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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

CPU Crunch: 'mid 2009' MacBook Pro 17" 3.06GHz model versus other Macs

Originally posted Wednesday, July 1st, 2009, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

Hypothesis: The MacBook Pro is not a substitute for a Mac Pro

We tested the only "true Pro" laptop remaining in the Apple lineup: the 17" Macbook Pro. We say "true Pro" because it's the only Apple laptop with an ExpressCard/34 slot along with core frequencies equal to the iMac and Mac Pro. Plus the screen resolution is equal to the 24" screens of the iMac and Mac Pro. One of my friends is thinking of replacing his Mac Pro with the newest 17" MacBook Pro. With him in mind, I ran a mixture of benchmarks. Some apps use all available cores and some only use one core. Can a MacBook Pro replace an iMac or Mac Pro? It depends on what you run.

LEGEND of Graphs
RED bar means fastest result
MP293/8 = 'early 2009' Mac Pro 2.93GHz 8-core with 12G of RAM
MP293/4 = 'early 2009' Mac Pro 2.93GHz 4-core with 12G of RAM
MBP306/2 = 'mid 2009' MacBook Pro (17") 2-core with 4G of RAM
iMac306/2 = 'early 2009' iMac 3.06GHz 2-core with 4G of RAM
MBP280/2 = 'late 2008' MacBook Pro (15") 2-core with 4G of RAM

If your work environment does not utilize all cores and more than 8G of RAM, the 17" MacBook Pro will do a decent job as a substitute for the Mac Pro -- especially if desk real estate is scarce and portability is wanted. But if you are running insane apps like Cinema 4D, After Effects, or Compressor, then you should consider keeping your Mac Pro and letting a MacBook Pro be your other Mac.

As for comparing the 2.8GHz MBP to the 3.06GHz, the latter has a 9% faster core frequency for 12% gain in price. The performance advantage for CPU intensive real world apps varied from 6% to 17%. In artificial benchmarks, the advantage was as high as 26%.

The 17" is only $200 more than a comparably configured 15" model. What do you get for $200? You get the ExpressCard/34 slot, larger LCD (1920x1200) screen, and extra USB port.

We just getting warmed up on a series of test scenarios. Next we will install 8GB of RAM in the 17" MacBook Pro along with a 250G SSD to see how those upgrades affect performance. Plus we will include After Effects, Compressor and Aperture benchmarks in the next article.

Finally, we wonder if the 9600M GT is clocked higher on the 17" than on the 15" MBP. If so, it will show additional gains when we run Core Image and OpenGL intensive apps. Stay tuned for the answer.

As a Professional user of the MacBook Pro, there are some new third party addons:

  • Sonnet Technology makes the Tempo SATA Pro ExpressCard/34 adapter, the fastest we've ever tested and the only "true" SATA adapter for the MacBook Pro. It works well with Sonnet's Fusion F2 and F3 enclosures.
  • CalDigit makes the VR mini which is a dual notebook RAID enclosure. It can run off bus power if you use the FW800 port. If you connect to the eSATA port using Sonnet's ExpressCard, you can use the optional CalDigit power supply or pull power off the FW800 port.
  • Some pro users are putting dual SSDs inside their MacBook Pro using the optical bay mounting kit from MaxUpgrades. Of course, it displaces the SuperDrive but Plextor's PX-610U is a plug-and-play external USB 2.0 bus powered DVD/RW optical drive that works very well on all Macs.
  • You can now get a 1TB notebook drive. WD announced the WDMET10000TN recently but initially it will only be available in a USB 2.0 enclosure. Also be aware that it has a low rotation speed (5200rpm) and is 12.5mm thick (which means it wil NOT fit inside your MacBook or MacBook Pro).

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2009 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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