Ubuntu 10.04 Alpha3 i386 Memory & Boot Speed Benchmarks.

Vitual Machine and Bare Metal.

I started off running a set of benchmarks for i386 versions of Ubuntu 10.04 Alpha3 to see what it'd be like on a slightly memory constrained PC configuration. I went with 512M configurations to see firstly if it'd be happy running with that amount of RAM, and secondly to see if there'd be any difference in consumed RAM between a 512M and 1024M machine.

I used two different platform configs for the 512M tests.

First Machine:

  • A KVM virtual machine running on a Q6600 PC
  • 1 CPU core
  • 512M RAM
  • 8096M HDD
  • Cirrus Logic GD 5446 VGA
  • Ensoniq ES1370 Audio

Second Machine:

  • Tualatin based Celeron 1.2GHz
  • 1 CPU core (obviously)
  • 512M RAM
  • 40G HDD
  • nVidia Geforce 2 MX-400
  • On board sound (Intel)

While running the tests one thing became obvious. Ubuntu 10.04 boots pretty fast, even on old hardware. I thought the under 10 second boots for the VMs were due to the speed of the underlying platform but on the old Celeron machine startup times were also unusually fast for a PC of that class. Post to desktop is accomplished as quickly as you might expect for a two year old Windows box, not an almost 10 year old PC. Before wiping the Celeron it had an XP install which seemed to take about a couple of minutes to boot so the new version of Ubuntu was quite a revelation in comparison. Once I'd finished recording memory usage for the Ubuntu install I recorded boot times for both Compiz and non-Compiz enabled configurations of the Ubuntu install, and then performed a clean Windows XP install, applied service pack 3, and then timed it as well. First and foremost however are the memory usage results.

Ubuntu i386 memory usage - KVM Virt Machine & Celeron 1.2 GHz.


Now onto the boot times. Boot times for XP were performed in the following order.

  • Install clean Windows XP Service Pack 2
  • Apply Service Pack 3
  • Run a series of three boots. The average is as represented below under “Windows XP'
  • Install AVG anti virus, disable it's scheduled scans, and perform one boot to re-acclimatise the install, then perform a second boot and time it. This time series is represented below under “Windows XP with AVG”.
  • Install the latest applicable nVidia binary driver from nvidia.com/drivers for the Geforce 2 MX-400 graphics card and perform an acclimatisation boot, then reboot and time this. This time series is reported below under “Windows XP with AVG and nVidia Blob”.

O/S Boot Speed - Ubuntu vs Windows XP.


It might be a little hard to glean from the chart above but the XP boot splash would be displayed within 15 seconds after the Acer BIOS splash disappears while the Ubuntu didn't display it's one until about 23 seconds after the Acer one goes away. More importantly it was only another 15 seconds or so before Ubuntu was completely ready to go unlike XP which would stuff around for more than another 2 minutes after its boot splash appeared.

I might add that for the Ubuntu installs, once the desktop had been reached and the menus and icons displayed, the machine was completely responsive and unimpeded. I wish I could say the same for the XP installs. Once the desktop was displayed and Start menu made available, the machine still somewhat busy with happenings going on in the background which impacted responsiveness, especially with the final run. Eventually the machine settled though. If the amount of time the desktop was semi-available was included in the above chart it would've made XP look even worse.

Some may ask why XP was used for the boot times and not a version of Windows from the same era as Ubuntu 10.04, say Vista or Windows 7 perhaps? While the later versions of Windows will eventually boot on a 512M machine, they would take an unbearably long time to do so, and if they were to be burdened with anti-malware as is the norm for a Windows install, then it might be time to turn the machine off before you get a chance to use it.


Copyright (c) 2010 Greg Newsome all rights reserved.