GNU/Linux Versions Performance Comparison (older hardware)

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Dave B
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GNU/Linux Versions Performance Comparison (older hardware)

Post by Dave B » Mon May 25, 2015 12:15 pm

Hi all,

First of all I would like to say that I have been surprised by the results, the difference is not as great as I would have expected.
Since many recommend Xfce for older hardware, due to being a lighter desktop than Cinnamon, I decided to perform and share some comparison tests.

Please appreciate this is not designed as a flame war post, just for those interested in choosing a desktop environment for older hardware. Tried to post in the root section of the Desktop forum, so there would be no bias, but that is not possible (have to choose a desktop section before new threads are allowed), thank you.

Test system:
NC10 Netbook (from 2008)
CPU: Intel Atom single core Hyperthreaded 1.2GHz
GPU: Intel 945GSE
Memory: 2GB
HDD: 160GB

Extra information:
HDD setup as GPT, 1MB boot, 32GB ext4 (system) and 8GB Swap partition (learned a lot since, and know now 32GB system and 8GB swap was not necessary for this hardware :))
Test performed from fresh Xfce and Cinnamon 17.1 installs

Test results:
Cold boot - GRUB 2 to desktop
Xfce: 45 sec
Cinnamon: 56 sec

Launch Firefox
Xfce: 8 sec
Cinnamon: 8-9 sec

Launch LibreOffice Writer
Xfce: 6 sec
Cinnamon: 6-7 sec

Launch GIMP
Xfce: 16 sec
Cinnamon: 16 sec

Extract Blender 2.72b from compressed file stored on desktop
Xfce: 57 sec
Cinnamon: 59 sec

Since there is potential for a small amount of human error in the above tests (stopping a digital stopwatch), Blender tests have been performed comparing CPU capabilities while under full load and effect of resources within each desktop environment.

Blender 2.72b CPU render (test performed few months ago)
Mike Pan older BMW benchmark, all Blender settings default except for...
Greg Zaal's 'Auto Tile Size' add-on (32x32 tile size setting used)
'Bottom to Top' tile setting
Mint Screen saver disabled, Power Management settings changed to prevent screen switching off. Computer rebooted just before each render.

Each test performed twice, fastest time listed
Xfce: 1h 12m
Image

Cinnamon: 1h 15m
Image

Windows 7: 1h 39m
Image

While not surprisingly Xfce is faster, (as mentioned in the opening) the difference is not as great as I expected, especially so while launching applications.

If helpful for others, one method to make Cinnamon feel snappier on older hardware is to disable desktop effects (found under System Settings - Effects).

Thank you,

David

Edit: update thread title
Last edited by Dave B on Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:01 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by exploder » Mon May 25, 2015 12:25 pm

Nice! I had similar results on a P4 system I set up for my kids. The differences between Xfce and Cinnamon as far as performance were hardly noticeable. With a few minor tweaks Cinnamon actually ran better and used less resources.

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by Dave B » Mon May 25, 2015 4:41 pm

Thank you exploder for your reply,

Now that is interesting! Can you share your minor tweaks?

Is it possible (in the future), to have a (user activated) Cinnamon auto-optimization script. A small benchmark to determine basic hardware abilities, and automatically modify a few settings based upon your minor tweaks?

David

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by exploder » Mon May 25, 2015 5:03 pm

Sure, the things I did are in this thread.

http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=195946

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by KBD47 » Mon May 25, 2015 5:05 pm

I've found Cinnamon on LMDE to be as quick as any lightweight Ubuntu based desktop. I actually use it on a netbook as one of the best lightweight OS.

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by mr_raider » Mon May 25, 2015 10:20 pm

Try running the tests with 1 gig of RAM. That's where XFCE shines.
Image

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by Dave B » Tue May 26, 2015 7:47 am

@ exploder - Thank you, great to see such small changes can help make a big difference.

@ KBD47 - Thanks, last night downloaded LMDE 2 x86 to run some tests on the netbook. After trying LMDE 2 in VMware Player, do have one concern though, more on that later.

@ mr_raider - Just for you, I will see if I still have the original 1GB RAM stick, if I do, I'll re-run the tests and report the times, considering each Blender render alone (on this slow CPU) takes over an hour, it might be a couple of days before able to post the results.

