Introducing Speedmark 4.5

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Speedmark, Macworld Lab’s standard test tool for benchmarking new and upgraded systems, has been updated to version 4.5. Using a suite of real-world applications and tasks that everyone—from a power user to a Mac neophyte—performs every day, Speedmark aims to give readers an idea of how one Mac ranks compared to the rest of the product line in terms of day-to-day performance.

Most Speedmark updates occur when Apple releases a major overhaul of its operating system. This time, however, we needed to revamp the test suite to accommodate two changes in system architecture.

With the introduction of Intel processors to the Mac product line, running many of the tasks included in Speedmark 4 would require Apple’s Rosetta emulation technology. Because owners of Intel Macs will be using Rosetta, we left a few of those tests in the new suite. Unfortunately, the performance hit associated with this translation makes the inclusion of too many non-native application tasks in our benchmark suite unfair to these new Intel Macs, so we removed two of them.

Another change that Apple made recently was to offer a standard system configuration with 1GB of RAM. In order to keep a level playing field—and to eliminate the need to test each system multiple times—we’ve decided to raise the standard configuration for Speedmark to 1GB of RAM.

Here is the list of changes included in this version of Speedmark:

  • We updated each of the individual applications to their latest shipping version.
  • We eliminated the PDF Scroll test which requires Rosetta.
  • The Photoshop suite is no longer included in the calculation of a system’s Speedmark score because this test requires Rosetta for Intel-based Macs.
  • We added an iMovie video effect test using the Aged effect.
  • We added an iPhoto test which imports 100 jpeg photos from the hard drive into iPhoto’s library.
  • We are now using Camino for our browser tests.

With all of these changes, its impossible to compare results from previous versions of Speedmark with results from Speedmark 4.5. So, we’ve been busy retesting a bunch of systems with the new version of Speedmark.

Here’s a large benchmark chart that we hope will give you a good idea of the performance of currently available Macs under Speedmark 4.5.

Mac Systems Compared

Speedmark 4.5 Cinema 4D XL 9.5.21 iMovie 6.0.1 aged filter iTunes 6.0.3 Unreal Tournament 2004 Zip Archive
Mac Mini 1.25Ghz 100 5:06 2:12 2:32 13.9 4:32
Mac Mini 1.42Ghz 113 4:28 2:02 2:16 14.5 4:13
Mac Mini Core Solo 1.5GHz 123 2:57 2:05 2:43 10.4 3:39
Mac Mini Core Duo 1.66 GHz 144 1:26 1:15 1:40 12.2 3:23
12-inch iBook G4 1.33GHz 101 4:53 2:13 2:28 13.6 4:47
14-inch iBook G4 1.42GHz 109 4:31 2:07 2:19 14.1 4:33
20-inch iMac G5 2.1GHz 194 2:09 1:10 1:22 40.7 2:54
17-inch iMac Core Duo 1.83GHz 202 1:18 1:08 1:22 50.2 2:45
20-inch iMac Core Duo 2GHz 214 1:11 1:02 1:25 51.6 2:33
MacBook Pro 1.83GHz 152 1:19 1:16 1:31 48.4 3:54
MacBook Pro 2GHz 161 1:11 1:08 1:33 51.6 3:08
15-inch PowerBook G4 1.5GHz 122 4:26 2:01 2:14 18.9 3:51
15-inch PowerBook G4 1.67GHz 134 3:57 1:50 2:00 22.9 3:29
Power Mac G5 1.8GHz (single) 160 2:33 1:21 1:38 24.1 3:27
Power Mac G5 Dual Core 2GHz 227 1:07 0:50 0:57 43.7 2:51
Power Mac G5 Dual Core 2.3GHz 254 0:58 0:44 0:50 53.6 2:30
Power Mac G5 Quad Core 2.5GHz 272 0:30 0:38 0:43 65.1 2:20
>Better <Better <Better <Better >Better <Better

Best results in bold.

How we tested: Speedmark 4.5 scores are relative to those of a 1.25GHz Mac mini, which is assigned a score of 100. 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.—Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith and Jerry Jung

While Speedmark gives an excellent indication of real-world performance, it is not our only benchmark. We will continue to develop and include tests in a variety of applications appropriate for the hardware we review. If you have suggestions for tests that you’d like to see run by Macworld Lab, let us know.

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