First Look: From the Lab: 17-inch MacBook Pro Benchmarks

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Our 17-inch MacBook Pro has arrived, and we have initial results to go with the 15-inch laptops we tested last week. Like those machines, this MacBook Pro outperforms its predecessor in most tasks that make up our Speedmark tests. Unfortunately, this 17-inch MacBook Pro, like the 15-inch models last week, fares poorly in our game test—a surprising result given the upgraded graphics card inside the new laptops—and we still haven’t been able to figure out why.

As we noted last week, the 15-inch MacBook Pros were posting lower scores in our 3-D game test, which uses Unreal Tournament 2004. The lower scores came despite the fact that this new round of MacBook Pros comes with an Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics chip, an improvement over the ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 found in the older laptops. In tests involving other games—namely, Doom 3 and Quake 4,the new MacBook Pros showed the kind of improvements we’d expect. But neither of those games factors into a system’s overall Speedmark score—Unreal Tournament does. So we excluded a Speedmark score from last week’s result.

As you can see in the chart below, the 17-inch MacBook Pro, powered by a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor showed the same kind of behavior in our games test that we noted a week ago. The older 2.33GHz MacBook Pro outperformed the new MacBook Pro models in our standard test (1,024-by-768 resolution, DM Antalus Botmatch at highest settings), although when we tested at a 1,440-by-900 resolution, the results were more even. In tests involving Quake and Doom, however, the new 17-inch 2.4GHz MacBook Pro turned in the best results among laptops; it even bested a 2.66GHz Quad Core Mac Pro in the Doom 3 and Quake 4 high-resolution tests.

MacBook Pro: Game Tests

Unreal Tournament 2004 Unreal Tournament 2004 Quake 4 Quake 4 Doom 3
Antalus Botmatch Antalus Botmatch timedemo timedemo timedemo
1024x768 1440x900 1024x768 1280 x 800 1024x768
15-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo/2.2GHz 55 54 50 46 60
15-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo/2.4GHz 58 56 53 48 60
17-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo/2.4GHz 58 57 53 50 65
17-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo/2.33GHz 80 55 40 30 47
Mac Pro/2.66GHz Intel Xeon 89 70 61 42 52
>Better >Better >Better >Better >Better

Best results in bold. Reference systems in italics .

All systems were running Mac OS X 10.4.9 with 2GB of RAM. We used Unreal Tournament 2004’s Antalus Botmatch average-frames-per-second scores; we tested at resolutions of 1,024-by-768 pixels as well as 1,440-by-900 pixels at the Maximum setting with both audio and graphics enabled. Doom 3 was set to use ultra high video setting, 1,024-by-768 resolution, V-sync No, Antialiasing Off and all other settings set to Yes. Quake 4 was set to 1,024-by-768 resolution as well as 1,280-by-800 resolution, high quality video, full screen, multiprocessor on , V-sync No, antialias Off and all other advanced settings set to Yes.—MACWORLD LAB TESTING BY JERRY JUNG AND JAMES GALBRAITH

All involved parties—ourselves, Apple, and Unreal Tournament makers MacSoft—continue to look into the situation. But it’s possible that, as Unreal Tournament is getting quite long in the tooth, the game just isn’t as optimized for newer graphic cards as games like Quake and Doom may be. We do plan on changing up our game tests when we update Speedmark in October to coincide with Mac OS X 10.5’s release, but in the meantime, we’ll continue to run these results as well as results from other games.

Now to the rest of our test results. Apart from its larger screen and resolution, the new 17-inch MacBook Pro is nearly identical to the 15-inch model. Both have 2.4GHz processors, 2GB of main memory, 256MB of video RAM feeding that Nvidia card and 160GB of hard-drive space. As you’d expect, the performance numbers are also nearly identical between the two, with the 17-inch model just edging out the 15-inch 2.4GHz model in a couple of our tests.

MacBook Pro: Speedmark results

Speedmark 4.5 Adobe Photoshop CS3 Cinema 4D XL 9.5.21 Compressor 3 iMovie 6.0.2 iPhoto 6.0.3 iTunes 7.2 Zip Archive
17-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo/2.4GHz 233 1:19 0:54 2:02 0:49 0:53 0:56 2:14
15-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo/2.4GHz 229 1:21 0:54 2:02 0:49 0:53 0:56 2:14
15-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo/2.2GHz 217 1:28 1:00 2:12 0:51 0:55 1:01 2:32
MacBook Pro 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, (17-inch) 223 1:16 0:57 2:07 0:50 0:54 0:59 2:20
MacBook Core 2 Duo/2.16Ghz (black) 202 1:27 1:02 2:16 0:52 0:55 1:10 2:26
Mac Pro 2.66GHz 310 0:54 0:28 1:27 0:38 0:31 0:53 1:57
>Better <Better <Better <Better <Better <Better <Better <Better

Best results in bold. Reference systems 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 10.4.9 with 2GB of RAM, with processor performance set to Highest in the Energy Saver preference pane when applicable. The Photoshop Suite test is a set of 15 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 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

As you can see, the new 17-inch configuration edged out the similarly equipped 15-inch model in our Photoshop tests suite. The 17-inch model was also a couple of seconds faster at some of the Finder tests that we don’t report, like startup times, file duplicate, file unzip, and so forth. Overall, these saved seconds helped the 17-inch model turn in a Speedmark score that was about 2-percent higher than the 15-inch 2.4GHz MacBook Pro. Both 2.4GHz models beat out the older, 2.33GHz MacBook Pro by a second or two in most tests, with the exceptions being the aforementioned Unreal Tournament score and our Photoshop test suite.

We included a Mac Pro as reference system in our tests to offer another data point for users trying to choose between a laptop or a desktop. In terms of performance, the desk-bound Mac continues to outpace the fastest-available laptop in all our tests, particularly processor-intensive tasks, such as Cinema4D and Compressor.

MacBook Pro: Battery Tests

DVD playback
15-inch MacBook Pro/2.4GHz 2 hours 54 minutes
15-inch MacBook Pro/2.33GHz 2 hours 37 minutes

Best results in bold. Reference systems in italics .

We played back a movie from DVD in full screen mode with all Energy Saver preferences set to highest performance.—MACWORLD LAB TESTING BY JERRY JUNG

Our battery life testing found improved performance in the new MacBook Pros over their predecessors. A combination of the new chipset and LED backlit displays helped the new 15-inch model squeeze out 17 more minutes of DVD playback time from a full charge. We’re currently running battery tests on the 17-inch models; those results will appear in our final review, running on next week.

[ James Galbraith is Macworld Lab director. ]

This article was reposted at 5:10 p.m. PT to correct a data entry error on the Speedmark results.

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