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SHOOTOUT:
MacBook Pro 2.0GHz versus
MacBook Pro 2.16GHz

Posted May 18th, 2006, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

The week of NAB 2006, Apple introduced a 17" MacBook Pro running at 2.16GHz. Now as of this week, they bumped the 15" MacBook Pro up to 2.16GHz. Since we have a 15" MacBook Pro 2.0GHz in our lab, we decided to compare its performance to the new 17" MacBook Pro 2.16GHz to see if the 8% higher clock speed provides an 8% gain in performance.

We included results for the Intel iMac Core Duo 2.0 with the 256MB video memory option.

GRAPH LEGEND:
MacBook Pro 2.16 -- Apple Intel MacBook Pro 17" with 2.16GHz Core Duo, 2GB of 667MHz memory and Radeon X1600 Mobility GPU with 256MB VRAM
MacBook Pro 2.0 -- Apple Intel MacBook Pro 15" with 2.0GHz Core Duo, 2GB of 667MHz memory and Radeon X1600 Mobility GPU with 256MB VRAM
iMac Core Duo 2.0 -- Apple Intel iMac 20" with 2.0GHz Core Duo, 2GB of 667MHz memory and Radeon 1600 GPU with 256MB VRAM

Cinebench renders 9% faster on the MacBook Pro 2.16 than on the MacBook Pro 2.0.

iMovie renders 7% faster on the MacBook Pro 2.16 than on the MacBook Pro 2.0.
The Intel iMac 2.0 beats them both.

iTunes converts 11% faster on the MacBook Pro 2.16 than on the MacBook Pro 2.0.

NOW FOR SOME GRAPHICS INTENSIVE APPS (aka 3D GAMES!)

Quake 4 runs 36% faster on the MacBook Pro 2.16 than on the MacBook Pro 2.0.

Doom 3 runs 13% faster on the MacBook Pro 2.16 than on the MacBook Pro 2.0.

UT2004 Inferno Flyby runs 15% faster on the MacBook Pro 2.16
than on the MacBook Pro 2.0.

UT2004 Inferno Botmatch runs 43% faster on the MacBook Pro 2.16
than on the MacBook Pro 2.0.

ANALYSIS AND INSIGHTS
Though the CPU clock speed advantage of the 2.16GHz MacBook Pro is only 8%, it outperformed the 2.0GHz MacBook Pro by as much as 43%, depending on the application. (See notations under each graph above.)

We were puzzled but pleased with the results, but after receiving a tip from Michael Bean of AMUG, we rechecked the 17" MacBook Pro's X1600 GPU's core and memory speeds before, during and after running 3D Games using Graphiccelerator's "Show ATI Frequencies" function. Before starting a series of runs, the core measured 311MHz frequency. When we ran 3D games, it jumped to 423MHz. After sitting idle a few minutes, it fell back to 311MHz. We measured a similar jump in the GPU's memory clock from 297MHz to 450MHz. Now we know why the 17" MacBook Pro performed as well as the Intel iMac on the 3D Game tests.

FIREWIRE 800 PORT
We were thrilled to see the FireWire 800 port is back on the 17" MacBook Pro. We know for a fact that the 15" MacBook Pro is the most popular among professionals. That's why we don't understand why Apple didn't include the FireWire 800 port on that model -- or replace the FireWire 400 port with only FireWire 800. After all, you can always "dumb down" the FireWire 800 port with a 9 pin to 6 pin cable for operating FireWire 400 devices.

For me personally, I'm going to buy the 17" MacBook Pro. I need the screen "real estate" since I use my laptop to run Bare Feats -- recording test results, creating graphs, composing web pages, uploading web pages, answering email, browsing the internet -- all at the same time.

ALIEN ENVY...
I'm always looking "over the fence" to see what other computer companies are doing. Apple doesn't have all the good ideas, you know. For example, both AlienWare and Dell use the GeForce Go 7800 and 7800 GS in their "pro" laptops. Why can't we have that as a CTO option? AlienWare offers the option of TWO 7800 GS GPUs -- linked in SLI mode!

AlienWare also gives you the option of having two drives inside their laptop -- in a RAID 0 set! Of course, those options pump up the price, weight, and size of their laptop.

By the way, if you want a bus powered RAID box with notebook drives for your MacBook Pro or PowerBook, LaCie just announced their "Little Big Disk."

