First Look: MacBook benchmarks in black and white

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The 13-inch MacBook unveiled by Apple Tuesday outperformed the fastest iBook G4 in all but one of our tests and also matched up well against a PowerBook with a 1.67GHz G4 processor, according to Macworld Lab tests.

We tested two of the latest Intel-based laptops: a white MacBook with a 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo chip and a black-matte laptop powered by a 2GHz dual-core processor. These laptops replace the G4-based 12-inch PowerBook as well as the entire iBook line.

Those MacBook processor speeds are the same ones that originally appeared in the MacBook Pro line. (Apple boosted the clock speeds in its higher-end laptops to 2GHz and 2.16GHz to coincide with Tuesday’s MacBook launch.) So it’s no surprise that the MacBooks held their own against the MacBook Pros on most processor-intensive tasks like Compressor, Photoshop, and Cinema 4D. The MacBooks also outperformed the G4-based laptops in these tests, with one exception—the Photoshop suite test. Adobe Photoshop CS2 has yet to appear in a Universal Binary form, so it requires Apple’s Rosetta emulation technology to run on Intel-based hardware. That creates a performance hit as the chart below indicates.

MacBook 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
MacBook/1.83GHz Intel Core Duo 154 2:53 1:25 4:17 1:12 1:37 17.8 3:14
MacBook/2GHz Intel Core Duo 160 2:38 1:23 4:11 1:08 1:32 17.6 3:02
14-inch iBook/1.42GHz G4 107 1:49 4:29 8:29 2:07 2:19 14.1 4:33
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 PowerBook/1.67GHz G4 131 1:34 3:54 7:32 1:50 2:12 21.4 3:29
20-inch iMac/2GHz Core Duo 217 2:31 1:11 3:22 1:02 1:19 56.0 2:32
>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

Also worth noting is the MacBook’s graphics system. These new portables use integrated Intel graphics that share the main memory, as opposed to the ATI Mobility Radeon graphics with dedicated memory found in the MacBook Pro models. You can see the advantage of having dedicated graphics memory in our Unreal Tournament test. The MacBook Pro tallies 63 frames per second, compared to a little less than 18 for the MacBook. The 1.67GHz PowerBook G4 tallied a score of 21.4 frames per second in that test. So if you’re a serious gamer, the MacBook is probably not the right system for you. Nevertheless, its performance in other processor-intensive applications is impressive, especially compared to the laptops it replaces.

We’ll keep testing, so check back for Macworld’s full review with updated test results including more reference systems and game scores.

[ James Galbraith is Macworld Lab director. ]

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