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Office 2008 Benchmarks Preview

Volume Number: 23
Issue Number: 02
Column Tag: MacTech Labs

Office 2008 Benchmarks Preview

How well does Office 2008 run compared to Office 2004?

By Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief

The Big Question

If you are a Microsoft Office user on the Mac, there's likely a question on your mind about the new version ... Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac. As you may remember, MacTech did extensive benchmarking on Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac, running under Rosetta, when the Intel Macs first came out. See http://www.mactech.com/articles/mactech/Vol.22/22.05/Office2004Benchmark/ to see that full article.

But Office 2008 is "Universal," meaning that it's designed to take advantage of the Intel processor, while still being compatible with PowerPC based machines. The big question, therefore, is "How fast is the new Office 2008?"

To answer that question, we put Office 2008 through its paces on both Tiger and Leopard (Mac OS X 10.4.11 and Mac OS X 10.5.1 to be specific). With over 2500 tests, we looked at Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage as well as the graphics library resources that are shared across all of Microsoft Office for Mac.

We're going to give you a preview here, and the full results will be published in print in the March 2008 issue of MacTech Magazine, available starting in late February.

Overview

We won't keep you in suspense. In general, Office 2008 is faster than Office 2004 when run on Intel Macs. And, on the PowerPC (represented by our PowerBook G4), it certainly runs "well enough" albeit marginally slower.

In the over 2500 real world tests comparing Office 2004 with 2008, the vast majority were faster ... with many features being 2-3x faster in the new version. On average, Office 2008 running on Intel was 28% faster than 2004 for those items we tested.

For PowerPC users, the issue of whether to upgrade should come down to whether you want the new features, or new file format supported integrated into the application.

Clearly, however, for Intel users, there's not only the benefits of new features and a more straightforward user interface, but many major speed improvements as well.

In Figure 1, you can see how Office 2008 ran compared to Office 2004. The PowerPC machines (blue) and Intel machines (green) represent Office 2008 on those machines, and the Office 2004 on the same installs is there as a comparison (red and purple).


Figure 1: Office 2008 vs. Office 2004
(shorter is faster)


To determine this, MacTech ran tests across five models of Macs: PowerBook G4, MacBook, MacBook Pro, Intel iMac, and Mac Pro. Real world tests such as:

  • successive launch
  • scrolling
  • find and replace
  • opening files
  • pasting
  • printing
  • zooming
  • subtotals
  • auto formatting
  • applying templates
  • IMAP account synch
  • Searching
  • Inserting and importing graphics

were run to make these determinations.

Furthermore, for most users when running Office 2008 on Intel, it's usually slightly faster on Leopard than it is on Tiger. The only exceptions were PowerPoint and Entourage which ran just a bit slower. See Figure 2.


Figure 2: Intel Tiger vs. Intel Leopard
(shorter is faster)


Application Specific

We ran tests in each of the four main Office 2008 apps, plus the graphics engine. What we found for each of them was as follows.

For Intel Mac users, on average:

  • Word 2008 ran 37% faster than Word 2004
  • Excel 2008 ran 22% faster than Excel 2004
  • PowerPoint 2008 ran 40% faster than PowerPoint 2004
  • Entourage 2008 ran 28% faster than Entourage 2004
  • Graphics (common to all the applications) in Office 2008 ran 60% faster than Office 2004

To make this even more clear, when something says "30"% faster," that means that if it took 10 seconds on 2004, it took 7 seconds on 2008. This tends to understate "faster" when compared to perception.

While we already had thousands of tests to perform, we thought it important to include a PowerPC machine in the mix. We chose the PowerBook G4 as a reasonable representation of PowerPC. Obviously, our tests needed to focus on machines shipping in the last couple of years, and that's Intel based Macs. But, if you are looking to deploy 2008 on PowerPC based Macs, either because you want consistency, the new file formats, or the new features, 2008's speed on PowerPC is very usable, and the slower stopwatch tests shouldn't stop you.

For PowerPC Mac users, represented by our PowerBook G4 testing, on average:

  • Word 2008 ran 35% slower than Word 2004
  • Excel 2008 ran 65% slower than Excel 2004
  • PowerPoint 2008 ran 9% slower than PowerPoint 2004
  • Entourage 2008 ran 22% slower than Entourage 2004
  • Graphics in Office 2008 ran 30% faster than Office 2004

Some Speed You Can't Stopwatch

MacTech's tests are primarily done using a stopwatch, and as such, they are timing things that are done solely by the computer. This is a good judge of the difference between Office 2004 running under Rosetta vs. Office 2008 running as a Universal application, native on Intel.

But, what Office 2008 does more than just be Universal is to bring some concrete advancements in creating work, as well as the level of quality that a "normal" person can accomplish. This is done through Document Elements, SmartArt, Ledger Sheets, Charts, and other devices. Clearly these are strongest in Word and Excel.

What these features do for the human being is make it easier to get there -- we'll call this "user speed." For example, charts can be created in one click, without having to go through dialog box after dialog box in a wizard. Or, building a formula ... far easier than it has been in a long time.

From a quality of work product, Word and Excel in particular have new features that really raise the bar. For example, the quality of a "newsletter" or a "flyer" is vastly enhanced by the templates provided. And, SmartArt ... wow ... I can't even imagine any student or business user even thinking of doing this in any Office product before.

All of these items give users a great deal more "user speed" ... and those are not the type of things that can be measured with a stopwatch.

Conclusion

As we stated at the beginning of this article, on Intel machines, Office 2008 runs faster for most things than 2004 does. And, for PowerPC based machines, 2008 works "well enough"; in fact, we don't think you'll notice much of a speed difference from 2004 on PowerPC.

For those that work in areas affected by the "user speed" enhancements, and we have to believe that's the majority of users, you'll see substantive improvements. Add to it the new features, and you have an application suite that allows you produce higher quality work, in far less time ... either because it's Universal and faster, or because of what the new user interface and templates bring you.


About the author...

Neil is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of MacTech Magazine. Neil has been in the Mac industry since 1985, has developed software, written documentation, been heading up the magazine since 1992. When Neil writes a review, he likes to put solutions into a real-life scenario and then write about that experience from the user point of view. That said, Neil has a reputation around the office for pushing software to its limits and crashing software/finding bugs. Drop him a line at publisher@mactech.com

 
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