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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

'mid 2009' MacBook Pro
17" 3.06GHz versus iMac and Mac Pro

Originally posted Friday, August 7th, 2009, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

QUESTION: Can the MacBook Pro do heavy lifting if it has 8GB of RAM?

We continue testing 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 best iMac and best Mac Pro. Plus the screen resolution is equal to the 24" screens of the iMac and Mac Pro. Our first CPU Crunch test page shows the MacBook Pro equalling the top iMac on all six tests while it was beat by the 8-core Mac Pro 2.93GHz on all six tests.

On this page we turn up the heat by running memory hungry, core stressing Pro Apps like After Effects and Compressor both of which spawn subprocesses to circumvent the 3G limit per app in Leopard.

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

Upping the memory to 8G didn't make much difference in our two benchmarks. We can say that with 4G of RAM, if you specify more than .5G per CPU in the After Effects preferences, it will only use 1 CPU. However, with 8G of RAM, you can specify 2G per CPU. Also keep in mind that the 8G would come in handy if you are running other apps besides the two we featured.

Part of what we are showing here is the dominance of the Mac Pro over the fastest iMac and fastest MacBook Pro when it comes to the "meanest" pro apps. Four or eight cores are definitely better than two. Even if you don't run the apps we featured, if you like to run World of Warcraft while converting a DVD to iPhone format using HandBrake, it's nice to have more than two cores.

We plan to re-run the Compressor test using the version that comes with Final Cut Studio 7. If it changes anything, we'll report it here. Our Aperture lift and stamp test has not been as useful as we first hoped but we'll keep trying to develop our suite of extreme tests.

As a Professional user of the MacBook Pro, we want you to know about these products:

  • Sonnet Technology makes the Tempo SATA Pro ExpressCard/34 adapter, the fastest we've ever tested (up to 200MB/s) and the only "true" SATA adapter for the MacBook Pro. It mates well with Sonnet's Fusion F2 dual notebook enclosure that uses the FireWire port for bus power.
  • CalDigit makes the VR mini, a "RAID in the box" a dual notebook enclosure. It can run off bus power if you use the FW800 port. We recommend Sonnet's Tempo SATA Pro ExpressCard.
  • Some pro users are putting dual SSDs inside their MacBook Pro using the optical bay mounting kit from MaxUpgrades. They now have an optional enclosure for housing the displaced SuperDrive.
  • 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).

Apple Online Store

The 8GB kits we used for testing the MacBook Pro and iMac were provided courtesy of
TransIntl.com and

Check also with Other World Computing and the Mac Memory Store.

Check with...
Other World Computing

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2009 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster