This is a question asking myself a lot.  So I decided to test some of the tools out there.  This is far from scientific but it is “real world”.  I say real world because I performed these tests on a fairly recent computer using a recent Linux distribution.
System details:

  • Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Quad CPU Q9400 @ 2.66GHz
  • 2 x Kingston KVR800D2N5/2G
  • Seagate ST3500418AS SATA hard drive
  • Ubuntu 9.04 with Linux kernel 2.6.28-15-generic

The tools I tested are:

  • Zip 2.32
  • lzop v1.02rc1
  • rzip 2.1
  • lzma 4.32.0beta3

These are the versions that a supplied with Ubuntu.
Here are the results:

              File size(bytes)  Real         User        Sys
uncompressed: 1,068,003,328
zip -v      :   282,629,082     1m6.989s     1m5.960s    0m0.900s
zip -9v     :   279,944,734     5m1.305s     4m59.827s   0m1.000s
lzop -kv    :   379,149,417     0m7.493s     0m6.388s    0m0.796s
lzop -kv9   :   316,400,603     6m34.780s    6m33.749s   0m0.796s
rzip -kP    :   206,314,985     2m12.169s    2m7.360s    0m3.760s
rzip -9kP   :   203,188,495     2m37.109s    2m32.354s   0m4.516s
lzma -kv    :   158,260,394     14m44.897s   14m38.183s  0m6.220s
lzma -9kv   :   153,505,470     19m3.697s    18m56.691s  0m1.356s

The file used for the tests was a Sybase 11 database dump.  Times were calculated using the time command.
The original idea for this came from the Linux Journal article Compression Tools Compared by Kingsley G. Morse Jr. available at http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/8051.