So imagine my surprise when I began to see the results shown by the battery of tests conducted by Macworld USA; the new version of the 15-inch 2.33 GHz MacBook Pro with a Core 2 Duo processor outperforms its predecessor by 30 to 40 percent in tests performed with real-life applications such as Adobe Photoshop CS2 (running under Rosetta), Compressor and iTunes. These results are even more relevant if we consider that the previous Core Duo system equipped a 7,200 rpm hard drive, while the new MacBook Pro with Core 2 Duo has a 5,400 rpm hard drive.
Of course, the overall performance increase isn’t all that impressive, but an 18 percent improvement isn’t negligible either. Furthermore, this is the first time that an Intel-based notebook has outperformed the fastest PowerBook when it comes to running applications that run on Rosetta. In our Photoshop tests, both Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros outperformed the 15-inch 1.67 GHz PowerBook.
The increase in performance is not the only advantage provided by the new models, they also offer twice the memory compared to their predecessors, higher capacity hard drives and, especially in the 15-inch models, several additional and expected improvements. All in all this is a substantial improvement on an already excellent product family.
Larger cache and faster graphics
The new MacBool Pro look pretty much the same as their predecessors, and the overall structure of the product family hasn’t changed either; We continue with a 17-inch model with a guide price of € 2,700 and two models in 15-inch configurations with guide prices of € 1,900 and € 2,400.
In each case, the Core 2 Duo runs at slightly higher clock speeds over the Core Duo processors used in the previous generation: the 17-inch model and the most expensive of the 15-inch configurations run at 2.33 GHz , while the most economical model operates at 2.16 GHz which was previously the top speed for the range.
Such increased speed only partially explains the performance improvement found over the 15-inch models. Another factor that may be more relevant is in the Level 2 cache memory: the Core 2 Duo processor (formerly called Meron) incorporates 4 MB of L2 cache, dynamically shared between both cores as required. The original Core Duo (named Yonah) only offered 2MB of shared L2 cache. Additionally, the Core 2 Duo offers other technical improvements; for example, the new SS2 vector instruction set used by certain audio, video and scientific applications, and which now allows 128-bit processing in a single clock cycle, compared to 64-bit provided by the Core Duo processor. Finally, although Apple has not provided more details, engineers have also managed to squeeze a little more performance by applying certain “tweaks” to the ATI Radeon X1600 graphics chip responsible for performing graphics processing in MacBook Pros.
Battery life … unchanged
Some previous speculation about the Core 2 Duo anticipated that, in addition to the increase in performance, said processor would also improve battery life. This information has proven to be uncertain, since the battery life of the Mac Book Pro is practically the same as that found in the previous generation. Apple indicates that you can get around 2.5 hours of autonomy in DVD playback on both the 15-inch and 17-inch models; or around 3.5 hours of wireless connection on the 15-inch models and an additional half hour on the 17-inch. In my tests on the 2.33 GHz Core 2 Duo 15-inch version, I got a battery life of 2 hours and 35 minutes in DVD playback and 3 hours and 9 minutes of wireless productivity.
More memory and larger hard drives
Beyond the processor, Apple has also doubled the RAM in each MacBook Pro configuration: the 17-inch and 15-inch 2.33GHz models include 2GB of RAM as standard (a pair of 1GB SO-DIMMs ), while the base 15-inch model only has a 1GB SO-DIMM. As the results obtained in our tests suggest, going from 1 GB to 2 GB has a modest impact on performance, although it allows to have a greater number of large applications open simultaneously or several operating systems running (in the case Parallels is being used).
In the event that you do not have enough with 2 GB of RAM, the three MacBook Pros allow you to reach a maximum of 3 GB. Considering that these computers only have two SO-DIMM slots, you will need to combine a 2 GB module with a 1 GB module, but Apple indicates that this disparity in the size of the modules has only a slight impact on performance.
Apple has also increased the capacity of the hard drive. The 15-inch MacBook Pros feature 120GB drives, while the 17-inch version offers 160GB capacity. While the SuperDrive of the 17-inch model has not changed in its performance (8x, with double layer support), the 15-inch models have incorporated the ability to record over double layer for the first time, increasing the speed from 4x to 6x . Finally Apple has also remedied one of the features that were missed in the first 15-inch models: the FireWire 800 port has returned, and now accompanies the FireWire 400 port.
These improvements come to enhance the rest of the features that distinguished the original MacBook Pros: spectacular screens, built-in iSight cameras, DVI ports capable of feeding even a 30-inch Apple Cinema Display HD screen, etc. However, remember that you will not find a modem and PC Card expansion slot, although adding an external modem costs approximately 30 EUR, and the truth is that there are still few cards available for the new card interface.
As with previous 15-inch configurations, the only differences, beyond the speed of the processor, is the amount of memory provided. The cheapest model offers 1 GB of RAM and 128 MB of graphics memory, while the most expensive offers double the memory in both sections.
The latest update from Apple has made laptops even better. Even if you are a heavy user of the Adobe Creative Suite or other applications that are not yet available as Universal Binary, you will find that the performance of the MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo is remarkable. The only real limitation is financial. Apple has recently lowered the price of its laptops, and while features have improved, their prices have not dropped again.