what are the computer specs & bandwidth from the different hosts
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Webmin has the least effect on performance but is the worst (what do you expect, it's free). cPanel has the most effect on performance. For a good medium of performance and quality, i'd reccomend DirectAdmin. It's basically Plesk that's lighter and less feature packed. (And hence slightly cheaper).
It really depends on how technical you are. Cpanel is probably the easiest to set up and use but as others have said uses a bit of resources. Webmin is the least resource intensive but is not really built for webhosting so you would need to spend quite a bit of time configuring it..
The only other CP I have used is DirectAdmin which is the best of both worlds and can be had for pennies which makes it even more attractive
Are any of these control panels resource inrtensive at all? I mean, apart from when you're actually logged on to it and are using it which is a minority of the time anyway, none of them get in the way at all - they only configure the external apps and then let them get on with it.
Your issue with VPS - sure, you can have a couple of thousand sites on a server, most serving 1 page a day so you can see good performance from your site.. when you go to a VPS solution, you just cannot see how many VPSes the host has stuck on the machine. I'd say that anyone with a VPS requires more power than most websites, so its not that surprising to see worse performance.
I think in the end the adage, you get what you pay for, should be borne in mind. Perhaps you should contact your new host and complain.
I've worked on the internals of both, in a nutshell...
A *lot* of shops run their shared systems on very high end hardware and pack them dense. A thousand or more sites per quad CPU system with 4GB RAM and a 6 disk RAID array... that's probably about common for the larger hosts.
Now, when it comes to VPS, the return isn't as great. For example, in standard shared, 1000 customers paying 10 bucks a month - you'll get 10,000 a month. Since VPS is more resource intensive, There are usually less than 100 virtual servers configured per system, at say, $30 a month. That's a seven-thousand dollar a month difference.
Now, skip the math lesson... long story short, they use weaker hardware in order to make their money back faster. The tradeoff? In a VPS environment you've got full control over the "system", you don't in a shared enviornment. However, shared environements will usually handle higher bursts better than a VPS environment. There's also a lot of extra resource-charging in a VPS environment that you don't (usually) have in a shared configuration.
Most users, in my experience, go to a VPS not because they need the additional power (face it, bandwidth and storage limits are rediculous these days), but because they've some sort of custom software package the hosting shop doesn't wish to support that won't be installed on a shared system.