Testing the 2.16GHz MacBook Pro

Macworld has already had its say on both the 1.83GHz and 2GHz MacBook Pro laptops. But as impressive as those models are, neither the 1.83GHz configuration nor the 2.0GHz version can lay claim to being the fastest MacBook Pro. That honor goes to the built-to-order MacBook Core Duo/2.16GHz.

The news that Apple would offer faster-than-expected MacBook Pro models caught many by surprise—especially since it came before the previously announced configurations even shipped. Available as a build-to-order upgrade, the 2.16GHz Core Duo processor is the fastest Intel processor currently available in a Mac. We ordered one the day the 2.16GHz model was announced, upping the ante by adding another optional upgrade—the 7,200-rpm 100GB hard drive.

It took awhile, but our shiny new, MacBook Pro 2.16 Core Duo with speedy internal hard drive has arrived and the test results show that these more expensive upgrades definitely pay off in terms of performance. Whether the increased speed is worth your extra dollars depends on who you are and what you do.

Using our standard performance test suite, Speedmark 4.5, we found that the new system was faster across the board when compared to the 2GHz MacBook, with the extra megahertz of processing power squeezing between 4 to 10-percent improvements in performance. The processor also helped the 2.16GHz MacBook turn in the fastest Cinema 4D score of any Intel-based Mac.

MacBook Pro/2.16GHz Tested

Speedmark 4.5 Adobe Photoshop CS2 Cinema 4D XL 9.5.21 iMovie 6.0.1 iTunes 6.0.3 Unreal Tournament 2004 Zip Archive
SUITE SUITE RENDER AGED FILTER MP3 ENCODE AVERAGE FRAME RATE 1GB FOLDER
MacBook Pro 2.16GHz 184 2:32 1:07 1:05 1:24 53.3 2:39
Macbook Pro 2GHz Core Duo 161 2:41 1:11 1:08 1:33 51.6 3:08
Macbook Pro 1.83GHz Core Duo 152 2:49 1:19 1:16 1:31 48.4 3:54
PowerBook 1.67GHz G4,15-inch 134 1:34 3:57 1:50 2:00 23.0 3:29
iBook 1.42GHz G4, 14-inch 109 1:49 4:31 2:07 2:19 14.1 4:33
iMac 2GHz Core Duo, 20-inch 214 2:31 1:11 1:02 1:25 51.6 2:33
Power Macintosh 2GHz Dual Core G5 227 1:03 1:07 0:50 0:57 43.7 2:51
>Better <Better <Better <Better <Better >Better <Better

Best results in bold. Reference system in italics .

Speedmark 4.5 scores are relative to those of a 1.25GHz Mac mini, which is assigned a score of 100. Adobe Photoshop, Cinema 4D XL, iMovie, iTunes, and Zip Archive scores are in minutes:seconds. All systems were running Mac OS X 10.4.5 with 1GB of RAM, with processor performance set to Highest in the Energy Saver preference pane when applicable. The Photoshop Suite test is a set of 14 scripted tasks using a 50MB file. Photoshop’s memory was set to 70 percent and History was set to Minimum. 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 used Unreal Tournament 2004’s Antalus Botmatch average-frames-per-second score; we tested at a resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels at the Maximum setting with both audio and graphics enabled. We created a Zip archive in the Finder from a 1GB folder.To compare Speedmark 4.5 scores for various Mac systems, visit our Apple Hardware Guide.—Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith and Jerry Jung

The optional 7,200-rpm hard drive helped the 2.16GHz model finish our 1GB folder archive test 15 percent faster than the 2GHz MacBook Pro (which has a 5,400-rpm drive). Another test, the 1GB file duplicate, was more than 20 percent faster on the built-to-order MacBook.

Upgrading to a 2.16GHz Core Duo processor costs an additional $300; the 7,200-rpm drive adds another $100 to the price tag. Is the increased performance worth the extra cost over the standard $2,499 2GHz MacBook Pro? The performance gains are nothing to sneeze at and almost any user could realize some time-saving benefits right now with these upgrades. But, it seems to me that many of those willing to pay top dollar for every ounce of speed available are professionals still waiting for their bread-and-butter applications to run natively on Intel processors before taking the plunge.

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