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BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

The Best of 2009
Wish List for 2010

Original posting December 31st, 2009, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist


Quad-core iMac. The Core i5 and Core i7 iMac is significant in that it bridges the gap between the dual-core iMac and the octo-core Mac Pro. With memory expandable up to 16GB, the user with "mid-level" requirements doesn't have to languish with a Core 2 Duo iMac or go into deep debt with an expensive Mac Pro.

However, if you can afford the octo-core Mac Pro 'Nehalem,' it is a magnificent tower with 16 virtual cores, separate I/O controllers, triple channel memory bus, Quick-Path interconnect, and Turbo Boost. And if you believe the rumors, it will get even better in 2010.

OpenCL. The GPU makers have been busy as bees developing parallel processing technology whose speed can be measured in gigaflops. Yet GPUs often are just loafing, waiting for the CPU to finish doing its thing. "OpenCL takes the power of graphics processors and makes it available for general-purpose computing. No longer will graphics processors be limited to graphics-intensive applications such as games and 3D modeling. Instead, once developers begin to use OpenCL in their applications, you will experience greatly improved speed in a wide spectrum of applications." (Quote from Apple's OpenCL page.) For this reason, we recommend buying the fastest GPU you can afford as one way of future proofing your Mac purchase.

I don't mean to ignore the other software technologies in Snow Leopard such as Grand Central and QuickTime X. To delve deeper, start at the SL Technology page.

Custom 'Bypass' Sleds for Mac Pro. Sometimes new technology can be a blessing with a curse. The '2009' Nehalem Mac Pro no longer has a mini-SAS cable that can be disconnected from the main logic board and plugged into a SATA/SAS RAID host adapter. Apple, instead, cleverly uses a lead on their new Pro RAID card's blade connector to "tell" the main logic board that it was "taking over management" of the four internal drives plugged into the backplane. However, that "locked out" all third party host adapters that were designed to use the mini-SAS connector. Plus Apple did not share the info with third parties needed to make their host adapters compatible.

Two companies known for innovative solutions had an answer. TransIntl introduced the ProCable kit and MaxUpgrades introduced the MaxConnect Backplane Attachment kit. Both kits bypass the backplane SATA/SAS connectors, allowing third party host adapters to access the internal drives.

Six Gigabit/Second Storage. Just this month HighPoint starting shipping a 6Gbit/s SATA host adapter (Rocket 622) with more of the same to come. We were able to test the Barracuda XT 6Gbit/s SATA HDD but did not have a 6Gbit/s enclosure to go along with that setup.

One of the advantages of 6Gbit/s SATA will be seen when 6Gbit/s Port-Multiplier enclosures ship. Up until now, the 3GBit/s PM enclosures were limited to 230MB/s no matter how many drives were installed. With the new technology, that number should double.

ATTO has various 6Gbit/s SAS host adapters. We tested the ExpressSAS H644 which comes with both internal and external mini-SAS ports. The Cheetah 15K.7 SAS 600G HDD from Seagate (connected to the H644) set a new record for single drive speed: 203MB/s.


A tablet Mac. We've been suggesting this product for years on our Missing Pieces page. We have in mind something that combines the function of the iPhone and the MacBook. Ideally it would have a pressure sensitive screen similar to the Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet so drawings can be made with a stylus directly on screen. Hopefully the rumored tablet expected to be announced on January 26th will have at least some of our fantasy features.

iPhone 4G. The Google Nexus One has fired a salvo across the bow of the iPhone 3GS. It's given me a few ideas for what should be in the next iPhone. How about 4G support, 5MP camera with LED flash, WiFi "n" (802.11n), 4" screen with 960x640 rez, and Java support? And how about making the iPhone available to all service providers. Enough with AT&T exclusivity.

MacBook Pro on steroids. We've looked over the fence many times at the AlienWare Area 51 laptops. We think we power users are ready for a Mac laptop with quad-core processor, dual striped boot drives, and dual GPUs (SLI or CrossFire). Yes it will be thicker and heavier, but it will be as powerful as a desktop with portability.

Blu-ray CTO option for the Mac. I often enjoy a Blu-ray movie at home. I use the Sony Playstation 3 since it comes with a slot-load Blu-ray disc player as standard equipment. Wouldn't it great if your MacBook Pro could be ordered with a slot load Blu-ray player? Or why can't we have a tray-load Blu-ray burner/player in our Mac Pro with full OS X support?

Cutting Edge GPUs for the Mac Pro. The Mac faithful often feel left behind when it comes to graphics processors. My friends have Radeon HD 5870s and GeForce GTX 295s in their top-of-the-line Windows PCs while I have to hobble along with a Radeon HD 4870 or GeForce GTX 285. Plus Windows users get to combine two or more GPUs with SLI or CrossFire jumpers. We get nada. Come on, man!

Updated 30" Cinema Display to LED technology. Or how about offering a 27" LED display like the one featured on the newest iMac with its edge to edge glass screen, iSight camera, microphone, and speakers.

Backlit Keyboard CTO option for Mac Pro and iMac. There are backlit keyboards already in existence for Windows PC users. Some we have used include the Razer Lycosa keyboard with blue back lighting, the Eclipse keyboard from Saitek with red back lighting, and the Logitech Illuminated Ultrathin keyboard with white back lighting. (We used the Keyboard tile in System Preferences to remap the Alt and Windows modifier keys.) Logitech also makes a Mac compatible G19 Gaming keyboard which lets you pick the color of your backlighting.

Apple Online Store

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copyright 2009 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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