The updated MacBook Pros released by Apple this week are performing in line with what you might expect, given the changes to the laptop line. But one puzzling result in a test we run to gauge graphics performance prevents us from making a definitive claim about the new MacBook Pros’s performance just yet.
We got our hands on two 15-inch MacBook Pros—the 2.2GHz configuration and the 2.4GHz offering—nearly immediately after Apple’s Tuesday announcement. Though outwardly identical to the previous generation of professional portable Macs, these updated models have undergone something of a major overhaul underneath the hood. All MacBook Pros now ship with 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, up from the 1GB that was standard on all old models; memory capacity has been boosted to 4GB. The updated models also have a faster frontside bus running at 800MHz (up from 667MHz). They’re the first Intel-based Mac laptops to feature Nvidia graphics—specifically the GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor with either 128MB of dedicated video ram in the 2.2GHz model or 256MB in the 2.4GHz model.
Another change to this generation of MacBook Pros is something that Steve Jobs hinted at in his open letter on Apple’s environmental policies: LED-backlit screens. Featured in the 15-inch models, LED backlights can help improve battery life while being more environmentally friendly by eliminating the mercury found in the fluorescent lamps behind most LCD screens. (We haven’t had a chance to measure the battery life impact just yet—those results will come later.)
So how do the other changes affect performance? As we’ve seen in previous testing, adding RAM doesn’t always mean better benchmark scores, as most of our tests perform just fine with 1GB of RAM. We added 1 GB of RAM to all of the baseline systems to level the playing field. But our recent tests of the 2.16GHz black MacBook with its standard 1GB of RAM yielded an identical Speedmark score with or without the extra RAM.
15-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo Benchmarks
|Adobe Photoshop CS3||Cinema 4D XL 9.5.21||Compressor 2.3||iMovie 6.0.2||iPhoto 6.0.3||iTunes 7.1.1||Zip Archive|
|SUITE||RENDER||MPEG2 ENCODE||AGED FILTER||IMPORT PHOTOS||MP3 ENCODE||1GB FOLDER|
|15-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo/2.4GHz||1:07||0:54||2:02||0:49||0:53||0:56||2:14|
|15-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo/2.2GHz||1:28||1:00||2:12||0:51||0:55||1:01||2:32|
|17-inch MacBook Pro 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo||1:16||0:57||2:07||0:50||0:54||0:59||2:20|
|MacBook Core 2 Duo/2.16Ghz (black)||1:27||1:02||2:16||0:52||0:55||1:10||2:26|
Best results in bold. Reference systems in italics.Adobe Photoshop, Cinema 4D XL, iMovie, iTunes, and Zip Archive scores are in minutes:seconds. All systems were running Mac OS X 10.4.9 with 2GB of RAM, with processor performance set to Highest in the Energy Saver preference pane when applicable. The Photoshop Suite test is a set of 15 scripted tasks using a 50MB file. Photoshop’s memory was set to 70 percent and History was set to Minimum. We recorded how long it took to render a scene in Cinema4D. We used Compressor to encode a 6minute:26second DV file using the DVD: Fastest Encode 120 minutes - 4:3 setting. In iMovie, we applied the Aged video effect to a 1-minute movie. We converted 45 minutes of AAC audio files to MP3 using iTunes’ High Quality setting. We created a Zip archive in the Finder from a 1GB folder.