Core 2 Duo versus PowerPC

When we published our test results for the new Core 2 Duo-powered MacBook Pros, we kept hearing the same feedback from readers in our forums: These numbers comparing the Core Duo and Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros are great and all… but how do these new machines compare to PowerPC models?

It’s a good point. After all, if you’re mulling an upgrade to one of the new MacBook Pros, you really aren’t likely to be looking to replace a perfectly acceptable Core Duo model you bought less than a year ago. Rather, the laptop owner looking to upgrade will, more often than not, be doing so from a PowerBook or iBook. So naturally, they’d be interested in knowing how the MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo’s performance measures up—particularly when it comes to applications that don’t yet run natively on Intel-based Macs. Will there be a performance hit when using the Rosetta emulation technology? Or will the boost in processor performance from the Core 2 Duo make an upgrade worthwhile?

We took that feedback to heart when publishing our MacBook Core 2 Duo benchmarks a week ago. As you can see from the table included with that article—and reprinted again in the MacBook Core 2 Duo review —we included test results for the 15-inch PowerBook G4/1.67GHz and a 1.42GHz iBook G4. Hopefully, that gives PowerPC-based laptop owners some frame of reference when it comes to gauging how much of an improvement a Core 2 Duo-based portable offers.

Ah, but that addresses just potential MacBook buyers—what about people contemplating a Core 2 Duo-based MacBook Pro. Well, we did include a 2.16GHz MacBook Pro in our MacBook benchmark table. But just to make things even more clear for people wondering how the recent MacBook Pro update compares to last PowerPC-based laptops, here are the MacBook Pro-specific results broken out alongside comparable PowerPC systems.

MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo vs. PowerPC-Based Laptops

Speedmark 4.5 Adobe Photoshop CS2 Cinema 4D XL 9.5.21 Compressor 2.3 iMovie 6.0.2 iTunes 6.0.4 Unreal Tournament 2004 Zip Archive
SUITE SUITE RENDER MPEG2 ENCODE AGED FILTER MP3 ENCODE AVERAGE FRAME RATE 1GB FOLDER
15-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo/2.16GHz 209 1:16 1:01 2:17 0:54 1:11 63.9 2:48
15-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo/2.33GHz (2GB RAM) 226 1:10 0:57 2:07 0:51 0:58 72.9 2:22
15-inch PowerBook G4/1.67GHz 132 1:35 3:57 6:59 1:51 1:53 19.9 3:30
14-inch iBook G4/1.42GHz 108 1:50 4:31 n/a 2:09 2:18 14.3 4:34
>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 10.4.8 with 1GB of RAM (except where noted), 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. (The test would not launch on the iBook; hence, the score of “n/a.”) 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, BRIAN CHEN, AND JERRY JUNG

At the risk of repeating some of our earlier comments, the Core 2 Duo-based MacBook Pros outperform the top consumer and pro PowerPC laptops—quite dramatically in the case of the 2.33GHz model.

And of course, as I write this, the last of the Core 2 Duo upgrades—the 17-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo/2.33GHz —has arrived at Macworld Lab. Look for our test results next week, just as soon as we emerge from our turkey-induced coma.

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