Head to head: Windows 7 vs Snow Leopard

In the second of our series of head to head reviews, we pit Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system against Apple’s Mac OS X update Snow Leopard.

A great deal has been written about Windows Vista's failings. As an operating system that emerged unwanted and unloved in November 2006, it promptly failed to please consumers or businesses alike, enabling Apple to make hay at Microsoft's expense and push a fair number of users over to the Mac.

While Microsoft has a reputation as a slow moving beast, by January 2009 users were using the beta of a revamped OS that it hoped would repair the damage wrought by Vista Windows 7. Now, the Microsoft OS is already on the hard drives of millions of users that have access to Technet and MSDN accounts, but come 22 October it will be on retail shelves everywhere.

Apple's Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard was revealed in mid 2008, and while rumours hinted at an early 2009 release date, it actually appeared on 28 August 2009, held back some say to spoil Microsoft's Windows 7 thunder.

We look at how the two stack up next to each other. Will Apple sweep the board or will it be a Windows whitewash? Let's find out.

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If you're buying a new Mac today Snow Leopard will be preinstalled on the system and if you're buying a PC, from 22 October Windows 7 will be on there. If you're choosing between them, the cheapest route will inevitably be Windows. You can buy a netbook now for less than 300, and Windows 7 will be featured on many. At the time of publication, the cheapest Mac you can buy is the Macbook, which starts at 749. The long rumoured tablet - if it appears - will very likely be cheaper than this, but it would still be pricier than a budget Windows machine.

Of course, the operating system that runs the iPhone and iPod touch is essentially Mac OS X, but optimised for those devices, so you could argue that 149 will gain you access to the OS via the 8GB iPod touch - but for this comparison we're keeping things focused on keyboard-equipped machines.

If you're planning to upgrade an existing machine, on the face of it Windows 7 loses out to Snow Leopard which costs just 29 - almost an impulse buy. Windows, meanwhile, will cost you up to 160 for the full Ultimate version. However, that's not really a fair comparison as officially Snow Leopard can only be installed as an upgrade from Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5) which means that you need to spend 129 on the Mac Box Set'.

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