New MacBook Pro speed tests

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15-inch MacBook Pros

Apple previously offered two 15-inch models; this time, Apple added a third standard configuration 15-inch MacBook Pro that achieves a lower price point by providing only the GeForce 9400M graphics processor; it doesn't have the higher-power Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT graphics found in the rest of the 15-inch MacBook Pro configurations. The low-end 15-inch MacBook Pro costs $1,699 and comes with a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 memory, and a 250GB hard drive.

Then there’s the $1,999 15-inch 2.66GHz MacBook Pro, which comes with 4GB of memory and a 320GB hard drive. The high end of the 15-inch MacBook Pro line features a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive for $2,299. Both of these 15-inch models have the dual graphics setup with the GeForce 9400M and GeForce 9600M GT, but the amount of video RAM for the 9600M GT differs—the 2.66GHz MacBook has 256MB, while the 2.8GHz has 512MB.

When it comes to the benchmarks, there are subtle differences between the 15-inch 2.53GHz and 2.66GHz models in our Speedmark scores, but there are dramatic differences in 3-D games scores, with the higher-powered graphics found in the 2.66GHz model helping that system to nearly double the amount of frames displayed in our Quake 4 timedemo tests. (More games scores will be included in our full review of these new MacBook Pros).

A bigger performance difference is seen when comparing the new 15-inch 2.66GHz MacBook Pro to the 15-inch 2.8GHz MacBook Pro, with the 2.8GHz model’s Speedmark score coming in nearly 7.5 percent higher than that 2.66GHz model.

To check the progress these systems have made, we compared their performance to the systems they replace. The 2.53GHz model is arguably in a new class, but even so, it compares favorably to the previous low-end MacBook Pro, a 15-inch model with a 2.4GHz processor. The new 2.53GHz 15-inch MacBook Pro had a Speedmark score nearly 6 percent higher than the 2.4GHz model. The 2.53GHz model was about 7 percent faster in our Photoshop and Cinema 4D tests. The one test that the older 2.4GHz model outperformed the newcomer was in 3-D game frame rate tests—the 2.4GHz MacBook Pro has the faster GeForce 9600M GT graphics processor.

Comparing the new 15-inch 2.66GHz MacBook Pro to the older 2.4GHz system we see an 8 percent higher Speedmark 5 score, as well as faster 3-D game performance-the new system couples the same faster graphics processor with a faster Core 2 Duo processors. The new 2.66GHz MacBook Pro performed nearly identically to the previous top of the line MacBook Pro, also a 2.66GHz model that cost $500 more.

The 15-inch 2.8GHz MacBook Pro is nearly 8 percent faster than the 2.66GHz model it replaces at the top of the 15-inch MacBook Pro line, with Photoshop scores that were more than 9 percent faster.

Benchmarks: 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros

Speedmark 5 Adobe Photoshop CS3 Cinema 4D XL 10.5 Compressor 3.0.4 iMovie HD iTunes 7.7 Quake 4 Finder Finder
OVERALL SCORE SUITE RENDER MPEG ENCODE AGED EFFECT MP3 ENCODE FRAME RATE ZIP ARCHIVE UNZIP ARCHIVE
17-inch 2.8GHz MacBook Pro 256 0:48 0:45 1:42 0:40 0:54 76.3 3:54 1:09
15-inch 2.8GHz MacBook Pro 260 0:48 0:45 1:32 0:39 0:54 77.1 4:00 1:13
15-inch 2.66GHz MacBook Pro 242 0:52 0:47 1:37 0:43 0:57 69.9 4:06 1:28
15-inch 2.53GHz MacBook Pro 237 0:53 0:50 1:42 0:45 1:00 37.4 4:11 1:18
13-inch 2.53GHz MacBook Pro 239 0:53 0:50 1:52 0:46 0:58 39.3 4:11 1:14
15-inch 2.66GHz MacBook Pro (Mar. 2009) 241 0:53 0:47 1:36 0:43 0:57 74.1 4:10 1:18
17-inch 2.66GHz MacBook Pro (Jan. 2009) 249 0:50 0:47 1:36 0:43 0:58 73.7 4:10 1:16
15-inch 2.4GHz MacBook Pro (Oct. 2008) 224 0:57 0:54 1:46 0:50 1:04 61.0 4:39 1:16
24-inch 2.66GHz iMac 281 0:44 0:47 1:32 0:41 0:56 40.7 3:50 0:47
>Better <Better <Better <Better <Better <Better >Better <Better <Better

Best results in bold. Reference systems in italics.

Speedmark 5 scores are relative to those of a 1.5GHz Core Solo Mac mini, which is assigned a score of 100. Adobe Photoshop, Cinema 4D XL, iMovie, iTunes, and Finder scores are in minutes:seconds. The two white MacBooks and the MacBook Pro were running Mac OS X 10.5.7 with 4GB of RAM. 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 Cinema 4D XL. 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 Film Effect from the Video FX menu to a one minute movie. We converted 45 minutes of AAC audio files to MP3 using iTunes’ High Quality setting. We used Quake\'s 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 duplicated a 1GB folder, created a Zip archive in the Finder from the two 1GB files and then Unzipped it.—Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith, Chris Holt, and Helen Williamson.

17-inch MacBook Pro

The 17-inch MacBook Pro has a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive for $2,499. It also has the dual graphics set, using the GeForce 9400M and the GeForce 9600M GT with 512MB of video RAM.

The new 17-inch 2.8GHz MacBook Pro was about 3 percent faster in our Speedmark tests than the 2.66GHz 17-inch model it replaces.

When compared to the 15-inch MacBook Pro with the same 2.8GHz processor as the 17-inch MacBook Pro, we see that the 15-inch model with the same processor was faster in our Speedmark scores, but not by much. Both systems posted identical Photoshop and Cinema 4D test times, with the 17-inch being a little slower in our Compressor test as well as a bit slower to start up.

Since the 17-inch MacBook Pro can be considered a desktop replacement, we retested a 2.66GHz, 24-inch iMac to see how its performance stands up. In overall performance, the iMac, with a Speedmark score of 281, was a little more than 9 percent faster than the new 17-inch 2.8GHz MacBook Pro. In processor-intensive tests like Cinema 4D, the new 17-inch MacBook Pro prevailed. But in hard drive-based tests, like unzipping a 2GB file archive, the portables with their 5,400-RPM notebook hard drives were no match for the iMac and its full-sized 7,200-RPM drive. Of course, it’s very difficult to fit a 24-inch iMac into a backpack.

Overall, the new 13-, 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros offer a very good speed boost over the respective models they replace—a boost that has more added value when you consider that the new laptops are priced lower than the older models they replace.

Check back soon for full reviews of these new systems, including battery life tests and more game scores. Also coming soon will be our review of the new MacBook Air models.

[James Galbraith is Macworld’s lab director.]

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