Apple MacBook 12-Inch (Early 2015) Review: The Laptop Reinvented?

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Mac OS X Yosemite Performance Testing

Our Test Methodologies: This is an Apple MacBook, so it only makes sense that we test it by running compatible benchmarks in OS X. And so that's exactly what we did with our first batch of tests -- all of the benchmarks on this page are either Mac-only or cross-platform capable, which allows us to compare the MacBook to previous Apple devices we've gotten our hands on.

On the next page, you'll find benchmark results of the MacBook running Windows 8.1 64-bit using Boot Camp. This allows us to see how the new MacBook compares to several Windows-based systems. Since the hardware isn't being virtualized and we're actually booting into Windows, this gives us a pretty fair representation of how the MacBook stacks up against alternative Windows laptops.

CineBench R11.5 (64-bit)
Content Creation Performance
Maxon's Cinebench R11.5 benchmark is based on Maxon's Cinema 4D software used for 3D content creation chores and it tests both the CPU and GPU in separate benchmark runs. On the CPU side, Cinebench renders a photorealistic 3D scene by tapping into up to 64 processing threads to process more than 300,000 total polygons; while the GPU benchmark measures graphics performance by manipulating nearly 1 million polygons and huge amounts of textures.

Apple MacBook Cinebench

We kicked things off with Cinebench, a benchmark that's a bit more brutal than most due to its highly-threaded workload that will utilize 100% of available CPU resources. We've been running this benchmark for a long time and have amassed a nice collection of systems to compare the MacBook against, and as you can see, its CPU score isn't anything to get excited about. It's not terrible, especially for a 4.5w fanless design, but this tells us that the new MacBook isn't going to outshine other laptops in raw performance. That's true of both OS X- and Windows-based notebooks.

Its OpenGL score was a bit better. The new MacBook posted around 20 frames per second -- not the fastest, but a good overall showing for the integrated Intel HD 5300 Graphics.

Mac OS X Performance Benchmarks:  Geekbench
General system performance
To touch on overall system performance, we chose Geekbench, by Primate Labs. This is a widely used Mac benchmarking suite that "provides a comprehensive set of benchmarks engineered to quickly and accurately measure processor and memory performance."

Apple MacBook Geekbench

Like the new MacBook Air, the new MacBook favors form over function, which is to say that top-notch performance takes a backseat the laptop's ultra-thin and lightweight construction on Apple's priority checklist. That being the case, the new MacBook trails even last generation's MacBook Air and Pro models though not by much.

That's mainly on the processor side. The MacBook's PCI-Express-based storage and Intel HD 5300 Graphics help prop the system up, especially compared to models that are now dated.

Mac OS X Performance Benchmarks: XBench
Individual Subsystem Performance
XBench, created by Spiny Software, is another widely used, respected Mac benchmarking suite that touches on nearly every aspect of performance, from CPU to graphics and storage subsystem metrics.
 

Apple MacBook Xbench

Xbench helps underscore how much effort Apple has put into the MacBook's storage subsystem. The MacBook's Disk score of 788.72 tops the chart and is only rivaled by the most recent MacBook Air release. Part of the reason why the score is so high is because the MacBook's storage is 256GB of PCIe-based flash storage that's soldered directly to the motherboard. Being a PCI Express-based solution, it's not bound by the ceiling that a SATA 6Gbps interface imposes. The same applies to the MacBook Air.

The CPU score is on par with other MacBooks, though slightly behind in some cases, which again points to Apple's form over function philosophy in designing the lightest MacBook to date.

Apple MacBook Disk Speed Test

We rounded out our Mac OS X testing by firing up BlackMagicDesign's Disk Speed Test, and as we saw in Xbench, the PCI Express-based storage flash storage solution is a barn burner. No longer bound by SATA's bottleneck, the 256GB of flash storage in the MacBook knocks on the door of 800MB/s in read performance. That's about 200MB/s faster than the best performing SATA-based SSDs can achieve.

Going forward, we'd like to see Apple optimize its storage scheme for faster write performance. We're not scoffing at 485MB/s, mind you, and it's worth noting that the new MacBook writes just a tad faster than the last MacBook Air we reviewed. However, it's still not topping what can be achieved on a SATA interface.

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