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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

X-Plane 10 on
Four of the latest Macs

Originally posted Friday, February 17th, 2012, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated on February 23rd with a tougher test
and addition of the GeForce GTX 285 and Radeon HD 5770 GPUs

As a snapshot of the current state of running simulations on the Mac, we chose the lastest version of X-Plane (version 10). The DEMO version was used so you don't have to buy X-Plane to compare your Mac against those we tested.

Using the Terminal app, we launched the Boeing 747 Test Flight replay at 2560x1440. In the case of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, we used an external Thunderbolt display with the lid closed.

Laminar Research X-Plane 10.03r2 Demo
By consulting the "Timedemo and Framerate Test" document on Laminar's site and studying the settings.txt document in the Resources folder, we came up with a more stressful test (fps_test=3). For example, it enables anti-aliasing to smooth out the jaggies on the wings. Here's the Terminal command line we used for this round of testing:
./X-Plane.app/Contents/MacOS/X-Plane --fps_test=3 --load_smo=Output/replays/test_flight_747.rep --pref:_prefs_found=1 --pref:_is_full_ALL=1 --pref:_x_res_full_ALL=2560 --pref:_y_res_full_ALL=1440 --pref:_bpp_full_ALL=32

In addition, instead of doing "fast forward" replay and "chase" view, we used normal playback speed and "circle" view. (NOTE: If you want to duplicate our testing procedure, be ready to click "I DON'T HAVE A JOYSTICK!" and "OK!" buttons when the replay finishes loading. Then enter "Shift+4" to switch to Circle view.)

Results are an average of three runs. After each run, we used the Terminal command line "grep FRAMERATE Log.txt" to display average frame rate.

RED bar represents the fastest in frames-per-second.

MP R5870 = 2010 Mac Pro 3.33GHz Hex-Core Westmere with Radeon HD 5870 GPU
MP R5770 = 2010 Mac Pro 3.33GHz Hex-Core Westmere with Radeon HD 5770 GPU
MP GX285 = 2010 Mac Pro 3.33GHz Hex-Core Westmere with GeForce GTX 285
iMac R6970 = 2011 iMac 3.4GHz Quad-Core i7 with Radeon HD 6970M GPU
MBP R6770
= 'late 2011' MacBook Pro 2.5GHz Quad-Core i7 with Radeon HD 6770M GPU
MBA I3000 = 2011 MacBook Air 1.8GHz Dual-Core i7 with Intel HD 3000 integrated GPU
NOTE: All Macs were running OS X Lion 10.7.3.

If X-Plane 10 is your thing and you want the best performing 2011 Mac, it looks like the best 2011 iMac with the Radeon HD 6970 and 2010 Mac Pro with the Radeon HD 5870 are the hot setups. At the other extreme, it's clear that X-Plane 10 is unplayable on the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air unless you use low resolution and low quality settings.

We used the "Current Free Video Memory" parameter in OpenGL Driver Monitor to calcluate the amount of video memory used during our "stress test" at 2560x1440. As much as 692MB was gobbled up. That means if you plan to run X-Plane 10 at high resolution and the maximum quality settings, you need a graphics card with at least 1G of VRAM. However, if you run at lower quality settings at 1280x720, the video memory use drops to 348MB.

Just for fun, we connected a Thunderbolt display to the iMac and changed the "x axis" setting to 5120. Even at low quality settings, the frame rate dropped to 25. If you want to run X-Plane 10 with two or three screens, you might want to hold out for the 2012 Mac Pro with an AMD Radeon HD 7970. ;-)

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copyright 2012 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster