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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

Did the performance gap shrink
between the Mac Pro and
the other Macs?

Originally posted Friday, November 4th, 2011, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

You may or may not have heard the speculation that Apple may stop making the Mac Pro. After all, the top iMac and MacBook Pro models offer quad-core processors (or eight virtual cores with Hyperthreading). Before I venture an opinion, check out the pro app test results below.

Final Cut Pro X
We timed how long it took to render the Directional Blur effect on eight ProRes 422 clips. (Shortest bar in
RED indicates the fastest time in seconds.)

Compressor 4
We exported eight ProRes 422 clips from FCPX to Compressor. Then encoded using the Blu-ray preset. (Shortest bar in
RED indicates the fastest time in seconds.)

Motion 5
Using the Atmospheric template, we timed how long it took to play all 600 frames without pre-rendering. The time in seconds was converted to frames per second. (LONGEST bar in
RED means fastest frames per second or FPS.)

Aperture 3
Using "Noise Ninja" plugin, we timed how long it took to remove noise from 50 RAW photos. (Shortest bar in RED indicates the fastest time in seconds.)

PhotoZoom Pro 3
We timed how long it took to enlarge an image 200% using PhotoZoom's S-Spline technology. (Shortest bar in
RED indicates the fastest time in seconds.)

After Effects CS5.5
After Effects is arguably the most demanding pro app since it makes use of all RAM and all cores (real and virtual). We timed how long it took to render phase two of the Total Benchmark project. Multiprocessing option is enabled with 1GB of RAM reserved for each core. (Shortest bar in
RED indicates the fastest time in seconds.)

NOTE: This is the only graph showing the Mac mini quad-core i7 Server. Once we get some test results from our remote mad scientists, we'll add that model to the rest of the graphs.

MP 3.3 6c = 'mid 2010' Mac Pro 3.33GHz Hex-Core Westmere (24G of RAM)
iMac 3.4 i7 = 'mid 2011' iMac 3.4GHz Quad-Core i7 (16G of RAM)
mbp 2.5 i7 = 'late 2011' MacBook Pro 2.5GHz Quad-Core i7 (16G of RAM)
mbp 2.3 i7 = 'early 2011' MacBook Pro 2.3GHz Quad-Core i7 (8G of RAM)
mini 2.0 i7 = 'mid 2011' Mac mini Server 2.0GHz Quad-Core i7 (12G of RAM)
mbp 2.7 i7 = 'early 2011' MacBook Pro 2.7GHz Dual-Core i7 (8G of RAM)
mini 2.7 i7 = 'mid 2011' Mac mini 2.7GHz Dual-Core i7 (8G of RAM)
mba 1.8 i7 = 'mid 2011' MacBook Air 1.8GHz Dual-Core i7 (4G of RAM)

The gap has definitely closed between the 'mid range' Mac Pro versus the 'high-end' iMac and MacBook Pro when it comes to pro apps -- thanks to quad-core i7 "Sandy Bridge" processors with hyperthreading and turbo-boost. The gap varies depending on the app and the specific function within the app. And if you are comparing a new 'high-end' iMac or Macbook Pro to a 2006-2008 Mac Pro, you will be impressed.

The Macs that do get smoked running pro apps are the dual-core models. If you are trying to replace your Mac Pro with an iMac or MacBook Pro, I suggest you go with the quad-core i7 models. Notice we included the Mac mini quad-core i7 Server in the PhotoZoom and After Effects graphs. It's definitely a contender for use with pro-apps. I only wish it had a faster core frequency -- like around 2.5GHz.

There are advantages that the Mac Pro offers that are not apparent in our performance graphs. I'm thinking of four internal drive bays, four PCie slots, and two optical bays. Then again, there are some advantages that the iMac and MacBook Pro have over the Mac Pro. I'm thinking of Thunderbolt ports and 6Gb/s rated internal drive interfaces.

I will be watching with great interest to see what happens next with the Mac Pro line. I would like to see the Mac Pro updated to include two Thunderbolt ports (like the iMac). It would be nice if the controller for the four internal drive bays was upgraded to 6Gb/s (like the iMac and MacBook Pro) to handle the full speed potential of 6Gb/s SSDs. And I would not be upset if support for jumpering multiple GPUs (CrossFire and SLI) was added -- a feature supported on Windows PCs for years.

Using Adobe After Effects to represent the extreme pro app and a "pro" configuration of each model of Mac (16G of RAM, one SSD, one HDD, and a 27" Apple display), we concocted an equation to determine best bang for the buck. The iMac came out on top with the Mac Pro hex-core in second and the mini Quad-Core i7 Server in third.

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copyright 2011 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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