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17" MacBook Pro Core Duo versus
17" MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo

Posted January 5th, 2007, Rob-ART Morgan, mad scientist

We originally compared a 15" Core 2 Duo to a 17" Core Duo MacBook Pro since that's all we could get our hands on. However, when it came to our game tests at 1440x900, the 17" was at a disadvantage since the 15" was optimized for that resolution.

So we are replacing those graphs with the ones below showing two 17" MacBook Pros both with the Mobility Radeon X1600 GPU, both with two matching 1GB memory modules, and both with a 7200rpm boot drive. The only obvious difference is the processors -- one has a 2.16GHz Core Duo and the other a 2.33GHz Core 2 Duo.

Legend of Graphs (and configuration of test units)
MBP C2D 2.33 = 17" MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo 2.33GHz with 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM (matched 1GB pairs), ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 (256M GDDR3) GPU, and Hitachi 100GB 7200rpm internal hard drive
MBP CD 2.16 = 17" MacBook Pro Core Duo 2.16GHz with 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM (matched 1GB pairs), ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 (256M GDDR3) GPU, and Seagate 100GB 7200RPM internal hard drive

We ran at both the native 1680x1050 resolution as well as a less demanding widescreen setting, 1280x800.

The MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo's advantage over the Core Duo version ranged from 5% to 48% depending on what 3D Game and what resolution. The faster core clock speed should provide an 8% advantage, so everything beyond that is "gravy." Of the 3D Games we tested, the one that benefited the most from the Core 2 Duo was Doom 3 -- especially at the native 1680x1050 setting.

Neither CPU clock speed nor larger L2 cache explains the gain. However, 3D games tend to become GPU bound as the resolution goes up. Doom 3's advantage on the MBP C2D increased from 10% to 48% when we increased the resolution from 1280x800 to 1680x1050. If, indeed, Doom 3 was becoming GPU bound, the next paragraph explains the C2D's advantage.

The Mobility Radeon X1600 in both units "idles" at 311MHz core clock speed and 297MHz memory clock speed when non-OpenGL apps are running or nothing is active. But when you launch a 3D Game like Doom 3 and run a live game sequence or timed demo, the core clock and memory clock speeds ramp up in both models of 17" MacBook Pro. We used Graphiccelerator to measure the core frequencies before, during, and after running Doom 3.

Active OpenGL
Active OpenGL
Core Clock
Memory Clock

So you see, the Core 2 Duo model's GPU ramps up to higher frequencies than the Core Duo model. That's going to help when the app is GPU bound. And it appears to explain the 48% advantage we measured while running Doom 3 at the native 1680x1050 resolution.


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2007 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist