The German print magazine C't (5/2008, p. 62) compared the performance of Vista SP1 with Vista RTM. There are quite a few performance tests about Vista SP1 these days, but those from C't are always worth mentioning because they are known to have a lot of experience with such technical tests.
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They have a complete review about Service Pack 1 and the performance is only a small part of it. Since I already discussed most of the other things, I only want to share the results of their performance comparison. Their test machine was a modern PC: Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 4600+, 2GB RAM.
They used five different benchmarks for their tests: BAPCo-Sysmark (business applications), 3DMark 2001/2003/2005 (DirectX performance of graphics cards), Cinebench (3D animation), Auquamark3 (gaming), Nero (CD/DVD speed). They also tried Vista SP1 with some famous games.
They measured an improved performance for Vista SP1 only with the BAPCo benchmark. Vista SP1 was 10% faster than Vista RTM in this discipline. With all other benchmarks, Service Pack 1 didn't improve Vista's performance significantly.
10% performance improvement for business apps is more than I expected. However, you probably won't notice the difference most of the time. If you wait 10 seconds or 9 seconds for an Excel calculation doesn't really matter. Furthermore, if you run Vista on an old PC that doesn't have enough hardware resources, then SP1 certainly won't be the solution to your performance problems.
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However, there might be certain tasks where Vista SP1 feels quicker. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes ran a couple for performance test with Vista SP1. I blogged about his comparison of Windows XP SP1 with Vista SP1. He just published another article about this topic where he comes to the conclusion that Vista SP1 is indeed faster than Vista RTM.