First Look: Benchmarks: 17-inch MacBook Pro

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When Apple announced a 17-inch version of its MacBook Pro , many thought that the performance of this larger laptop would match that of a custom-built 15-inch MacBook. After all, both machines run on a 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo processor.

For the most part, that assumption proved to be right—our initial tests of the 17-inch MacBook Pro produced comparable results to Macworld Lab’s benchmarks of the build-to-order 2.16GHz 15-inch configuration. However, in many of the tests, the 17-inch model managed to eke out a little more performance than its 15-inch counterpart.

Unveiled at last month’s National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, the 17-inch MacBook Pro shares many of the specifications of the higher-end 15-inch model. The notable exceptions include the extra two inches of diagonal screen space, a FireWire 800 port, 20GBs of extra hard disk space, and, of course, the 2.16GHz processor as a standard option (as opposed to a $300 add-on).

Our tests compared the 17-inch MacBook Pro with the build-to-order 15-inch laptop. As you can see in the chart below, that custom model’s faster harder drive (a 7,200-rpm 100GB drive compared to the 17-inch MacBook’s 5,400-rpm 120GB drive) gave it an advantage in our Zip Archive test, as well as file duplicates.

17-inch MacBook Pro Benchmarks

Speedmark 4.5 Adobe Photoshop CS2 Cinema 4D XL 9.5.21 Compressor 2.1 iMovie 6.0.1 iTunes 6.0.4 Unreal Tournament 2004 Zip Archive
17-inch MacBook Pro/2.16GHz Intel Core Duo 193 2:26 1:06 3:59 1:01 1:28 63.1 2:48
15-inch MacBook Pro/2.16GHz Intel Core Duo* 189 2:32 1:06 4:03 1:00 1:24 57.6 2:39
15-inch PowerBook/1.67GHz PowerPC G4 131 1:34 3:54 7:32 1:50 2:12 21.4 3:29
20-inch iMac/2GHz Intel Core Duo 217 2:31 1:11 3:22 1:02 1:19 56.0 2:32
Power Macintosh/2GHz Dual Core PowerPC G5 224 1:02 1:07 2:47 0:50 0:57 45.8 2:50
>Better <Better <Better <Better <Better <Better >Better <Better

Best results in bold. Reference system in italics . Asterisk (*) denotes build-to-order model

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 6-minute, 26-second 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’ 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

One application producing interesting results was Unreal Tournament, with the 17-inch laptop beating out all of the other models shown in the chart. It even managed to squeeze out 5.5 more frames per second than the 15-inch model, even though they have the same graphics processor and video memory configuration. We’ll run a few more game tests on these systems and see if the 17-inch MacBook Pro maintains its advantage across other applications.

One application we’d taken out of our suite for lack of a Universal version of the application has now returned to the fold. I’m happy to report that we finally received our Universal Binary versions of Final Cut Pro and can now start reporting Compressor MPEG-2 encode scores again. In these tests we found, once again, that desktop systems with similar processors still hold the performance advantage with the two 2.16GHz laptops turning in very similar scores, but with the 2GHz Core Duo iMac finishing the test in a little bit more than 15 percent less time and the Power Mac with a 2GHz Dual Core PowerPC finishing about 30 percent faster.

Stay tuned for Macworld ’s complete review of the 17-inch MacBook Pro, as well as more tests using the Final Cut Pro’s new Universal Binary version.

[ James Galbraith is director of Macworld Lab. ]

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