This is an exercise to see how well the best 'Retina' MacBook Pro handles extreme 3D gaming compared to the best 'late 2011' MacBook Pro. And we added results for the low end 'mid 2012' MacBook Pro with the same GPU as the 'Retina' MacBook Pro but with half as much video memory and a slower main processor.
2012 RMBP 2.7 = 'mid 2012' Retina MacBook Pro 2.7GHz Quad-Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and GeForce GT 650M GPU (1GB video memory) + Factory 6Gb/s SSD
2012 MBP 2.3 (b) = 'mid 2012' MacBook Pro 2.3GHz Quad-Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and GeForce GT 650M GPU (512MB video memory) + TransIntl SwiftData 6Gb/s SSD
2012 MBP 2.3 (a) = 'mid 2012' MacBook Pro 2.3GHz Quad-Core i7 with 4GB of RAM and GeForce GT 650M GPU (512MB video memory) + Factory 5K HDD
2011 MBP 2.5 = 'late 2011' MacBook Pro 2.5GHz Quad-Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and Radeon HD 6770M GPU (1GB video memory) + OWC Mercyr Extreme Pro 6Gb/s SSD
All test units were connected to a Thunderbolt display and run with the lid closed.
For Portal 2, the settings were 4X MSAA, 8X Anisotropic Filtering, Vertical Sync Disabled, Multicore Rendering Enabled, Shader Detail Very High, Effect Detail High, Model/Texture Detail High.
For World of Warcraft Cataclysm (4.3.4), we did our Narache Village Totem to Tree to Totem Run. The Performance module from the TItan Panel Addon computes average frames per second. Settings were "ULTRA" preset.
For Starcraft II, we used the Ultra Textures preset and Extreme Graphics preset. Using Control+Option+F, we turned on Frames-Per-Second display and recorded the median framerate during a Twilight Fortress Replay of a MultiPlayer session.
INSIGHTS and ANALYSIS
The 'mid 2012' Retina MacBook Pro is clearly a "cut above" when it comes to extreme gaming. However, if you opt for the entry level 15" 'mid 2012' MacBook Pro 2.3GHz, it gets beat by the best 'late 2011' MacBook Pro in two out of three tests above. (Psst. I read Apple is having a closeout sale on the 'late 2011' 17" MacBook Pro.)
You might say, "but the 2.3GHz MacBook Pro only had 4GB of main memory." True. But when we monitored the total wired and active real memory usage, it never exceeded 3GB in all three cases.
"What about the fact that the 2.3GHz MacBook Pro has half the video memory of the other two?" That could be a factor. Using OpenGL Driver Monitor, we determined that Portal 2 used 680MB of video memory during our run. Cutting the resolution down to 1280x720 dropped it to 536MB. Going from "BEST" quality to "DEFAULT" brought the video memory use down to 325MB.
As for World of Warcraft and Starcraft II, they used 335MB and 367MB respectively in our test runs.
"What internal drives were used?" The Retina MacBook Pro had a factory 512GB 6Gb/s SSD. The 2011 MacBook Pro had an OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 240GB 6Gb/s SSD. However, the 2012 MacBook Pro 2.3GHz had a factory (Toshiba) 500GB 5400prm HDD -- slower than the other two.
"Did the slower HDD affect performance in the above tests?" To answer that question, we replaced the factory HDD with a TransIntl SwiftData 240GB 6Gb/s SSD. The only difference it made in the test results was to speed up Starcraft II from 15 FPS to 23 FPS. Activity Monitor confirmed that Starcraft II was performing frequent disk actions.
MORE TO COME
We will continue to explore other graphics tests and report back. Some we are working on include Heaven benchmark, Luxmark, Motion, Photoshop ILiquify and Iris Blur), Premiere Pro (Three-Way Color Corrector, Warp Stabilizer, Un-rendered Playback), After Effects (create extruded 3D text and shapes with realistic ray-traced features), etc.
Some of you have made constructive suggestions for tests involving Final Cut Pro, Aperture, Logic, MS Office, iLife, etc. Keep those suggestions coming.