The top 2011 MacBook Pro
versus Mac Desktops
Originally posted Thursday, March 10th, 2011, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
As promised, we have "hi rez hi quality" 3D game results for the 2011 MacBook Pro. We wanted to see how it compared to the top 2010 iMac and the 6-core 2010 Mac Pro with the "standard" GPU -- especially with all the talk of the new quad-core MBP being a desktop replacement. To make it a fair fight, we connected a 27" LED Cinema display to the 2011 MacBook Pro. With one exception, we tested at the display's native 2560x1440 resolution. The MacBook Pro's lid was closed so all the VRAM was dedicated to the eternal display.
Blizzard Starcraft 2 was tested using a replay of a Roundabout War multiplayer session. We found by setting the viewport to the center square with the pools of water and statue, not only were our frame rates steady but the GPUs were pushed harder than when we observed game activity in the perimeters. For settings, we used the High texture and graphics quality presets. (Higher numbers are better. RED bar means fastest.)
Steam Portal was tested with these settings: Model Detail = High, Texture Detail = High, Shader Detail = High Water Detail = Reflect All, Shadow Detail = High, Color Correction = Enabled, Antialiasing Mode = none, Filtering Mode = Anisotropy 4X Vertical Sync = Disabled, Motion Blur = Enabled. (Higher numbers are better. RED bar means fastest.)
Steam Left 4 Dead 2 has a timedemo feature that can be invoked from the console mode the same way as Portal. We recorded a "survival mode" session and played it back. Settings were High shader/effect/texture detail with 4X Aniso filtering and no MSAA. (Higher numbers are better. RED bar means fastest.)
Blizzard World of Warcraft Cataclysm was tested Full Screen, 1x Multisampling, and "High" Quality. Our "Narache Village Totem to Tree Sprint" emphasizes GPU over CPU. (Higher numbers are better. RED bar means fastest.)
Laminar Research X-Plane has a timedemo mode which we run from the Terminal app with 4X anisotropic filtering and 2X anti-aliasing. (Higher numbers are better. RED bar means fastest.)
Stay "hello" to our newest 3D test from Feral Interactive: Borderlands. It has a built-in timedemo sequence. Because all frame rates were quite low, we ran at 1920x1080 with all settings at "Low" or "Off." (Higher numbers are better. RED bar means fastest.)
MP 3.33 '10 = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33Ghz 6-core 'Westmere' with Radeon HD 5770 (base factory GPU)
iMac 2.93 '10 = 'mid 2010' iMac 2.93GHz 4-core with Radeon HD 5750 graphics.
MBP 2.30 '11 = 'early 2011' MacBook Pro Quad-Core i7 2.30GHz with Radeon HD 6750M graphics
MBP 2.66 '10 = 'mid 2010' MacBook Pro Dual-Core i7 2.66GHz with GeForce GT 330M graphics
1. The 2011 MacBook Pro with Radeon 6750M graphics runs the 3D games we tested two to three times faster than the 2010 MacBook Pro with GeForce 330M graphics.
2. But --- the 2011 MacBook Pro is significantly slower than both desktop Macs we tested. If you are a hard core gamer or 3D animator, the 2011 MacBook Pro -- as good as it is with new quad-core processor -- does not have a GPU equivalent to Mac desktops.
3. We were hoping to include the 2011 MacBook Pro 2.0 with Radeon 6490M graphics. We have asked some remote mad scientists who have this model to do some testing. We don't have all those results yet, but I can tell you that it performs similarly to the 2010 MacBook Pro with GeForce 330M. In other words, you'll save a little money but lose a lot of graphics power.
3. We did run the tests at 1920x1080 for all apps above. The relative performance of each Mac tested mirrors the 2560x1440 results posted above. Of course, you can get better frame rates by dropping down to 1280x720 or 1280x800 and "Medium" or "Low" quality.
If you have an Mac you think belongs in the graphs above (and have the apps we used), email
. If we agree, we'll send you test procedures and test files. (BTW, you can also follow him on Twitter @barefeats.)