MacBook (Late 2009) benchmarks

Last week, Apple released the first batch of new hardware since the company released Snow Leopard last August. Among these new Macs is a newly designed unibody MacBook. Macworld Lab has received these new Macs and has been hard at work, putting all of them to the test. And while we don’t have Speedmark 6 finalized just yet, we do have some MacBook benchmark results we’d like to share.

To refresh your memory, the new MacBook has the same $999 price tag as the MacBook it replaces, but the new MacBook features a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM and a 250GB SATA hard drive—up from a 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM and a 160GB SATA hard drive. Like its predecessor, the new 13.3-inch MacBook screen has a 1280 by 800 native resolution, but the new MacBook uses LED backlighting instead of CCFL backlighting used in previous MacBooks.

The new MacBook is still housed in a white polycarbonate shell, but now features the same unibody design as the rest of Apple’s portables, as well as a large-capacity, captive battery. Connection options have also changed, with the latest model sporting the newer Mini DisplayPort instead of Mini DVI found on the older MacBook. FireWire 400 has been removed from the new MacBook, but the number of USB 2.0 ports remains at two.

Benchmarks

To see how the under-the-hood changes to the MacBook would affect performance, we ran the system through a series of 19 different tests involving the Finder and 12 third-party applications. We then compared the results to a number of reference systems.

Compared to the system it replaces, the new 2.26GHz MacBook was faster than the older 2.13GHz MacBook in every test we ran, though, in many cases, not by very much. Importing 150 snapshots into iPhoto on the 2.26GHz MacBook was just one second faster than on the older 2.13GHz MacBook. The new MacBook was able to push through about one frame per second more than the previous MacBook in our Call of Duty 4 test.

In other tests the differences were more pronounced, like the nearly 13 percent improvement in our Photoshop CS4 test, 17 percent in Aperture tests, 10 percent in our iMovie import tests, and nearly 14 percent improvement in our iMovie export test.

New 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook benchmarks

Adobe Photoshop CS4 Cinebench Mathematica Mark 7 Compressor 3.0.4 Aperture 2.1.4 iMovie '09 iMovie '09 iTunes 9.0.1 Call of Duty 4 Finder Finder Finder Parallels Desktop 4 Handbrake 0.9.3 iPhoto '09 Pages '09
SUITE RENDER TEST MPEG ENCODE IMPORT IMPORT ARCHIVE EXPORT MP3 ENCODE FRAME RATE DUPLICATE 1GB FOLDER ZIP ARCHIVE UNZIP ARCHIVE WORLDBENCH 6 MULTI-TASK TEST RIP DVD CHAPTER IMPORT OPEN WORD DOCUMENT
MacBook 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo 0:49 3:03 3.21 10:45 3:36 1:52 2:13 1:43 17.2 0:36 4:14 1:12 7:17 3:06 0:56 2:04
MacBook 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo 0:56 3:18 2.94 11:36 4:21 2:05 2:34 1:49 16.3 0:43 4:36 1:21 7:52 3:28 0:57 2:15
13-inch MacBook Pro 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo (2GB) 0:51 3:03 3.20 10:57 3:56 2:07 2:21 1:43 18.2 0:45 4:27 1:36 7:18 3:16 0:49 2:24
15-inch MacBook Pro 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo (4GB) 0:47 2:45 3.45 10:02 3:17 1:48 2:12 1:31 18.5 0:34 3:54 1:11 6:32 3:11 0:53 1:55
MacBook Air 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo 1:21 5:42 1.51 21:31 5:36 3:14 3:49 2:56 11.5 0:35 5:10 0:56 13:41 5:02 1:21 2:44

Best results in bold. For Call of Duty 4 and MathematicaMark 7, higher scores are better. All other tests are timed results where lower times are better. Reference systems in italics.

Call of Duty score is frames per second. MathematicaMark is a performance score. All others are in minutes:seconds. All laptops were tested using Mac OS X 10.6.1. All laptops were tested with 2GB of RAM unless otherwise noted. 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 with multiprocessors in CineBench. We used Compressor to encode a .mov file to the application's h.264 for video podcast setting. We timed the import and thumbnail preview creation time for 150 photos in Aperture. In iMovie, we imported a Camera Archive and exported it to iTunes for Mobile Devices setting. We converted 90 minutes of AAC audio files to MP3 using iTunes’s High Quality setting. We duplicated a 1GB folder, created a Zip archive in the Finder from the two 1GB files and then Unzipped it. We ran WorldBench 6 multitasking test using Windows via Parallels. We imported 150 photos into iPhoto. We ripped a DVD chapter to the hard drive using HandBrake. We opened a 500-page Word document in Page '09.—Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith, Chris Holt, and Roman Loyola.

Compared to the 13-inch MacBook Pro ( ) with the same 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo processor, the results were mixed. Many of the tests were very close, with the MacBook’s Photoshop, Cinebench, iTunes, and Parallels test times coming within a second or two of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. In other tests, particularly those that tax the hard drive, we found the new MacBook 2.26GHz system besting its Pro cousin by a decent margin. Duplicating a 1GB file was 20 percent faster on the new MacBook than on the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The new MacBook was about 5 percent faster Zipping a 2GB folder, but again 25 percent faster unzipping the created archive. The only test that the 2.26GHz 13-inch MacBook Pro beat the 2.26GHz MacBook was our iPhoto import test.

The new MacBook also compared favorably to 15-inch 2.53GHz MacBook Pro, tested with its shipping 4GB of RAM. Though the MacBook Pro was faster in all of our tests, iMovie export, file duplication, and Unzipping an archive all took just a second longer on the MacBook than the 2.53GHz MacBook Pro. The 15-inch MacBook Pro was 4 percent faster in Photoshop, 10 percent faster in Cinebench, 7 percent in Compressor, and 9 percent in Aperture.

While we were at it, we ran the new tests on a MacBook Air 2.13GHz with a 128GB solid-state drive. Aside from its fast file duplication and Unzipping test results, the MacBook Air once again proved itself to be a comparatively weak performer, with several tests taking nearly twice as long to complete than the new MacBook.

New tests

A quick note about the new tests. A few weeks ago, I asked the readers of Macworld to suggest some applications and tasks to be included in our new Snow Leopard-based version of Speedmark. We received a number of good suggestions and at least three of them will be part of the upcoming Speedmark 6.

Check back soon for Macworld’s full review of the new MacBook, as well as benchmark results for the new iMac and Mac mini systems.

[James Galbraith is Macworld’s lab director.]

Subscribe to the MacWeek Newsletter

Comments