BEFORE YOU MAKE THE LEAP...
If you plan to replace your old PowerBook with the MacBook Pro, you need to inventory your keep apps to see if they have been converted to Universal Binary. Apple has a special page dedicated to listing all the apps by category that have been updated to UB. MacInTouch has an alphabetical listing. Trust me. You don't want to run your most important and demanding apps in Rosetta mode.

AND THEN THERE'S THAT EXPRESSCARD SLOT...
I know that there are companies out there working on ExpressCard/34 products for the MacBook Pro. A SATA card has already been announced by FirmTek. The lack of FireWire 800 port on the 15" MacBook Pro will soon be remedied by another company's ExpressCard. The one I really need is the Verizon 3G AirCard.

The Verizon AirCard is extremely useful on our frequent road trips. I don't have to scrounge around for a WiFi Hotspot. I can even surf the Internet while Bettay chauffers me along the Interstate at (censored) miles per hour. I'd like to retire my 17" PowerBook 1.67 and make the 17" MacBook Pro my new "technical assitant." But until Verizon releases a compatible ExpressCard AirCard or Apple offers built-in 3G support, I'll be forced to hobble along on the slower PowerBook with its slower Cardbus slot or relegated to bumming around for a WiFi Hotspot for the MacBook Pro.

DO MATCHING MEMORY PAIRS MAKE IT GO FASTER?
We tested the MacBook Pro with both matching pairs of 1GB SDRAM and non-matching pairs (one 1GB and one 256MB module). There were gains: 51% in Quake 3, 18% in Doom 3, 2.5% in iMovie, and 3.5% in Photoshop CS.

THERE IS MORE TO SPEED THAN A FAST CPU
Your laptop spends much of its time reading from and writing to the internal hard drive. You can increase performance by installing a faster hard drive. Hitachi and Seagate have notebook 7200RPM drives that hold 100GB. Apple now offers a 7200rpm Configure To Order option when you purchase the MacBook Pro online.

Expanding your memory to the maximum 2GB can increase performance in two ways:
1) The more memory you have, the less time is spent transferring to/from the disk based virtual memory.
2) Applications like Photoshop and Motion use memory as cache. If you don't have enough, they are forced to use the hard drive as scratch area.

Unfortunately, you can't upgrade the graphics processing unit (GPU) as you can with Power Macs. It's a shame that Apple's innovation doesn't include socket based GPU modules -- similar to what AlienWare uses with their laptops

RELATED ARTICLES

BareFeats compares the MacBook Pro 2.0 to a PowerBook 2.0.

BareFeats compares the MacBook 13" to the MacBook Pro, PowerBook, and iBook doing 3D Gaming and pure Core Image.

WHERE TO BUY A MACBOOK PRO

Small Dog Electronics -- New MacBook Pros; New and Refurbished PowerBooks; They accept custom orders; Also have memory and drive upgrades.

PowerMax -- New MacBooks Pros; New and Refurbished PowerBooks

Apple Online Store -- New MacBook Pros; New and Refurbished PowerBooks

WHERE TO BUY THE DAYSTAR CPU UPGRADE FOR THE POWERBOOK

Daystar Technology -- They specialize in CPU upgrades for "orphaned" Mac systems like the iMac G4 Flat Panel and various PowerBooks.

"AlumBook" upgrades take you up to 2.0GHz upgrade.

The base price of $499 includes all parts and labor.
  PowerBook G4 15": 1.0, 1.25, 1.33 can go to 1.92 GHz
  PowerBook G4 15": 1.5 can go to 2.0 GHz
  PowerBook G4 17": 1.33 can go to 1.92 GHz
  PowerBook G4 17": 1.5 can go to to 2.0 GHz

OTHER POWERBOOK PRODUCT SOURCES

FirmTek -- SATA Cardbus (and soon SATA ExpressCard); SATA enclosures

OWC -- MacBook and PowerBook memory upgrades; hard drive upgrades

TransIntl -- MacBook and PowerBook memory and drive upgrades

Wiebetech -- SATA and FireWire drive enclosures

MaxUpgrades -- PowerBook Sleeves and Briefcases

FWDepot -- FireWire and SATA Cardbus cards; external FireWire and SATA drive enclosures

For noise suppression, nothing beats ear covering headphones like the Bose Quiet Comfort 2. For ear "fobs," we use the Bose In-Ear Headphones when listening to our iPod -- Help support Bare Feats by ordering your Bose headphones from Sharper Image.

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© 2006 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist