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Old August 12th, 2009, 05:07 PM   #1
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Unibody Macbook Pro Review - Part Deux

Previously I posted a quick review of the new unibody MBP but only from a user-interface standpoint. This time it's hands-on with the new 17" inch model with some real-world numbers editors can use for evaluation.

The unit tested was the standard 2.8Ghz model with 4GB RAM, 7200rpm HDD using the Sonnet Tempo "Pro" Expresscard to a Firmtek 2-bay RAID0 array which had all the media files and where writes/renders were pointed to.

The reference was a 2008 15" MBP 2.5Ghz machine with 4GB RAM using the same Sonnet Tempo Pro card connecting the RAID0 array. A DVCPRO-HD test clip (using standard transitions only) took 2.3 minutes to render in FCP 6.0.6. Using *matching settings and transitions* on the new MBP & FCP 6.0.6 that same test clip took less than 40 seconds!! Holy clock-cycles, Batman!!

To go deeper I took that same DVCPRO-HD test clip and put it into Premiere Pro CS4 (ver 4.1); on the old 2008 machine it took 1.6 minutes to fully render - matching settings on the new MBP it took about 20 seconds!! Now that's something to write home about.

This new MBP performs almost nearly as fast as my old 2007 Octo-core Mac Pro tower (before they went to the newer, faster 1066Ghz DDR3 RAM standard).

I did not test Compressor speeds for two reasons: One, not all projects get sent to Compressor for final output and; Two, rendering in the timeline takes just as much computing power - if not more - than having Compressor make an encode. The same logic was used for not testing Adobe Media Encoder.

Many have downplayed the significance of the bigger RAM-bus pipeline and instead point to CPU speed; although I do my best to point out that CPU speed alone doesn't make for a fast machine, this short test proves that in point of fact the bigger front-side bus and faster RAM throughput really makes for a *screamer* of a laptop by any standards.

And if you're wondering if the standard glossy-screen makes a difference or not - it does. It's damned annoying and most definitely creates glare and nasty reflections forcing you to either change your head position or change the angle of the screen - neither of which any editor should be forced to fuss with during work.

I still have serious reservations about the built-in, non-user removable battery system (Apple hasn't had the best history with non-removable batteries, so hopefully this new technology has been well thought-out) and unfortunately only the 17" inch comes with the Expresscard slot however, if you're considering whether or not a new unibody MBP would be worth the investment or not, the answer is a resounding "YES".

This is the first laptop Apple has ever produced that I can without hesitation consider a "desktop replacement" - from a speed perspective only. (Video editors would still be jones-ing for add-in cards like the KONA or BM). However if you don't need the PCI-e connectivity then this thing will rock your world. Period.

Get one, be happy.
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Old August 12th, 2009, 05:25 PM   #2
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Holy clock-cycles, Batman!!
Héhé, thanks for the review, Robert.

The 17" has a matte option though, and since earlier this week the 15" has the matte option back also. I've heard the screen quality itself to be very good.
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Old August 13th, 2009, 05:28 PM   #3
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New 17" MBPro vs MacPro

Robert, thanks for posting this.

Did you also render back to the RAID drive?

Do you think I can get a way with editing and rendering HDV on the internal 7200 rpm drive? (I dont think I can but thought I'd ask)

I've heard that if you want to use ProRes HQ then you need a quadcore macpro as the mbpro duo processor cant cope - is that correct do you think?

My finger is hovering on the buy button between the 17" MBPro and a base MacPro. I really want the MBPro so i can take my stuff with me.

Thanks.
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Old August 13th, 2009, 09:01 PM   #4
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There's no reason you can't edit ProRes HQ on a MBP, the issue will be how well it can handle full-quality playback and how many streams, that's the unknown.

You can easily edit and work with any long-GOP format on any MBP, again the issue is how many streams it can playback in real-time. Using only the internal HDD for all your work isn't recommended under any circumstances simply because you're putting too much load on the single drive, but it can do it - just not fast and not without stuttering playback on sequences with heavy filters/effects or multiple streams.
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Old August 14th, 2009, 08:45 AM   #5
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If you don't have one already Robert you should put up a blog for these reviews and your opinion pieces and the like ... don't get me wrong, its good posted here too, but it would good collated in one place. I think you'd get a fair number of readers/subscribers to your feed. BTW if you do have one already can you post a link ... couldn't find anything through your luminosity link.

Thanks
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Old August 14th, 2009, 10:34 AM   #6
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If you don't have one already Robert you should put up a blog for these reviews and your opinion pieces and the like ...
I appreciate the suggestion - way ahead of you, it's in the works and should be up and running before I leave for my client shoot at the end of the month.

The owner of this forum, Chris Hurd, is responsible for the naming of this new site - although he doesn't know it yet. You'll see what I mean when it's live.
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Old August 17th, 2009, 05:38 AM   #7
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So would the new 15" MBP perform exactly as this 17" MBP with the same setup? I'm sure it's implied but doesn't hurt to ask for clarification :).

Thanks for the great review!
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Old August 17th, 2009, 10:23 AM   #8
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So would the new 15" MBP perform exactly as this 17" MBP with the same setup?
No unfortunately the 15" inch *can't* perform to this level because it does not have the ExpressCard 34 slot anymore. A great deal of the 17" inch's ability to move/crunch data this fast was because all the media and render files were being moved on a separate bus from the application and, on a physically fast and external drive. Only the EC34 connectivity allows for speeds fast enough to make this kind of performance possible; neither FW nor USB could come close.

