Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch Review

Cross-Platform Tests

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.

If you’re wondering why the Core i7-2820Q laptop's CPU score trounces every other system listed here--including the MacBook Pro--it's because the Core i7-2820Q is a four-core processor with Hyper-threading support, for a total of eight simultaneous threads. Cinebench R11.5's CPU test is very processor intensive and it takes full advantage of every available core, physical and virtual. The MacBook Pro comes in behind it, however, with its second-generation i7 processor--the Core i7-2620QM--which has two cores and Hyper-Threading support (for up to four simultaneous threads). The system’s Mac OS performance is better than its Windows performance, which goes to show that at least in some cases, the same task can run faster on some platforms over others. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Mac OS is faster than Windows; it just means that the Mac OS is faster than Windows when it comes to Cinebench.

The MacBook Pro’s OpenGL performance is strong, but it can’t keep up with the performance of most of the systems here that use discrete graphics. The Intel GMA 3000 that’s integrated into the Core i7 processor is easily the most powerful integrated graphics solution we’ve seen from Intel yet, but it still can’t compete with most discrete graphics solutions. Curiously, our MacBook Pro froze up on us twice during the OpenGL test, but we didn’t experience this problem during any of our other testing. We did notice throughout out testing, however, that when the MacBook Pro's CPU or GPU (or both) were heavily engaged, the unit's fan kicked in, and it tended to be on the loud side.

Photoshop CS5
Real-World Photo-Manipulation Software
Using the latest version of Photoshop, we ran a Photoshop Action on a 254MB PSD file that has a resolution of 3,600x4,800, a bit depth of 300-dpi, and has 5 layers. The Action duplicates a layer; applies a number of filters, including Dust & Scratches, Reduce Noise, Diffuse Glow, Lens Blur, Palette Knife, Accented Edges, Unsharp Mask, Water Paper, and Tetxturizer Canvas; reduces the image size; flattens the image; and finally converts the image to a Working CMYK file. The test was hand-timed with a stopwatch.

Our good old 2GHz Core Duo T2500-based MacBook Pro from 2006 is still kicking and still gets a fair bit of use. But taking one look at the Photoshop CS5 results quickly sobers us up, showing just how much performance has improved in the MacBook family in the intervening years. Running our Photoshop task on the older MacBook Pro took nearly three and a half minutes, but less than a minute on the new MacBook Pro. The new MacBook pro is even more than 20 seconds speedier than the MacBook Pro model we looked at last year. And our Photoshop Action appears to also be more efficient on the Mac OS than on Windows--the same task on Windows took 12 seconds longer.

Real-World Audio-File Transcoding
We loaded 15 M4A audio files into iTunes that were encoded with the Apple Lossless codec. The files ranged in size from 6.2MB to 25.2MB, for a total of 268.8MB. We hand-timed with a stopwatch how long it took the system to convert all 15 M4A files to 192Kbps MP3 files. Note that some of the test results below were run last year with iTunes 9.2. The new MacBook Pro was tested with the latest version of iTunes, which was 10.2.1. As such, when looking at the results below, some of the performance differences can possibly be at least partially attributed to variances in how the different versions of iTunes were coded.

* iTunes 9.2
** iTunes 10.2.1

Our iTunes test is yet another example of a particular task that’s more efficient on Mac OS than on Windows--in this case, by quite a large margin. Of course, iTunes is first and foremost an Apple product and has been produced for the Mac OS platform for longer than the Windows version, so iTune’s Mac OS performance lead shouldn’t come as a surprise. Neither should the new MacBook Pro’s dominance on this test either with the Mac OS--in fact, it was the only system that was able to transcode all of our audio files in under a minute.

Half-Life 2: Episode 2
Real-World 3D Gaming Performance
Using the most updated Mac and Windows versions of Half-Life 2 from Steam, we played back a custom-recorded timedemo. We ran this test at 1,024x768 and 1,280x800, and set most of the in-game settings to High.

The Integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 graphics engine is actually pretty decent. Not only did we see very playable frame rates with the admittedly older Half Life 2:Episode 2 title, but we played a few rounds of the newer Left 4 Dead title as well and saw great results (see the video on page 1). Left 4 Dead is a midrange title and we used mostly medium-quality settings, so we certainly didn’t try to bring the MacBook Pro to its knees. But if you plan on playing relatively modest 3D titles and are okay not cranking the eye candy up to 11, you’ll find the MacBook Pro can be a capable gaming machine. Our Half Life 2: Episode 2 test is one area where the Windows performance is noticeably better than the Mac OS performance.

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