Black and white differences

When we first posted our review of Apple’s new MacBooks, we didn’t include a mouse rating or benchmark results for the white 2.0GHz model. The reason for this omission? While we were able to get our hands on the 1.83GHz and black 2GHz MacBooks fairly quickly, it took a little longer to track down that third model.

Well, the white 2GHz configuration arrived finally, so we put the laptop through our battery of tests. You might think, “Why did they bother?” After all, aside from the case color, the only other difference between the white and black 2GHz MacBook is the hard drive—a 60GB 5,400-rpm drive in the white model and an 80GB, 5,400-rpm one in the black. And if you were to look at their scores on our overall system performance testing tool, Speedmark, you would find data to back up that position.

However, the differences in some of the individual tests that make up Speedmark were big enough that we rushed the black the MacBook back from its offsite photo shoot to run some more tests. After testing the white 2GHz MacBook and comparing the results to the published scores of the black model, we saw small performance differences in many of the tests, with the edge going to the white model in most cases. Retesting leveled out a few tests (though I can’t explain why), but still shows the white 2GHz model performing better than the black model, most notably in our Compressor MPEG-2 Encoding test and our iMovie test applying the Aged video effect to a clip.

With the systems shipping with identical processors, RAM and graphics, we focused our testing attention on the hard drive. Thankfully, switching hard drives between the MacBooks is fairly painless, because we did a lot of it and found that the results in question followed the drive to whatever system it was installed in. We bought and installed a 100GB, 7,200RPM Seagate drive in the black MacBook and saw its performance benefit immediately, reducing the gap between white and black on many of our tests, like Compressor, iMovie and iTunes, while whipping the white in the more drive-intensive tasks like zipping, unzipping, and duplicating files.

The weirdest results came from our iPhoto import test, which appears to be very hard drive sensitive. Surprisingly, the winner wasn’t the Seagate 7200RPM drive, but the Fujitsu 5,400-rpm drives found in the black MacBook and 17-inch MacBook Pro. The white MacBook had a Seagate 5,400-rpm drive, which edged out the Fujitsu in zipping and unzipping large folders, but lagged far behind in the iPhoto test. The top-level specs of these drives don’t offer any explanation—both have 8MB caches and both run at 5,400-rpm. We installed, wiped, reinstalled, and moved the drives around trying to figure this one out, but the results always followed the drives.

Other results, like those from Photoshop, 3-D games, 3-D rendering tasks, Web browser tests, Microsoft Word scrolls, and so forth, were very similar, which explains the very similar composite Speedmark scores.

2GHz MacBook (white) Results

Speedmark 4.5 Compressor 2.1 File Duplicate iMovie 6.0.1 iPhoto iTunes 6.0.4 UnZip Archive Zip Archive
SUITE MPEG2 Encode 500MB FILE AGED FILTER IMPORT 100 PHOTOs MP3 ENCODE 1GB FILE 1GB FOLDER
13-inch MacBook Core Duo/2GHz (white) 161 4:01 0:35 1:04 2:17 1:26 1:31 3:00
13-inch MacBook Core Duo/2GHz (black) 161 4:17 0:34 1:13 1:20 1:32 1:34 3:05
13-inch MacBook Core Duo/2GHz (black - 7,200RPM Hard Disk) 165 4:04 0:25 1:09 1:59 1:29 1:16 2:48
15-inch MacBook Pro Core Duo/2GHz (January 2006) 166 4:22 0:33 1:08 2:27 1:17 1:30 3:04
17-inch MacBook Pro Core Duo/2.16GHz 193 3:59 0:29 1:01 1:10 1:28 1:26 2:48
14-inch iBook G4/1.42GHz 107 8:29 0:50 2:07 2:43 2:19 2:07 4:33
12-inch PowerBook G4/1.5 GHz 125 8:04 0:36 1:57 1:47 2:14 2:30 3:37
>Better <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 10.4.6 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. 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 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

Macworld’s Jonathan Seff has updated his review of the new MacBooks to include the white 2GHz MacBook’s rating and benchmarks.

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