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Old March 23rd, 2009, 05:35 PM   #1
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New vs. old MacBook Pro performance

I just got a chance to get my hands on a current generation 15" inch MBP to test it's performance compared to the previous generation (non-unibody design).

Compared to my 15" inch 2.5ghz Core 2 Duo with 4GB RAM the new 15" MBP is approximately 50% faster just in native responsiveness (user interface and screen updates). I have not had the ability to test Compressor render times but it would seem that the RAM-bus speed increase from 667Mhz to 1066Mhz has had a very notable effect.

If you have a older generation MBP and are considering the current lineup it's a safe bet you'll be pleasantly surprised by it's performance.
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Old March 23rd, 2009, 06:41 PM   #2
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Robert, it still doesn't seem worth it, paying top dollar to Apple for faster memory response / improved graphics. I'd rather stick with the current Gen (MacBookPro4,1 - 2.5 ghz) and upgrade the HD to an SSD. That is the true bottleneck of any mac laptop: hard drive spindle speed and data throughput.

Samsung will be releasing 256 GB SSD that is 10 times faster than a 7200 RPM drive. The Intel X-25 seems like a joke next to it. Search for it on ebay (MMDOE56G5MXP-0VB). Exciting times.

-C
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Old March 24th, 2009, 02:16 PM   #3
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Robert, it still doesn't seem worth it, paying top dollar to Apple for faster memory response / improved graphics. I'd rather stick with the current Gen (MacBookPro4,1 - 2.5 ghz) and upgrade the HD to an SSD. That is the true bottleneck of any mac laptop: hard drive spindle speed and data throughput.-C
Actually that's not true, the bottleneck of any laptop is the overall data pipeline on the mainboard, that's why a desktop with a similar CPU speed and RAM data size will perform up to 100% faster. Regardless how fast the HDD can access the data the ability of the CPU, RAM and GPU to process that information determines just how fast things move through the system.

You can put an SSD in any MBP configured to accept them but you won't see blistering performance increases, in fact as tested by BareFeats and a few other sites there was often no perceptible difference in responsiveness or operational effort by the machine depending on the operation and amount of RAM installed.

CPU and GPU-heavy apps such as Compressor or Color won't do their job any faster with an SSD installed but they will crunch data faster with a bigger front-side bus.
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Old March 26th, 2009, 10:33 AM   #4
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Robert,

Thanks for the report of the new MBP performance. I'm in the market and saw some previous gen MBP that looked tempting in price, but I think I'll stick with the new batch. I plan on doing the 7200 RPM sys drive, but the solid state is tempting. Do you know or think there would be much, if any, improvement running FCS on the SSD drive? I obviously plan to edit to an external drive FW800.

Also, if you don't mind, what are your thoughts on the anti-glare coating for an extra $50? I know in the past some anti-glare coatings killed the contrast compared to non-anti-glare screens. Last but not least: 2.66ghz vs, 2.9ghz? I typically opt for the processor just below the top-of-the-line since I feel it is a better value. Any new insights in this area?

Thanks in advance.
Jeff
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Old March 26th, 2009, 11:42 AM   #5
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Tests confirmed

I was able to get some test-time with the new 15" inch MBP: 2.93Ghz and 4GB RAM. In short, the bump in both front-side bus and CPU speeds has had a dramatic impact on Compressor render times, in some cases a reduction of about 40-60% compared to the old MBP depending on the codec being crunched.

Native Quicktime movies (.mov files and H.264) took about 50% less time to initially load and play on the new MBP.

A DVCPRO 720p to MPEG-2 downconversion test file that took over 8 minutes to encode on the old MBP took approximately 5 minutes on the new MBP listed above. NOTE: This was using the same Firmtek 2-bay eSATA enclosure and the Sonnet Tempo Pro ExpressCard/eSATA adapter on both machines.

About the SSD HDD: Don't buy one. An analogous comparison to what it's performance increase would be is the same as comparing a standard 3.5" inch 7200rpm drive to a 10,000rpm RaptorII (Velociraptor): You'll have an increase in seek and access times but the data throughput is no higher and, because data-crunching is done in the CPU and transferred via the data-bus on the main-board there's no speed benefit there either. In a few years when the front-side bus on laptops is increased past 1066Mhz THEN an SSD HDD would make sense because then the main-board would have a greater pipeline to move more data back and forth. The only real benefit to an SSD is shock-protection, so unless you plan on walking around while doing your work it's of no real purpose in current laptop technology.

If however you wanted to have the best-performing laptop drive around and not break the bank, jump onboard with the soon-to-be-released Seagate 7200.4 500GB 2.5" inch laptop drive:

http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Seagate/ST9500420AS/

Although not yet officially released it's pre-release testing has already made it an industry darling compared to the current lineup from Hitachi, who currently has the highest throughput on laptop HDD's. Again, it won't be a night-and-day increase in performance from what the MBP ships with but it will have near or above 100Mbs data transfer and with the higher front-side bus on the new MBP it will definitely take advantage of the extra data pushing through.

About the upgrade to the anti-glare screen: Apple completely missed the boat on this and a few other hardware offerings; it's only offered on the 17" inch machine. Why in the world a laptop marketed at pros comes with a glossy screen by default defies any logic. And that you can't even get the anti-glare option on the 15" inch proves that their current product designers and sales manager needs to be fired and replaced with people who are actually in-touch with what professionals need - and require.

