / Android websites. It’s a nice way to get started learning all the technical terms. AND Screenshots!

    http://kintek.com.au/blog/portkit-ux-metaphor-equivalents-for-ios-6-and-android-4/

  • OMGJL

    Windows Fan Boy: Cheaper Windows works better than Mac, Mac sucks
    Mac Fan Boy: Windows Sucks and Mac don’t have any problem
    me as a user: Windows are bad at some places but Mac sucks in other places, they both not perfect and it’s just the matter of which one works better.
    the responsiveness of the whole UI of Windows is way slower than Mac, but in Games etc since the input lag of mouse is smaller and Developers optimize more on Windows it makes Windows more suit for gaming. Mac does have Mouse acc. but it’s not the whole UI, after it receives the input it’s moves more smoothly

    • OMGJL

      I mean mouse does have mouse lag but it’s not the whole UI