Thank you all for your replies,

David

Edit: Fix couple of typos
Last edited by Dave B on Tue May 26, 2015 7:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by exploder » Tue May 26, 2015 8:52 am

@ David

I like the way you are testing and comparing. In my opinion Xfce is not as light as it once was. Cinnamon received a lot of attention as far as performance, cleaning up code and fixing memory leaks. On the P4 system I fixed up I tried LMDE 2 Cinnamon, Mate and the main edition with Cinnamon and Xfce. Cinnamon gave the best results with that particular hardware. The system specs are: P4 @ 2.8 GHz, 3.2 GB DDR 2 RAM, 250 GB Seagate SATA hard drive, Intel G45 onboard graphics, Intel on-board NIC and sound.

Cinnamon used almost 100 MB less RAM than Xfce did on this system, turning compositing off in Xfce made very little difference. I really did not expect Cinnamon to preform well at all on this hardware but it runs nearly as well on it as it does on my much more powerful main computer. My kids play on-line games everyday on the P4 system and have not had a single problem running Cinnamon. :D

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by Dave B » Wed May 27, 2015 8:36 pm

Thanks exploder, also for the extra information.

Just completed the next lot of tests, there are some interesting and surprising results.

David

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Linux Mint Performance Comparison - Part 2 (further updates)

Post by Dave B » Wed May 27, 2015 9:52 pm

Based upon replies, now completed the next set of performance comparison tests. To help save time, and allow presenting results sooner, Blender tests have been performed once only.

Linux Mint Performance Comparison - Part 2 (further updates)
This time all tests have been performed using 1GB of memory. 17.2 Cinnamon RC and 17.2 MATE RC tests included.


For those who may have skipped the first post
Test system:
NC10 Netbook (from 2008)
CPU: Intel Atom single core Hyperthreaded 1.2GHz
GPU: Intel 945GSE
Memory: Downgraded to 1GB
HDD: 160GB

Extra Information:
HDD set-up as GPT, 1MB boot, 32GB ext4 (system) and 8GB Swap partition (same drive structure maintained to help provide a fair test comparison)
Tests performed after clean Linux Mint installs (except for LMDE 2 Cinnamon 686 kernel upgrade), 32-bit versions used.

Testing Methodology:
After Mint installation, and desktop has loaded, Firefox, LibreOffice Writer and GIMP are started, then closed (one after the other), this is to allow applications to set-up and provide more realistic real world test results. Finally, Blender archive is added to the desktop. Mint is then shut-down and the tests below commence.

Test Results:
Image

Image
Noticed Firefox is starting slightly slower with 17.2 Cinnamon RC and 17.2 MATE RC, possibly due to being a later version (38.0) of Firefox?

Image

Image

Image
We begin to see a brief glimpse of 17.2 Cinnamon RC lower resources providing improved CPU performance.

Due to potential for human error in the above tests (stopping a digital stopwatch), Blender tests (same older version of Blender used to provide a comparable test environment) have been performed comparing CPU capabilities while under full load and effect of resources within each desktop environment.

Blender Testing Methodology:
Mike Pan older BMW benchmark, all Blender settings default except for...
  • Greg Zaal's 'Auto Tile Size' add-on (default 32x32 tile size setting used)
  • 'Bottom to Top' tile setting
Mint Screen saver disabled, Power Management settings changed to prevent screen switching off. Computer rebooted just before each render.

Image

Render Results:
Image
Clear evidence of Clem (et al) impressive coding improvements lowering Cinnamon's resources, 17.2 Cinnamon RC producing a render 3 minutes and 36 seconds faster than 17.1 Cinnamon.

Times Combined for an Overall Conclusion:
Image
In a surprising result, MATE turned out to be the fastest overall (by a tiny margin), I assumed LMDE 2 Cinamon (686 kernel) would perform better than 17.1 Cinnamon, also of note, KDE did surprisingly well in several tests on this older hardware. Most noticeable improvement is from 17.2 Cinnamon RC, a great achievement!

Apologies for the needing to click the performance charts for a full size view (see Tip: below), forum only allows a maximum of 320x240 for images.

Tip:
CTRL+click thumbnail images (full size image opens in a new window), thanks r00t for the suggestion.
If using a mouse, middle mouse button click a thumbnail (full size image opens in a new window).

Thank you,
David

Edit: Performance information updated, 17.2 Cinnamon RC and 17.2 MATE RC added, comments updated.
Last edited by Dave B on Sat Jun 20, 2015 9:19 pm, edited 17 times in total.

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by mr_raider » Thu May 28, 2015 7:51 am

Were you able to install Cinammon with 1gb of RAM only?

