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BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

"Late 2008" MacBook and MacBook Pro

Originally posted October 15th, 2008, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

The "late 2008" MacBook and MacBook Pro have significant performance improvements that we are anxious to benchmark. We plan to test both as soon as we get our hands on them. Meanwhile, we want to give them both our preliminary assessment from a performance standpoint.

"Late 2008" 15" MacBook Pro:
1. The GeForce 9600M GT graphics processor runs 3DMark 43% faster, than the 8600M GT used in the "early 2008" MacBook Pro (according to NotebookCheck.net). Since we wrote this analysis, we have benchmarked the MacBook Pro 2.8 with 9600M GT against the MacBook Pro 2.6 with 8600M GT. Though it can also run with the integrated 9400M enabled to save battery life, you'll pay a speed penalty.
2. The Core 2 Duo processor (now available in up to 2.8GHz) has a frontside bus that's faster than the previous model (1066MHz vs 800MHz) along with a faster memory bus (1066MHz vs 667MHz). Those specs along with a fast hard drive should enable it to match rival the fastest iMac in performance. (We'll soon be testing that hypothesis.)
3. It's nice to have the Solid State Drive (SSD) option but, though our tests showed the 64GB SSD to be faster than a 7200rpm Notebook Drive for small random reads, it was slower for small random writes and large sustained reads/writes. Plus it's $450 more and stores about 1/3 as much as the 320GB 7K HDD we ordered for our test unit. (Stay tuned for benchmark results for the 128GB SSD real soon now.)
4. We're sad to see there's still no Blu-ray support even to playback movie discs. A slot load Blu-ray player (like the one in my Playstation 3) would have been a nice CTO option. A Blu-ray burner with support in iDVD would be an awesome option. (We have experimented with the MCE Tech Blu-ray burner in our Mac Pro and think it's time for Apple to negotiate a favorable licensing agreement with Sony.)

For more details, see the "late 2008" MacBook Pro SPECIFICATIONS PAGE. To order, please CLICK HERE.

"Late 2008" Aluminum 13" MacBook:
The integrated GeForce 9400M graphics processor should provide a big graphics speed boost over the integrated Intel GMA X3100 from the previous model. Apple claims up to 5 times faster.
You can now get up to a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo with a big jump in frontside and memory bus speeds -- both bus speeds matching the new MacBook Pro.
3. No 7200rpm notebook drive option but you can get the 128GB Solid State Drive (SSD). You can always add a 7K drive yourself later since it's an easy user accessible function.
It's the closest Apple has come to offering a MacBook with MacBook Pro performance. Yet, Pro users who prefer a small Apple laptop for field work are mourning the loss of the FireWire port.

For more details, see the "late 2008" MacBook SPECIFICATIONS PAGE. To order, please CLICK HERE.

I have mixed feelings about the new keyboard. It's similar (if not identical) to the MacBook Air keyboard. Instead of slick, silver, beveled keys of the 'early 2008' MBP, it squared-off black keys. The contrasting characters are easier to see in various levels of ambient light even without backlighting, but they are a bit "clackity" -- especially the space bar. Maybe I'll get used to it, but for now I prefer the stealthy, silent 'early 2008' keyboard -- especially when taking notes in a quiet, public setting.

The trackpad is now one big button -- which makes a loud "snap" when clicked. You can change the physical click to a virtual click with the Trackpad preferences. That quiets things down but talk about a "hair trigger."

There are reports of problems with the new trackpad. The only problem we encountered was that we "confused" it when we were resting our left thumb on it while trying to move the cursor or click the button with our right thumb or index finger. Lifting our left thumb solved the problem.

The 'late 2008' MacBook Pro looks like it was carved from a solid bock of aluminum. (Wink, wink, knudge, knudge.) It feels lighter and thinner than the previous 15" model. In reality, it is slightly thinner, but it weighs more. Plus it is wider and deeper than the older model. Specifications (old vs new):
5.4 lbs vs 5.5 lbs (2.45 kg vs 2.49 kg)
Thickness: 1.00 inch vs 0.95 inch thick (2.59 cm vs 2.41 cm)
Width: 14.1 in vs 14.35 in (35.7 cm vs 36.4 cm)
Depth: 9.6 in vs 9.82 in (24.3 cm vs 24.9 cm)

We are bullish about the new Apple laptop offerings here in the Bare Feats Lab. They have taken the design and performance to new heights -- and should help Apple continue to gain market share in this segment. I have ordered the 2.8GHz
15" MacBook Pro* as my new personal "daily driver." Bet-TAY is lusting over the Aluminum 13" MacBook for its form factor, but the lack of FireWire port and ExpressCard slot are non-starters. For now, she'll "settle" for my hand-me-down, the 2.6GHz "early 2008" 15" MacBook Pro.

Stay tuned for a full set of benchmarks on the "Late 2008" MacBook Pro and MacBook compared to the "Early 2008" models.

(*Some of you have asked about whether the 2.8GHz is worth the extra $300 or 12% more than the 2.53GHz model. If you go by the core clock speed, which is 11% faster, the price difference seems appropriate. So you have to ask yourself, "Is it worth paying 12% more for 11% more speed on CPU intensive apps?" "What do I have more of, time or money?" And, "Will I eventually recover some of the extra expense in terms of higher resale value when I eventually sell it?")


It's about time that Apple add the iSight camera to a Cinema Display! It's more expensive than the Dell 24" UltraSharp 2408WFP with its landscape to portrait pivot feature, higher contrast ratio, and faster pixel response, but I think the new Apple 24" Cinema's LED-backlit screen, aluminum and glass enclosure, integrated iSight camera, and MagSafe charger make it worth the extra $$$. It's certainly better eye candy and matches the MacBook and MacBook Pro more closely than the alternatives.

For more info, see the LED Display SPECIFICATIONS PAGE.

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2008 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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