What's The Best Quad-Core Mac?
MacBook Pro? iMac 5K? or Mac Pro?
Posted Friday, September 4th, 2015 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
There are various quad-core Macs. Which is the best? The iMac 5K? MacBook Pro? Mac Pro 'tube'? And how about a 2010 quad-core Mac Pro tower?
Mac Pro tube = 'late 2013' Mac Pro 3.7GHz Quad-Core Xeon; 32G RAM; dual FirePro D300 GPUs; 512G flash storage
iMac 5K = 'late 2014' iMac Retina 5K 4.0GHz Quad-Core i7; Radeon R9 M295X GPU; 32G RAM; 1TB flash storage
MacBook Pro = 'mid 2015' Retina MacBook Pro 15" 2.8GHz Quad-Core i7; 16G RAM; Radeon R9 M370X GPU; 1TB flash storage
Mac Pro tower = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.2GHz Quad-Core Xeon; 24G RAM; Radeon HD 5770; OWC 240G Mercury Extreme Pro 6Gbps SSD in 3Gbps factory bay (Courtesy of Peter Thomsen Photography)
The CPU test renders a 3D model. We included results for single core and multi-core tests. (RED graph bar means FASTEST speed Rating.)
PHOTOSHOP CC 2015
Noise Reduction stresses the CPU. (RED graph bar means FASTEST elapsed time in Seconds.)
Iris Blur uses the GPUs OpenCL capability. (RED graph bar means FASTEST elapsed time in Seconds.)
This OpenCL benchmark uses all available GPUs by default to render the scene. (RED graph bar means FASTEST in Thousands of Samples per Second.)
CINEBENCH R15 OPENGL
The Car Chase animation uses OpenGL. (RED graph bar means FASTEST in Frames per Second.)
Part of the GpuTest suite, this is an OpenGL benchmark and stress test featuring an animated hairy donut. We tested all four Macs at 1440x900 Windowed (No AA). (RED graph bar means FASTEST in Frames per Second.)
This benchmark uses a host of OpenGL extensions to predict game performance. We used the Basic preset. (RED graph bar means FASTEST score.)
AJA SYSTEM LARGE SEQUENTIAL DATA TRANSFER
It uses file level i/o to simulate large sequential video capture and playback. We used 16GB Test Size and 4K frame size. (RED graph bar means FASTEST in Megabytes per Second.)
QUICKBENCH SMALL RANDOM DATA TRANSFER
This is a test of small random transfers ranging from 4K to 1024K bytes. (RED graph bar means FASTEST in Megabytes per Second.)
Which Quad-Core Mac is best? It depends on your priorities. CPU speed? GPU speed? Storage speed? All of the above? The Mac Pro 'tube' excels when both GPUs are used for rendering. The iMac 5K has the upper-hand on CPU intensive tasks. The newest MacBook Pro sports the fastest flash storage. The 2010 Mac Pro tower held its own in the Photoshop and OpenGL tests --- compared to the MacBook Pro.
When comparing cost, you must look at all features and specs. The Mac Pro 'tube' includes dual workstation GPUs, six Thunderbolt 2 ports (three buses), four USB 3 ports, two gigabit Ethernet ports, and one HDMI port. The iMac 5K includes a 27" Retina screen and muscular mobile GPU. The portable 2015 MacBook Pro 15" has both integrated and discrete GPUs, built-in Retina display, and built-in backlit keyboard. Did I mention it's portable? The 2010 Mac Pro tower is the most versatile when it comes to upgrades. If you own one, it's paid for. The only expense is the upgrades (memory, GPU, storage -- see "PUMPING..." below.). If you don't own one, it is a bargain buy as refurbished or used.
Quad-Core Mac supremacy is a moving target. For example, if the next generation of iMac 5K could match the flash storage speed of the 2015 MacBook Pro, that could make it the unqualified Quad-Core Mac of choice.
PUMPING UP THE 2010 MAC PRO
The 2010 Mac Pro tower with 4-core Xeon needs help in the GPU and storage department to compete with the other Quad-Core Macs. The fix is easy. Add a PCIe M.2 card with an SM951 flash blade to boost the large sequential read speed to the second highest (1517MB/s). Upgrading the Radeon HD 5770 to a Radeon HD 7950 Mac Edition would pump it up to the best FurMark result (65 FPS), second best Heaven result (87 FPS), and second best LuxMark 3 result (9454 KSamples/sec).
Big Mahalo to Peter Thomsen for providing test results for his 4-core 2010 Mac Pro.
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