By default the 32 bit version kernel for LMDE does not have multi core support. Change the kernel manually:

sudo apt install linux-headers-686-pae linux-image-686-pae
Image

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by Dave B » Thu May 28, 2015 8:07 am

Yes, without issue. While comparing 2GB and 1GB, no dramatic performance differences were observed.

Thank you, just been reading feedback in the bug report. Coming from 17.1, I did not know about LMDE 2 32-bit editions using a 586 kernel by default. Tests were performed from clean installations and NC10 did not have an Internet connection.

Will update LMDE 2 Cinnamon 32-bit to 686 kernel, then re-run the tests.

David

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by KBD47 » Thu May 28, 2015 10:55 am

Would be curious about ram and system resource use between those GUI's and between Debian and Ubuntu base. My experience in the past has been that Ubuntu runs a bit heavier than Debian, though around 14.04 Ubuntu seemed to lighten things, I figure it was because of trying to go mobile, so maybe there is not the difference there was a few years ago. Cinnamon used to be nearly as heavy as KDE, but they have tightened it up to the point I doubt it is much heavier than MATE and only a bit more than Xfce now.

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Linux Mint Versions Performance Comparison (older hardware)

Post by Dave B » Thu May 28, 2015 11:35 am

Updated to include MATE, KDE, 17.2 Cinnamon RC and 17.2 MATE RC

Hi KBD47,

Due to your previous findings, if helpful, I will take some screen captures of each Mint version showing, System Info, and System Monitor. Captures will be after a cold boot, desktop left to sit for five minutes after starting System Info and System Monitor.

Results from NC10 with 1GB of memory.
Each version of Mint is a clean installation (with the exception of LMDE 2 Cinnamon 686 kernel update).
While comparing results, please bare in mind CPU usage constantly fluctuates, so allow approximately +/- 10% variance.

17.1 Xfce:
Image

17.1 MATE:
Image

17.2 MATE RC:
Image

17.1 KDE
Image
Photograph to show KDE result, using screen capture pushes CPU 1 to 60% and CPU 2 to 32%

17.1 Cinnamon:
Image

17.2 Cinnamon RC
Image

LMDE 2 Cinnamon (586 kernel):
Image

LMDE 2 Cinnamon (686 kernel):
Image

David
Last edited by Dave B on Sat Jun 20, 2015 9:51 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by KBD47 » Fri May 29, 2015 12:40 pm

Thanks David.
I'm surprised they are so close. Negligible difference. It confirms for me that Ubuntu really cleaned and tightened their code around 14.04. Useful results.
Thanks again.

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by mr_raider » Fri May 29, 2015 6:29 pm

The memory difference never bothered me for Cinnamon. However, my personal comparisons always suggested that Cinnamon flogs the CPU much more than XFCE or even KDE.

The fact that Cinnamon hits 20% CPU at "rest" is worrisome. I found that on low end hardware, streaming video tends to skip more on Cinnamon.
Image

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by Dave B » Sat May 30, 2015 9:08 pm

@ KBD47 - You're welcome. Yes, was a surprise to me too after seeing many recommendations for Xfce over Cinnamon with older hardware. Good to have an almost level playing field, people can choose based on preference, rather restriction (I'm not saying Xfce is restrictive). So saying, there will of course be many cases of hardware older than the NC10, where Xfce (or lighter version of GNU/Linux) will be the best option.

@ mr_raider - Idle CPU usage is higher in Cinnamon even with fluctuations, but as seen from the performance tests, the impact upon overall general performance is not so obvious. I'm sure in time this will be reduced. Shouldn't really compare but, (unless Microsoft are not totally honest with their performance statistics) Windows 7 seems to hover around 0-2% CPU usage (this is on a more modern system). For personal research and comparison, I may just install Windows 7 again on the NC10 netbook.

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison - Part 2

Post by Dave B » Sat May 30, 2015 9:18 pm

Next set of tests I'm considering, if interesting for anyone. Say someone did a few straightforward upgrades to an older system. Since already presented one of the most popular upgrades, a memory increase. I'm considering replacing the HDD with an SSD, which has to be the next (or even most) popular.

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by exploder » Sat May 30, 2015 9:25 pm

Sounds interesting to me. :)

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Re: Xfce vs Cinnamon, performance comparison (on older hardw

Post by Dave B » Sat May 30, 2015 9:41 pm

Now you're just saying that to get me to do more work! :D

All joking aside. Might take a few days. Already bought a replacement SSD for another system, NC10 SSD will be a hand-me-down. Need to setup the other system first.

Hmm, might also add MATE (17.1) and KDE to the mix.

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