Seems Apple's "wisdom" is that not enough people use the EC34 slot to keep it in the other models other than the 17" inch. We can only hope they see the error in that judgement call and bring it back to the 15" inch - if not the entire MacBook Pro lineup.
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Old August 17th, 2009, 11:38 AM   #9
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Seems Apple's "wisdom" is that not enough people use the EC34 slot to keep it in the other models other than the 17" inch. We can only hope they see the error in that judgement call and bring it back to the 15" inch - if not the entire MacBook Pro lineup.
Agreed that their wisdom is a little lacking in the pro market as of late. The one advantage I see in having the SD card reader is for the HMC150 users (and all other cameras) that shoot on SD cards. Hook up a bus powered raid via FW800 and you have a very mobile capable field editing station with less clutter. For me, the Prores proxy will be interesting as I use the Prores family in my workflow. Edit proxy on the MBP that I just got and just transfer the Project file over to the suite for Online. It brings back the method of offline/online workflow in a simple manner.

I have noticed that offloading my P2Store seems a lot faster on the new MBP than even my early 08 Mac Pro. I wonder if they improved the USB speed? I seem to remember this was always a weakness with Mac.
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Old August 17th, 2009, 11:57 AM   #10
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I have noticed that offloading my P2Store seems a lot faster on the new MBP than even my early 08 Mac Pro. I wonder if they improved the USB speed?
Bigger front-side bus and RAM pipeline is what does it, nearly double the previous generation. So in fact the new MBP will indeed will outperform even older Mac Pro's in certain circumstances. Just imagine how much faster the new Mac Pro is now!
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Old August 18th, 2009, 12:44 AM   #11
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yup its true, USB2 speeds have been vastly improved on the newer MBP's as was documented at the time of their release (late 2008) "late 2008" MacBook Pro - USB2 vs FireWire
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Old August 25th, 2009, 04:29 AM   #12
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Héhé, thanks for the review, Robert.

The 17" has a matte option though, and since earlier this week the 15" has the matte option back also. I've heard the screen quality itself to be very good.
I have the 17" with matte option.
I really love it, true mobile editting is here.
It saves me so much time that I can't imagine not owning this piece of hardware anymore.
Now I go to a client, shoot a testimonial, edit it on the spot with the client, burn a DVD and go home. No more corrections are needed :D
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Old August 26th, 2009, 10:11 AM   #13
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A couple of MBP comments -

-We're at the end of a cycle with the the Core 2 Duo. I have a 2007 2.4 ghz Core 2 Duo MBP. The new models have improvements, but not substantial improvements. The next cycle should be within six moths and will move to the new Itel architecture.

- There's a kit now that can move the super drive to an external enclosure. This allows a second sata drive to be placed in the superdrive slot to maximize disk transfer speed. Even without an expresscard slot, 2 Sata drives and a firewire 800 drive provide a lot of throughput.

- Consider one or more SSD drives. The two reasonably priced good performers are intel MLC "G2" (second generation), and OCZ Vertex series. We are not more than a couple years from SSD drives replacing spinning storage in MBP.

My MBP is sata 150. If the new MBP are still sata 150, there's not much benefit in buying the very fast and expensive SLC SSD drives.
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Old August 26th, 2009, 11:02 PM   #14
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One of the drive replacement kits Don refers to is here:

MCE OptiBay Hard Drive for MacBook Pro, MacBook and PowerBook G4

Supposedly OWC (macsales.com) was also offering a similar kit but I've not seen it anywhere on their site.

This is one of the things I've wished to have time to test but so far haven't. What's not clear is whether or not the ATA interface used by the optical bay is in fact on the same bus as the main HDD and if so, will it communicate at the same speed? iFixit.com may have the answer.

If it does, the obvious implications would be that a RAID-0 internal config would render very fast boot/operation usage however, you'd be in a potentially dangerous situation since the OS would be completely dependent on the software RAID remaining stable. Still, to those willing to take the risk - and have an appropriate backup strategy on-hand in case the "worst case scenario" did play out - the benefits could be worth the plunge especially on older systems.

To Don's point about improvements in the current MBP lineup I respectfully disagree; the performance gains with the larger front-side and 1066Mhz RAM-bus are quite dramatic compared to the previous 667Mhz machines, as noted in the test results above. The CPU's in use may not be more advanced than the upcoming models but if you're always waiting for the "next best thing" in computers then... you'd always be waiting.

SSD's are still not worth the money in any system; until SATA's full promise of 300MB/s speed actually becomes available on a main-board controller there's no way any SSD can pump out data fast enough to warrant the additional cost. Right now only high-end PC's with very expensive boards have those controllers, it may be years before Apple catches up on that arena.
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Old August 27th, 2009, 09:13 AM   #15
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SSD's are still not worth the money in any system; until SATA's full promise of 300MB/s speed actually becomes available on a main-board controller there's no way any SSD can pump out data fast enough to warrant the additional cost. Right now only high-end PC's with very expensive boards have those controllers, it may be years before Apple catches up on that arena.
Really? I've been listening to Leo Laporte (This Week in Tech, MacBreak Weekly) go on an on about how fast his internal SSD is inside his MacBook Pro. Applications just pop up at launch (no waiting). Operating System start up only takes seconds. For these reason's I've been very interested in giving an SSD a try. I do wish they came in a size larger than 256MB.
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