So too is the option or adding more RAM; for some reason the 15" inch doesn't offer a RAM upgrade, you're stuck with 4GB from Apple. (OWC does offer RAM upgrade kits)

I would *not* recommend the 17" inch model under any circumstances and for one good reason: the built-in non-removable battery. Apple hasn't had the best of luck with it's laptop, iPod and iPhone batteries the past few years. In fact my web designer just had his previous gen 17" inch melt itself down because the battery overheated during a normal charge cycle.

Although the 17" inch is using LiPo tech for it's new battery the laptop still lacks any thermal protection device that prevents the unit from overheating by physically shutting off external power. So while this new battery is very light and has greater energy density it could still very easily melt, cause a fire etc. And since you can't remove it when you don't need it that means for 90% of it's life it's in constant state of charging. Apple has gone out of it's way to revamp the charging process by making it more "intelligent" but they still haven't addressed an automatic energy-kill via thermal protection conduit. Again, Apple is more concerned about aesthetics and being *green* than really putting useful technology into their design.

If you can live with the glossy screen the new 15" inch MBP is a real speed demon compared to the previous generation and comes close to being a viable desktop replacement. Keep in mind you can always avoid the glossy environment by connecting your "old" Apple Cinema Display (the ones prior to the new glossy nonsense) via the Mini-Display to Dual-Link DVI adapter - another $100 from Apple.

Last edited by Robert Lane; March 26th, 2009 at 01:07 PM.
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Old March 26th, 2009, 02:14 PM   #6
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Wow Robert, you know your Mac Book Pros. It sounds like Apple wants to steer video pros to the 17" with anti-glare, huh? Short of burning to death once the battery explodes, the 17" was what I was shooting for since it would be a desktop replacement and supports 1080P. Of course, as you said, I could always connect an external monitor to the 15" that supports 1080 and then get the benefit of a smaller, lighter laptop for travel and then use a bigger display at home or office if need be.

I guess the SSD HDD might theoretically boot faster, but otherwise I won't be sending bandwidth intensive stuff on the system drive even if it was substantially faster, since the media will be on an external drive. I wish there was room inside the MBP for a 2nd drive, I'd totally add the 500GB Seagate you linked to if that was the case.

Thanks again for your help and very detailed reply.

Jeff
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Old March 27th, 2009, 09:12 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Jeff Krepner View Post
I wish there was room inside the MBP for a 2nd drive...
Again, another highly useful and sought-after option that Apple has purposely chosen to ignore and at the price-point for the 17" inch should have been included. Similarly-priced PC laptops have had dual internal HDD's for more than 3 years now.

Truly the only major benefit to Apple's hardware offerings is that you're not stuck running Windows. Outside of that and there's zero innovation going on inside a MBP. Unless you're bowled-over with the glossy ad campaigns about the "new" LiPo battery technology. Woo hoo.
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Old March 28th, 2009, 12:30 PM   #8
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Ha Ha. See, I'm pretty new to Mac--made the "switch" about 3 years ago--so for me the MBP is about a zillion times better than the Dells and Toshiba laptops I'm used to. I think Apple is always catching flack from the existing user base (new glossy screens, no FW 400, no FW period on regular no "pro" books, etc) but for me I'm going to attach a FW800 drive and have a machine that is nearly as powerful as the desktop system I normally use, but I'll be able to edit on the road and render, FTP, files from anyplace! A client keeps feeding me projects that will more than pay for the laptop, so $3000 to be untethered from the confines of the basement studio or the client's edit suites seems like a no-brainier and a cheap escape route.

If I could just afford a convertible now that spring is here, I might finally feel free.

Thanks.
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 03:12 PM   #9
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SSD drive vs. 7200

After reading more posts and some reviews it seems like the solid state drives really decrease boot times down to around 20-30 secs. Of course this is all just hearsay and posts from people who have popped SSD drives into older MBPs.

So, does anyone have experience with the SSD drive that ships from Apple for an extra $300? If it did really boot up that much faster, it might be worth the extra $300 (really $250 about the +$50 7200RMP option). I know it is smallish at 128GB but I'm pretty goo about just keeping OS and Apps on system drives.

If it is close than it is obviously not worth it.

Thanks again.,
Jeff
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 03:27 PM   #10
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Jeff,

Boot times have absolutely nothing to do with application performance, and that's what really counts. Who cares if the system takes a few less seconds to boot-up if it doesn't actually do the work faster?

Assuming that you're posting questions in "editing on the Mac" because that's the work you'll be doing - editing - then an SDD isn't going to help you, that's because all the real work such as rendering, compression and codec wrangling occurs in the CPU, GPU and moving the data around on the motherboard.

Put your money towards RAM and good external drive connectivity (i.e. ExpressCard to eSATA).

Keep in mind what I mentioned earlier: an SSD's true claim to fame is the elimination of shock and vibration issues relative to normal HDD's. SSD's have absolutely *no* effect on how fast data moves around the motherboard and that is the real bottleneck in any laptop.
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Old April 3rd, 2009, 04:09 PM   #11
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Robert, I see your point and I understand that editing won't be any better and that, next to me, the biggest bottle neck in the editing pipeline isn't the system drive. I'm just curious as to how much faster the SSD laptops boot. $250 sounds like a lot now, but if you think about that $250 over the next 2-3 years and all of the boot cycles, etc, the price isn't really that much of factor, but the wow factor of hitting the power button and having a near instant desktop is. I'm also guessing that in 2 years all higher-end laptops could be shipping with SSD drives and my $3000 invest could feel slow in comparison. Then again, SSD drives will be 2x faster and 10x cheaper in a year or two.

I'd venture to guess that the SSD drives might be less prone to the side effects of disk fragmentation since the seek times are faster. That's just my guess though.
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