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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

Can the 2011 Mac mini keep up
with other Macs?

Originally posted Friday, October 21st, 2011, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

Other than gaming, the "non-pro" user typically uses apps like iMovie, iTunes, and HandBrake. We decided to see how the top model of Mac in each category compared to the Mac mini when doing typical functions with those apps.

iTunes 10.5
We timed how long it took to convert 14 Beach Boys tunes (48MB total) from MP3 to AAC. (Shortest bar in
RED indicates the fastest.)

We timed how long it took to convert (transcode) a 2 minute 20 second movie to iPad compatible format.

iMovie '11
We timed how long it takes to export (share) a 2 min 20 sec HD movie project to "Large" format.

MP 3.3 w6 = 2010 Mac Pro 3.33GHz Hex-Core Westmere
iMac 3.4 i7 = 2011 iMac 3.4GHz Quad-Core i7
MBP 2.3 i7 = 2011 MacBook 2.3GHz Pro Quad-Core i7
mini 2.7 i7 = 2011 Mac mini 2.7GHz Dual-Core i7
MBP 2.7 i7 = 2011 MacBook Pro 2.7GHz Dual-Core i7
MBA 1.8 i7 = 2011 MacBook Air 1.8GHz Dual-Core i7

All Macs had except the MacBook Air had at least 8GB of RAM.

The iTunes test used a max of 110% CPU (or one core) so the core frequency becomes important along with the ability to kick in Turbo Boost. That explains why the iMac 3.4GHz Quad-Core beats the Hex-Core 3.33GHz Mac Pro and the Dual-Core 2.7GHz Mac mini is only one second slower than the Mac Pro.

HandBrake tells a different story. It used 1200% CPU (or 12 cores) on the Mac Pro. That's why the Quad-Core (8 virtual cores) and Hex-Core (12 virtual cores) models of Mac leave the Dual-Core Macs in their dust. In other words, some "non-pro" apps perform best when there are plenty of cores to work with.

iMovie falls somewhere between the other two apps in intensity as it uses 370% CPU (or 4 cores) for our export exercise. That's why the Dual-Core Macs were not beaten as badly.

One reader did a study of the cost/performance ratio. Using his own program that does 8 parallel threads of number crunching, he concluded that the Mac mini 2.3GHz Dual-Core i5 at $600 has the best bang for the buck -- though he assumes you already own a compatible display.

But a Mac mini may not get your most important tasks done in a reasonable amount of time. This issue requires a whole article unto itself. We've been using some new tools to measure the CPU load, memory load, GPU load, and video memory load of various consumer and pro apps. Hopefully once we publish those results, you can make an informed choice about which models and configurations of Mac can get the job done for you.

Some of you are asking us about that. We don't have access to the quad mini at the moment but if you do and want to run our tests, let us know so we can send you the test procedures and test files.

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copyright 2011 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster