A test of three zippers

2023-12-09 update: I have a new laptop, and for related reasons I’m also rebuilding this blog. I redid the test in this post on the new machine (AMD Ryzen 9 7940HS @ 4.00 GHz w/ Radeon 780M Graphics; 48GB RAM). When I was doing this/revisiting this post, I realized I didn’t note what 7-Zip settings I was using. On this machine, at ‘fast’ and ‘fastest’ (which seem to run identically), it is faster than Windows (16 vs 26 seconds), producing a file that’s 9MB larger. At ‘normal’, it produced a smaller test file than Windows, but took 1:17. WinZip with OpenCL enabled won the speed test at 14 seconds for the third-smallest file. Strangely, it didn’t really use much of the GPU. Without OpenCL enabled, WinZip produced the smallest file and took 23 seconds.

I’m in the middle of quite a few posts, and honestly… this one should be pretty short because I had no idea I’d be writing it. I’m trying to make my Windows experience as pleasant as possible (that itself is an upcoming post), and part of that has involved looking for a good archive tool. Windows handles ZIP files well enough, but it’s kind of a barebones approach and it doesn’t handle any of the other major archive formats that I’m aware of. I looked at a few alternatives; as is typical for Windows they basically all had miserable, nonstandard user interfaces. Many appeared to be adware or scummy bundle situations. I only ended up testing three, and didn’t make it very far with one of them (PeaZip), simply because whatever Linux-esque toolkit it was made with prevented it from working with FancyZones.

So I tried out 7-Zip, WinZip, and benchmarked these against the inbuilt Windows archiver. I’m not settled on anything yet, but both of the alternatives offer support for all of the common archive formats; 7-Zip supports a ton of additional formats. WinZip wins on the UI/UX front, feeling nearly native and offering a nice dual-pane view; 7-Zip is pretty barebones in this department1. 7-Zip is free, open-source software; WinZip is proprietary, closed-source software with a $29 price tag.

What really shocked me, however, were the benchmarks. I wanted to test ZIP files specifically, as I run into them most often (other formats tend to be things I’ll be handling on the Linux side of things), and I couldn’t benchmark anything else against the inbuilt Windows archiver. My test machine is an 8th Gen Core i7, quad-core @ 1.8GHz, with 16GB RAM and only Intel onboard graphics. WinZip has an option to use OpenCL and offload the task to the GPU; I thought it would handily outperform the others accordingly2. Only 7-Zip has a built in timer, so results on the other two may have been off by a second or two as I was doing it manually with a stopwatch. I did three runs of each and averaged. The test was enwik9, the first 109 bytes of English Wikipedia. A gigabyte of source that reliably FLATEs down to under 350MB.

YMMV, of course, and this was… a single giant file run through only a handful of times. But I was shocked that Windows tore through a gigabyte source so quickly. Unzipping any of the resultant files was uniformly fast; decompression is not an intensive task. I don’t know that there’s an actual takeaway here, but I was shocked by the speed at which Windows compressed that file.

  1. I should clarify that 7-Zip also has a dual-pane view, but overall, the navigation panels just don’t feel quite right to me. ↩︎
  2. It might, on a system with better graphics. It would be interesting to test on a system like my Mac Pro w/ a dedicated non-display GPU. ↩︎