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BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

"BARE facts on Mac speed FEATS"

Mac OS X 10.5.5 versus 10.5.6:
Improved Graphics Performance?

Originally posted December 22nd, 2008, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

According to the Apple Support documentation, Mac OS X Update 10.5.6 "includes general improvements to gaming performance." We ran a series of tests to see what improved.

We're not bothering to post any 3D Game benchmark graphs because of the five demanding examples we tested, only one ran faster under 10.5.6: Call of Duty 4. Even then, it only ran faster on the MacBook Pro 2.8 with the GeForce 9600M GT (15% gain). The Mac Pro 3.2 with both GeForce 8800 GT and Radeon HD 3870 posted times essentially identical to the previous OS rev.

What is worthy of note is a "fix" that enables Motion 3 to render RAM previews faster for certain templates. In our comparison of OS X 10.5.4 with 10.5.5, we discovered that the "Blocks - Detail" HD template took twice as long to render after the update than before the update.

We posted our findings after confirming them. At the time we didn't have a way to share this information directly with Apple or nVidia engineering. But they did notice our posting and we are pleased to report that with 10.5.6, the render speed is back to "normal."

The APPLE MOTION test we use measures in seconds the time to complete a "RAM Preview - Play Range" which renders the template on the fly using both CPU and GPU while storing the resulting rendered sequence in RAM -- if you have enough. We feature "Blocks Detail" HD template (900 frames) here because it was the 'problem child' for the GeForce 8800 GT the 10.5.5 OS X update.

Notice the Radeon HD 3870 "Mac and PC Edition" renders the preview faster than the GeForce 8800 GT in all three versions of Mac OS X.

This app was created to showcase Core Image effects. We use it to test the GPU's ability to process those effects by having it render 1000 frames on the fly as it morphs from a snow leopard to a rose. (Graph displays time in seconds for the second cycle.)

Assuming this test is truly predictive of Core Image performance, the newest update of OS X does Core Image processing more slowly.

RED bar indicates the fastest time.
GeForce 8800 = nVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT (Apple CTO option for the "early 2008" Mac Pro
Radeon 3870 = ATI Radeon HD 3870 Mac & PC Edition (Retail upgrade kit)

Test mule: Mac Pro 3.2GHz "Harpertown" ('early 2008') with 16GB of RAM.

Apple Online Store

When ordering products from Apple Store USA, please click THIS TEXT LINK or any Apple display ad as your "portal" to the online store. In so doing, you help to support Bare Feats.

Also check with...

  • Power Max (takes trade-ins; also has refurbs and used)
  • Silverado (custom order one with Velociraptors)
  • SmallDog (also has refurbs)


The Radeon HD 3870 Mac & PC Edition ($219 MSRP) is available direct from ATI's Online Store or from Other World Computing or from Small Dog Electronics. Unlike the GeForce 8800 GT, one card is compatible with ALL models of Mac Pro (2006 - 2008).

You can order the GeForce 8800 GT kit for whatever Mac Pro you own by going to the Apple Store USA and clicking on the "Displays" link in the left column. You'll see two versions of the GeForce 8800 GT listed: The "early 2008" and "1st Generation" models. The price for both is $279.

The Radeon HD 2600 XT kit will work on the older Mac Pros as well as the new one (thanks to having both a 32-bit and 64-bit EFI driver in the ROM). Search on "MB198Z/A" when you visit Apple Store USA ($129).

Apple charges and arm and a leg for CTO memory options. We suggested ordering your Mac Pro with minimal memory and getting 8GB or 16GB of matched FB-DIMMs that meet Apple's specs and use Apple approved heat sinks from ....

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2008 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster